Feeling cranky in the middle of the day, or a little sleepy when the clock strikes one hour left at your desk might not reflect low caffeine or poor sleep, but incorrect lighting around workspaces.
Proper lighting is imperative for work because it can directly impact productivity, cognitive function, mood, and sleep quality. Here are some ways to optimise work lighting for optimised productivity.
Can Lighting Colours impact Work?
The colour and the direction of lighting can affect the work environment. Brain cells respond differently to varying colour wavelengths. The brain is designed to respond more to blue and green, the colours of the natural environment, which give rise to energy, focus, and concentration for survival. Likewise, the brain relaxes more around warmer red and yellow lighting, indicative of setting suns and sleep.
As such, productivity, mental health, concentration, energy levels, negotiations, mood, rational thinking, and much more can be controlled by the lighting colour where you work. In light of, no pun intended, rising living expenses, optimised solutions can be integrated into the workplace on an individual or company level.
The direction of a light source can create a formal or informal atmosphere in the workplace. Low overhead lighting with warm colour tones gives a non-uniform light distribution that helps employees feel psychologically relaxed. Bright light along the walls in cooler, blue tones gives a uniform light distribution that psychologically increases the clarity and concentration of workers.
Quality Concentration & Alertness
Studies show that light and colour have psychological effects on health and well-being. Lighting colour can improve or disrupt cognition, mood, and performance.
Other studies indicate that if the light is too bright, it intensifies emotions, but if it’s low light, it keeps emotions steady. So the proper lighting in workspaces can facilitate rational decisions during negotiations or meetings whether they’re taking place remotely or in-person.
The saturation or intensity of the light can amplify emotions or dampen them as well.
Office lighting that mimics natural light makes employees happier. Blue or white light gives people energy by suppressing melatonin levels. Brain cells are naturally sensitive to blue wavelengths over any other colour. By comparison, brain cells are the least sensitive to red or amber light, which is designed to increase melatonin before bed and lead to improved sleep. But it’s certainly not what employees need during the day and their working hours.
Increased blue light can help combat seasonal depression, while increasing productivity and energy levels.
Removing Glare and Shadows
Around the world, some of the most common lighting problems include poorly distributed light, insufficient light, glare, and shadows. Glare and shadows mean there’s too much light in a given space, and when the light is too bright, it creates a psychologically tense, formal atmosphere that can interfere with mood, creativity, and productivity.
Glare happens when a bright light interferes with the way you see something in your workspace. If you’ve ever driven home from work facing the setting sun, you know how difficult it can be for your eyes to adapt to bright light and see details in the darker areas around your vehicle. The same thing happens in the office.
It can become harder to work out the details in the darker regions of your workspace, which causes discomfort and, eventually, eye strain.
Bad office lighting can contribute to horrible headaches. Glare from overhead lighting or computer screens, as well as flickering from fluorescent bulbs, can trigger headaches.
A recent study found that 68% of employees were upset with their work light quality.
This happens when your visual cortex has to overcompensate for changes in the lighting around your workspace. This stresses the brain, making it challenging to process local information and relax, leading to headaches and migraines.
Glare is often caused by:
- Glass on office picture frames for windows
- Monitors and screens
- Light reflected off glossy surfaces
- Bright light bouncing off light fixtures
Removing glare is essential. Instead of a single, high-intensity light fixture in your office, consider installing several low-intensity light fixtures. Pick light fixtures that diffuse light effectively and cover any bare bulbs. You can increase the brightness in an area to combat any natural glare source.
Lighting will naturally reflect off the environment, including the walls, office equipment, ceiling, and window blinds. If light fixtures are positioned incorrectly or spaced too wide apart, it creates shadows. Objects in between light fixtures and where work is being conducted in the office can block natural office lighting and cast shadows. If you work with your back to the windows, you might have shadows cast on your work area if the light fixtures are directly overhead or behind you.
This can be fixed by:
- Integrating more reflected light to remove shadows by covering lights mounted under a transparent guard
- Cleaning light fixtures regularly
- Spacing lighting appropriately
The easiest way to rectify the high risks of headaches during work is to reduce shadows and glare and to change the lighting colour to improve mood.
Reducing Blue Light Exposure & Eye Strain
But too much of a good thing is a real risk. Exposure to too much blue light can cause significant eye strain, especially when working late hours and long evenings. Computer eye strain is an exceptionally high risk, leading to over 10 million eye doctor visits annually.
Higher exposure levels to blue light can also reduce the release of melatonin in the body, which impedes sleep and leads to higher levels of eye strain the following day.
A great way to reduce this danger is to use affordable glasses that block blue light exposure. While some offices install software on the computers that directly changes the lighting temperature on the screen based on the time of day, there are so many places where blue light might be heavily installed in an office, and no such filter exists. But with affordable glasses that block this exposure, it doesn’t matter where the source is, your eyes stay protected.
Office Lights for Saving Energy Costs
Bad lighting can cost companies a lot of money. Lighting accounts for 15% of average monthly costs, but installing optimised lights can reduce that bill by hundreds of dollars each time. Outdated fluorescent lights, whose flickering contributes to employee headaches, can cost significantly more than installing energy-optimised LED lights. Lighting controls and sensors, too, reduce the costs long term, ensuring that brightness and lighting colour change throughout the day.
Overall, changing work lighting is one of the best investments a company can make. Lighting colour in workspaces impacts mood, productivity, emotional regulation, and cognition. Making small, cost-effective decisions to improve lighting and light exposure can make everyone feel better, negotiate more peacefully, and get more done.
Author: Isabelle Marinier – Associate Editor, EyeBuyDirect Blog
Photo credit: Natalia Yakovleva on Unsplash