Office Lighting Ideas To Boost Employee Satisfaction & Productivity

By
Debbie Horovitch
·
June 28, 2019

Not every workplace enjoys natural lighting throughout the day. Many offices rely on electric lighting, and without even realizing it, are actually using lighting options that have adverse effects on employee satisfaction and productivity. 

Fortunately, lighting technology has advanced significantly since Edison’s original invention of the light bulb in 1879. This evolution has made the office lights that you choose even more impactful not only on operational costs (efficient light bulbs), but even more importantly, on your employee satisfaction and productivity. 

In this article, we’ll be sharing some tips to utilize the lighting in your office to help create an environment where employees are happy and productive. 

How Office Lighting Impacts Employee Wellness

There are a number of variables that can help determine the best office lights for your situation including the nature of work in the office, the size of the space, your employee demographics, and even the time of day and year. 

The rule of thumb is that while natural lighting is most often preferable, when natural lighting isn’t enough to support working, artificial lighting should resemble natural light sources.

“I’ve encountered many patients who complained about the working environment being a source of stress. Breaking down the elements of it, it often appeared that lighting was a problem. Constant headaches or low energy resulted from working environment being either too lit or too dimmed.” - Dr. Nikola Djordjevic medalerthelp.com 

Biodynamic lighting (a.k.a. Circadian lighting), can increase productivity level as it adjusts the tone and illuminance to the time of day. It results in an uninterrupted circadian rhythm, ensuring better quality sleep from balanced hormones, metabolism and psychological well being. 

LUX reviewers of lighting options, explains that Human-centric lighting can include biodynamic and circadian lighting, but it also considers lighting on a physical level for the people using it and their use of the space. This could include task lighting specifically for working at office cubicles, or lighting specifically for those with reduced sight in a retirement home, or lighting in a hotel foyer coffee shop to create an area of calm around the busyness of the lobby and check-in, or even a glowing plastic lit dinosaur to entertain and calm the patients in a child-focused dental office. Human-centric lighting puts the person first, and is specific to the people using the space.  

“Room lighting can have such a profound impact that it even triggers the release of specific hormones. In fact, the hormone responsible for sleep, melatonin, is released by low light exposure. Dark environments promote sleep while bright environments increase alertness and wakefulness. This means that in the attempt to improve productivity, using bright, blue-enriched light bulbs can reduce daytime fatigue in employees.” - Nate Masterson, Natural Product Development Head at Maple Holistics

Fluorescent Lights vs. LEDs 

When it comes to energy efficiency, an easy first step to improve efficiency is replacing any incandescent or fluorescent light bulbs with LED light bulbs. LED light bulbs have a much longer lifespan and consume up to 75% less energy than other light bulbs. 

“Conventional fluorescent lighting may perhaps be the most problematic for workers—in spite of its prevalence in many workplace settings. Studies have shown that fluorescent-lit spaces can increase visual fatigue, eye strain and the frequency of headaches, even for healthy individuals. Instances of depression and other emotional consequences have been linked to long-term exposure to fluorescent lighting too. And these physical and emotional effects can be even worse for any of the millions with a light-sensitive disorder such as migraine.” - Greg Bullock, TheraSpecs, makers of eyewear for light sensitivity, migraine, and post-concussion relief.

Customizable Lighting Options for Employees

According to Sally Augustin, PhD (Principal at Design With Science, and co-author of The Designer's Guide to Doing Research), employees who feel their fundamental needs are important to their employer, will feel supported and comfortable to work to reach their full potential.

It is largely the positive psychological impact of allowing employees the opportunity to exert a level of control and customization on their environment, that has positive implications on people's mood, as well as their physiology and cognitive performance.

That being said, Dr. Augustin warns against giving too much control, citing that psychologically, people who are overwhelmed by options usually opt out of making any customization all. She suggests that as you’re planning new lighting installations for your office, have the lights installed with 4-5 preset lighting options, for the most usual types of interactions and gatherings.

In terms of both comfort and energy savings, smart light bulbs can be a good solution for office environments. They allow people to set different moods, colours and intensities, which can fit your employees' needs according to their mood, on that day. 

According to Matthias Alleckna, an energy analyst at EnergyRates.ca, “intelligent light bulbs” also give you more control, by way of an app to manage everything using your smartphone, including turning them on or off by distance.

Lighting Ideas for Employees At Work And At Home

Matteo Franceschetti, CEO of Eight Sleep, a company that manufactures “smart” mattresses that use technology to help people sleep better, wrote in his article “How I Use Light To Hack My Mood”, that carefully adjusting the color temperature and timing of his light exposure at home and in the office, made a big difference in his life and ability to live and work optimally.  

He uses blackout curtains in the bedroom to make the room as dark as possible, and says that as soon as he installed them, he immediately slept better and longer at night, and felt more invigorated and well-rested throughout the whole day, especially during the after-lunch hours when sleepiness can hit. 

To energize himself for the day, he writes, “Immediately after I wake up, I turn on all the lights in the house and set a blue color (you need to have smart lights like Philips Hue to do it). Blue light is visible light ranging from 380 to 500 nm, and sunlight is the major source of it. Being exposed to blue light will boost alertness, improve mood, and help memory and cognitive function. In the daytime, it’s important to get exposed to as much bright, natural-looking light as possible. 

Using Light Therapy Lamps to Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

A 2014 study found that office workers with windows were healthier and happier. They reported feeling more well-rested and more motivated to exercise. Light affects brain chemicals linked to mood and sleep, which is why light therapy is used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Light elevates mood by activating the brain’s circadian pacemaker, a structure called the suprachiasmatic nucleus. The nucleus helps to regulate melatonin and cortisol, which controls stress. Especially in North America, where winter daylight hours are significantly reduced, your staff are much more likely to suffer from a Vitamin D deficiency, or SAD, and be unaware of how to treat and manage its symptoms of fatigue and depression. 

To assist your staff who may not be able to afford ongoing Vitamin D supplements or a Light Therapy lamp for their home, talk to your organization’s wellness professional about buying a light therapy lamp for the lounge or lunchroom area of your office. This way, when your workers take a break to eat or socialize, they can also positively impact their mood, energy, and health in the moment. At the same time, since increasing exposure (to a SAD lamp) too fast, or using the light box for too long each time may induce manic symptoms in people with bipolar disorder, so be sure to educate everyone about the safe use of light therapy at work and at home.

Use Office Lighting To Create A Happier & Productive Workplace

Overall, the person making recommendations and decisions for the office lighting options has a great opportunity to positively reduce office operating costs, by using more energy-efficient light bulbs and lights, and to help employees take less time off work sick, and be more productive at work, by applying human-centric lighting solutions. 

While this isn’t a decision you’ll likely have to make regularly, if you keep these solutions in mind for an upcoming new office construction or move, or an expansion of your team and the space used, you’ll be ahead of the game and able to impact everyone in the organization with your bright ideas.

Are you interested in making your workplace more efficient? Check out what Eden’s Workplace Management Platform can do for your office.

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