How many hours do you spend working indoors each day? Do we realize we are spending those hours in an unnaturally lit setting? We go through each day at the office enduring glare, eyestrain, headaches, or moodiness; yet blaming the source of lighting within our workplace is the last thing we think of. Thankfully, many of us are now starting to see the problem: a famous study by the American Society of Interior Design found that 68% of employees are complaining about the lighting situation in their offices. Clearly, we cannot afford to overlook the importance of workplace lighting.
Humans and Light: It’s a Science Thing
Science has found that our circadian system, something that determines our sleeping and feeding patterns, is affected by the timing of light stimulus. Basically, light affects how well this biological clock of ours works. The takeaway is that when we are awake, we are most efficient while working in areas that are properly lit. Dim areas strain eyes and cause discomfort, while too much glare causes annoyance and actually decreases your ability to see. So now that we know this, how can we make better lighting choices for the workplace?
Indirect Lighting Is Your First Line of Defence to Better Workplace Lighting
Indirect lighting is what we call luminaires that direct light upwards, allowing light to bounce off walls and ceilings and distribute more evenly to help light the office room. Unlike direct lighting, indirect lighting doesn’t produce glare and helps to eliminate shadows. This is the key.
Linear fixtures, either suspended from the ceiling or wall mounted are the most popular type of indirect lighting for the office. Many designers are also incorporating indirect lighting into their architectural designs, using wall and ceiling recess to create comfortable, well-lit, shadow-free lighting that complements main task lighting using LED flat panel ceiling lights or troffers.
How Bright Should It Be?
We now know one way of using proper lighting to battle fatigue in the workplace, but how bright should our lights be? In the lighting world, lux (lx) is a unit to measure the lumen (the amount of visible light emitted by a source) per square meter. The Ontario Ministry of Labour tells us that area lighting of 300 to 500 lux are the best for computer work, and paper-based work or older workers require even more light.
So what’s your lux? I’ve found a nifty app that can be installed on a smartphone that uses the light sensor of my device to measure the amount of lux emitting from the light source I’m standing under. It may not be 100% scientific, but I’ve found it to be pretty darn close. Interested? You can give it a try (I’m in no way affiliated with the app developers, just found a good app that works!). Hope this starts you and your team off towards setting up a healthier, more efficient workplace.