How Purposeful Lighting Design Improves Wellbeing
Stepping into an office, one is often met with a cacophony of sounds and sights that can overwhelm the senses. Though intended for productivity, the ambiance can sometimes hinder it. One crucial but overlooked factor affecting employee wellbeing is lighting.
Gone are the days of energy-sapping fluorescent cubicles. However, there's still much to learn about the role of intentional lighting design. Research shows that thoughtful office lighting can enhance mood, cognitive function, and even sleep patterns. As employee wellbeing gains prominence, a holistic approach—including optimized lighting—is essential for a positive work environment.
What Impact Does Ineffective Lighting Have on Employee Wellbeing?
Lighting, though seemingly straightforward in office design, has profound effects when mismanaged. A study revealed 78% of employees felt that natural light and views boosted their happiness and wellbeing. Conversely, 47% felt fatigued due to a lack of natural light or windows in their workspace.
Natural light is more than an aesthetic—it's biologically essential. It provides Vitamin D and maintains our circadian rhythm, which governs sleep-wake cycles. Lack of natural light can disrupt this rhythm, affecting sleep, alertness, memory, and decision-making. Just 15 minutes in natural light can stimulate endorphin release, our 'happy hormones'.
Conversely, poor lighting, from overhead fluorescents or device screens, can lead to migraines, eyestrain, fatigue, and heightened anxiety or stress. It also interferes with melatonin production, influencing sleep and alertness.
What Does 'Good' Lighting Look Like in an Office?
Office lighting should be strategic and backed by research to enhance team wellbeing and productivity. Designers often refer to the Colour Rendering Index (CRI) to evaluate an artificial light's spectrum. With a range of 1-100, a score closer to 100 indicates a light closer to natural sunlight. For instance, LED lights typically score in the 80s, whereas fluorescents are lower.
Placement and hue of lighting also play pivotal roles. While overhead lighting may seem stark, dim lights can hinder productivity. Desk lamps should be positioned to prevent shadows and device glare. Blueish, cooler tones are known to enhance focus, while warmer lights foster relaxation. Smart lighting can even adjust hues throughout the day to mirror our natural rhythms—cool tones for morning productivity and warmer ones for evening relaxation.
Allowing employees to personalize lighting through dimmer switches or motion sensors can elevate work satisfaction and performance. Ultimately, the best lighting leverages natural light or closely emulates it for holistic workplace wellness.
How to Incorporate Natural Light and 'Good' Lighting in an Office
When designing a new office, optimizing natural light is essential. But even in established spaces, there are methods to amplify sunlight:
Reflect with Mirrors: Positioned opposite windows, they scatter light throughout the office.
Choose Light Furniture: Avoid items that obstruct light.
Consider Skylights: For windowless rooms, skylights bring in overhead natural light.
Biodynamic Lighting: This system mimics daylight variations using artificial lights.
Use LED Lighting: It's cost-effective, energy-efficient, adjustable, and reduces glare, enhancing space functionality.
Desk Positioning: North or south-facing setups prevent direct sunlight from affecting devices.
Windowed Partitions: Replace solid walls with glass partitions to distribute light.
Expand Windows: Larger windows mean more sunlight.
Unobstructed Light: Ensure blinds and curtains don't block light sources and that employees can adjust them.
Light Colour Palette: Opt for hues that reflect, not absorb, light.
By incorporating purposeful lighting into your office space, you will see a significant increase in productivity, morale and the retention of your team. Lighting is not just a functional necessity but a powerful tool for shaping positive and meaningful work experiences.