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Designing Perfect Lighting for Collaborative Workspaces

24 April 2024

The Importance of Workplace Lighting:

One of the foremost concerns for any employer is workplace safety – of which lighting is a crucial aspect. Office lighting has a direct impact on the workers' health, well-being, performance, motivation, and productivity.

Insufficient lighting at work can lead to headaches, eyestrain, dizziness, stress, and mistakes and accidents. Other than that, light that is too dim or dull can also cause employees to feel lethargic and drowsy which, of course, has a significant impact on focus and productivity.

At the same time, excessive lighting has its own set of problems, including stress and glare headaches, making it hard for employees to concentrate.

Hence, both too little and too much light can affect the performance of the workers as well as the quality of the work they produce.

There are several studies that highlight the direct relationship between ideal workplace lighting, an increase in productivity, and a reduction in errors. One such study, published in the ILO manual named Improving Working Conditions and Productivity in the Garment Industry, revealed that improved lighting in certain factories led to a 10% boost in productivity and a 30% drop in errors.

Unsurprisingly, then, an increasing number of employees around the world want their employers to do more in terms of working environment and conditions.

However, improving lighting does not always have to involve the installation of new lights (and using up more electricity, as a consequence). Sometimes, it simply requires you to:

Make better use of existing lighting

Make sure that every light is clean and in working order

Ensure that the lights are in the right positions for each task

Maximize the use of natural light

This brings us to lighting ergonomics.

What is Lighting Ergonomics?

When we come across the word ergonomics, we tend to think about sit-to-stand desks or the Premium Ergonomic Office Chair (C7). However, the way you sit, stand, and move about at work is just one facet of ergonomics. There is an entirely different aspect of office ergonomics that has to do with lighting and illumination.

Lighting ergonomics involves establishing the ideal relationship between a source of light and an individual experiencing that light. As we mentioned, proper lighting has a tremendous impact on employees health, productivity, and focus.

For many offices, overhead lighting fixtures are the primary light source. The problem with these lighting fixtures is that they cause shadows or glares – and the problem is exacerbated if there is insufficient or flickering illumination. Besides, working under poor lighting for long hours can lead to improper contrast (the bright light of the monitor screen and low light in the workplace), poor light distribution, and incorrect color temperature, all of which can lead to fatigue and eyestrain.

Lighting ergonomics tries to prevent the above situations by providing the right amounts of light throughout the office.

Importance of Lighting Ergonomics:

As implied, lighting ergonomics should be an integral aspect of any office design and layout, since poor lighting can cause:

Low productivity

Higher rates of errors and accidents

Low focus

Eye fatigue


General sickness

Low morale and motivation

How to Improve Workplace Lighting:

Use LED Lights:

Fluorescent tubes, owing to their low cost and the fact that they can light up large areas, have long been the preferred lighting choice for most offices. However, alongside the flickering that we mentioned above, another common problem with fluorescent tubes is that they tend to get dimmer with time, leading to inconsistencies in the quality and quantity of light. This, when coupled with buzzing, makes it clear that fluorescent tubes are far from the perfect workplace lighting option.

In recent times, LED has emerged as a popular substitute for fluorescent lighting. Even though LEDs might have a higher upfront cost, they can actually save you a lot more money in the long run. This is because LED lights have significantly higher energy efficiency than HID bulbs or fluorescent tubes – which means that they require considerably lower wattage and can last for far longer. The T8 LED, which is the most common choice of LED lights for workplaces and commercial areas, can last for approximately 50,000 hours. In comparison, the fluorescent T8 has a useful life of 30,000 hours.

A second environmental advantage of LED lighting is that it is free of mercury and many other environmentally harmful compounds present in fluorescent lights.

Other than that, LED lights minimize glare, thereby leading to better concentration and productivity.

If you want to give your office a more modern appearance, you can install LED lights into your suspended ceilings.

Get Rid of Shadows and Dark Spots:

Direct lighting is when a lighting source or fixture spreads most of its light on a specific object or area. Examples of direct lights are spotlights, task lights, and a few partially shaded overhead lights that direct the light downwards.

Indirect lights, on the other hand, are those that fall beyond the objects and areas that are in the lights direct spread. Light fixtures are an example of indirect lighting – these fixtures cast the lights upwards to the walls and ceilings, instead of on specific objects or areas.

Using too much direct lighting can lead to shadows and dark spots around the workplace – another example of incorrect lighting ergonomics which causes headaches and eye fatigue.

A lot of people use their computers in relatively dark rooms, often with a desk light as the sole source of illumination. This leads to a contrast imbalance and forces your eyes to constantly adapt to these drastic lighting differences, leading to eyestrain, fatigue, and headaches.

By combining indirect and direct lighting, you can reduce these shadows and dark spots and create even illumination throughout your workspace. Use direct lighting where you require extra illumination, such as keyboards or writing areas. Indirect lighting, meanwhile, can be used to create ambient and consistent lighting and eliminate any unwanted shadows or dark spots.

Maximize the Use of Natural Light:

Natural light is one of the most underutilized office assets, and can instantly make a workplace look considerably more welcoming. The truth is, that natural lighting should be the dominant light source in a workplace, with artificial lighting only used as a supplement to bring the lighting up to the required level.

According to a study, high levels of natural light in the workplace can lead to a 40% increase in sales and productivity and a 15% increase in creativity. Yet another study showed that employees who sit close to windows and receive plenty of daylight tend to exercise more, sleep longer, and have a generally better quality of life.

Other than that, there is anecdotal evidence to prove that, on average, a windowless building is worth around 20% less than its windowed counterpart. Hence, if you are a landlord, installing more windows and making full use of natural light might be in your best interests. Also, the more you can rely on natural light, the less you will have to utilize artificial lighting, and the lower your electricity bill will be. Daylight harvesting systems (also known as daylight integrated lighting control systems) can automatically regulate the artificial lighting levels in response to the amount of natural light available. So, when more natural light is available, this system will cause the artificial lights to dim down – and vice-versa.

Make Adjustments to Color Temperature:

Lighting ergonomics not only addresses physical issues like eye strain or headaches but also has a major impact on mood and mental health.

Color temperature, measured in Kelvin (K), helps determine how warm or cool the lighting is. You should focus on maximizing cooler lights since they have been associated with a 19.4% increase in productivity. Other than that, cool lighting can improve focus, alertness, mood, and overall mental health.

Warmer lights, on the other hand, promote drowsiness and sleepiness, which is why they should be used to a minimum.

Use Different Lighting for Different Workplace Zones:

Workplace lighting is crucial to creating the right first impression, and, by extension, conveying your brand message and organizational values.

By implementing different lighting arrangements for different areas of the office, you can maximize every acre of available space. Here are a few suggestions/examples:

A large table below a few oversized pendant lights can be characteristic of areas designated for get-togethers and meetings

Spotlights can be used to illuminate the corridors; these lights can direct employees or visitors to different areas or sections of the office

Quirkier lighting arrangements (such as different types of lampshades; accented lighting to highlight plants or shelves; and different colors) can work well with lounges or breakout spaces

Every zone could have flexible lighting options like tabletop lamps, standing lamps, and dimmer switches so that employees can alter the lighting levels according to the task or activity that they are using the area.

Final Word:

To sum up, lighting is a crucial part of workplace design, and it is finally starting to get the attention that it deserves. We hope that the above blog helped you understand the basics of lighting ergonomics and the steps you can take to implement it in your offices. Simple steps like replacing fluorescent with LED, combining direct and indirect lighting, or making the most of natural light can go a long way in optimizing your workplace lighting arrangements.