How to Boost Productivity by Optimizing Office Lighting

Like clothing, music, and hairstyles, trends in office design are ever-changing. In recent years, office layouts transformed from cubicles to open floor plans. Now, businesses seem to favor an open-but-not-too-open atmosphere.

Too often, when designing office spaces, people choose to concentrate on style rather than function. Unfortunately, this is especially the case with lighting. However, studies, including one conducted by Professor Jo Silvester and Dr. Efrosyni Konstantinou at City University London, suggest a definite correlation between office lighting and productivity.

How to Boost Productivity by Optimizing Office Lighting

So, instead of tirelessly searching for the perfect lights to fit their industrial or mid-century modern decor, businesses should look for the lighting that will make their workers calm, happy, and high-performing. To help you accomplish this monumental task, we’ll first touch on the problems associated with poor lighting. Then, we’ll outline various types of lighting before providing tips to help you optimize the natural light in your office.

5 Pitfalls of Poor Office Lighting

Here are some common (and serious) pitfalls of installing the wrong office lights:

1. Diminished Mood

Harsh, bright lights are thought to be able to dampen your mood. Guillaume Vidal, the CEO of Green Creative, believes, “The sterile, bright office lights that are so common in the corporate world are terrible for mental health.” As a solution, he feels fabricating natural light in the office transforms it from “a cold, unnatural place, to a warm, inviting space.”

2. Heightened Stress Levels

When you’re stressed, your body releases the hormone known as cortisol. Cortisol normalizes your responses to difficult situations. Interestingly, artificial lighting lowers your cortisol. When office lighting deprives employees of cortisol, they may behave irrationally. Thankfully, recent advances in lighting technology include things like glare control diffusers, which can make artificial lights appear softer and more natural.

How to Boost Productivity by Optimizing Office Lighting

3. Sluggishness

Have you ever noticed employees yawning excessively or nodding off to sleep during all hours of the day? While watching a late football game or tending to a fussy newborn might be to blame, poor lighting can also cause workers to feel sluggish and sleepy. Vidal contends a strong correlation exists between office lighting and circadian rhythms, often referred to as your “built-in-clocks.” Office lights that don’t imitate natural lighting may disrupt workers’ circadian rhythms and cause them to fall asleep during meetings or while completing other tasks.

4. Eye-strain

Dimly lit office spaces can lead to employee eyestrain. On the other end of the spectrum, lighting that is too bright and harsh can also damage your eyes.

5. Headaches

When your head hurts, you might find it difficult to concentrate on anything. This may especially be the case if you suffer from intense headaches due to migraines. Unfortunately, harsh lighting is thought to be able to trigger this severe type of headache.

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The 4 Types of Office Lighting

To optimize the lighting in your office, you might need to utilize an array of different types of light. Here’s a rundown of four basic kinds of office lighting:

1. Ambient

Also known as general lighting, ambient lighting delivers the overall illumination for a space. Its purpose is to provide a uniform level of light throughout the office. Forms of ambient lighting include:

  • Recessed or ceiling-mounted fixtures that send light downward
  • Cove, valence, and soffit lighting that bounce light off of your walls and ceilings
  • Floor-lamps or wall sconces that bathe your walls with light

2. Task

Task lights are used to illuminate a certain function. In an office setting, task lights might be utilized where paperwork is completed.

3. Accent

Also called highlighting, accent lights draw attention to a specific object such as a piece of artwork, trophy case, or bookcase. Track and recessed lights are commonly used sources of accent light. Typically, they consist of adjustable fittings that allow light to penetrate even the smallest of objects.

4. Natural

Natural light is illumination that originates from the sun. In an office environment, employees can experience natural light from various places including windows, doors, and the side of the walls. According to Inc., natural light reigns supreme. Besides contributing to how well you can see, natural light is thought to boost mood, energy levels, and hormonal balance. Inc. states, “Windows are the number one determinant of an employee’s satisfaction with a building.”

In a study from Cornell University, researchers determined nurses who worked the day shift at a hospital and had access to natural light exhibited better moods when serving patients, laughed more often, had lower blood pressure, and communicated more with coworkers than nurses who were exposed to more artificial lighting sources.

How to Boost Productivity by Optimizing Office Lighting4 Ways to Boost Natural Lighting in the Office

Since the benefits of natural light are profound, maximizing the use of it in your office space is essential. Here’s a list of things you can do to usher more natural light into your workplace:

1. Create a Mirror Effect

Adding shiny surfaces to a space allows more natural light to reflect into it. Some ideas to incorporate into your office design include:

  • Chandeliers
  • Brass lighting
  • Silver photo frames
  • Gold doorknobs
  • Mirrors

2. Ditch the Window Treatments

Window treatments absorb natural light. To maximize the natural light in your office, consider ditching window treatments altogether. Besides allowing more sunlight to penetrate your space, you won’t have to worry about dusting the blinds anymore. If you want to keep some type of window treatments, think about investing in sheer ones that won’t hinder natural light from entering your space.

3. Invest in Skylights

If your office is devoid of windows, adding one or more skylights may be an option. Innovations in technology have led to the development of skylights that provide a space with illumination without contributing to unwanted summertime heat gain or wintertime heat loss.

4. Install Glass Doors

Installing glass doors is a wonderful way to bring more natural light into your office. If privacy is an issue, consider installing tinted or frosted glass.

How Will You Redesign Your Office Lighting?

When designing lighting for office productivity, a one-size-all approach typically won’t work. A combination of ambient, task, accent, and natural light sources will likely need to be incorporated. However, you shouldn’t overlook the importance of natural light. When it comes to lighting options, the good old sun is hard to top.

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Becca Borawski Jenkins
Becca is a bit like a cat — she’s gone through a few “lives” to get to her current one (with which she’s quite pleased). She earned her MFA in Cinema-Television Production at USC’s famed film school, and her first career was as a music editor (if you’ve watched Scrubs, you’ve likely heard her work).

Becca found her way to career number two through martial arts. She began training in BJJ and muay Thai and started working with professional MMA fighters, building websites, working on fight promotions, and producing videos.

As a competitor in BJJ herself, Becca wanted to get stronger and fitter. In 2005, she became a student at CrossFit Los Angeles where she met WLC co-founders Andy Petranek and Michael Stanwyck. In only a couple years, she became CrossFit Level III Certified, left her entertainment career, and dedicated herself full time to coaching, serving as the Program Director of CFLA and founder of the CFLA CrossFit Kids program.

After seven years as a music editor and then eight years as fitness instructor, Becca segued to her current career — full-time editor and writer. She and her husband are full-time RVers and have a first-hand comprehension of the pros and cons of remote work.

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