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Making Light Work: Productivity and Workplace Lighting

When it comes to workplace lighting, we know two things: workers who are content with the lighting in their workspace are more productive and have a more positive outlook on everything, and that most American workers complain that they hate their office lighting.

LED office lighting

With commercial buildings spending up to half their energy budget on lighting, we can absolutely do better. Starting with a solid understanding of how important lighting is to worker mood and concentration, and with flexibility for industry and individual business size and culture, workplaces public to corporate have measurably improved efficiency and morale  with smart lighting updates. This is how you do it.

The Sun and Getting Things Done

The natural light spectrum from the sun is our bodies alarm clock, and the blue light contained in the white light is the alarm bell. Blue light energizes us naturally, and tells every corner of our brains that now is the time to do complicated tasks and pay attention. Blue light is has a profound effect on our Circadian rhythm and it’s the reason all our smartphones get dimmer and more yellow as it gets closer to our bedtimes. The best source energizing light is obvious, and incorporating access to at least some sunlight is a high priority component when designing workplace lighting. Adding access to sunlight has been found to not only improve general mood, but also has been shown to noticeably improve efficiency in repetitive tasks, lengthen concentration time, and even improve sales in a retail environment.

Making a System that Works

Studies have found that next to size, business owners prioritize good lighting when choosing a home for their enterprise. Unfortunately, the same studies show that commercial property owners are not as concerned with aspects of productivity and lighting design. Even the best, most modern office buildings made entirely of floor to ceiling windows- access to sunlight is limited in the winter months.  So what can we do when sunlight all day just isn’t going to work? Back to the science.

To satisfy the needs of all worker, we often choose a bright, blanket of ceiling light. We need everyone to be able to see and stay away, but that has some serious downsides. Individuals need different levels of light, and light that is too harsh or bright can be as destructive to morale as working in a dim basement. A Pacific Northwest National Laboratory study on Office Lighting and Productivity found that people who are happy with their lighting situation looked more favorably on other aspects of their work environment. If some people need bright light and some people find it distractingly austere, the best solution is to embrace the diversity. Get away from from a one-size-fits-all approach and focus individual worker needs by providing them with the ability to self-regulate for comfort.

Start with a moderate, neutral ambient lighting. LED ceiling lights in a neutral light temperature with a moderate, dimmable light output are the best option here. In addition to providing an alert but comfortable base for workspace lighting, LED ceiling lights have the additional benefit of a fraction of the energy consumption traditional lighting provides. Next, outfit personal work spaces with task lighting. The addition of personal dimming control adds a measurable impact on motivation and significantly improves individual concentration and the duration of concentration. It’s human nature to increase the light when your energy starts to wane, or dim the lights a little when you need to relax and use some creativity. Handing over the control and providing a way to adjust their own space not only improves their personal effectiveness, but improves perception of the overall organization. Comfortable people are less likely to complain and more likely to see the positive aspects around them.

Night and Day Capacity Improvement

Lighting design is a fertile space for dramatically improving efficiency and productivity. Improving the quality of the environment, and specifically the lighting in the workspace provides gains in every direction: employee retention, attendance and punctuality, efficiency and prolonged concentration levels. Outside of improving the individual experience, implementing personal dimming controls in task lighting and switching to lower level ambient lighting, drop power consumption significantly. Increasing productivity and limiting inefficiency is not only possible, but easily achievable.

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