Feeling Sluggish? Check Your Office Lighting

It hardly takes a TED Talk to appreciate the impact of lighting on our workday. Simply unchain yourself from your ill-lit cube or windowless day cave, grab a go-cup at the office trough and stroll through the joint. Why do the bosses’ offices feel so calm and welcoming? Or the cafeteria so cold and sterile? Or the rooftop deck one step short of heaven?

Light, grasshopper, light. And while meeting planners tend to be well attuned to the more dramatic effects of event and stage lighting, the hectic pace of a day spent twisting and squinting to monitor tiny digital screens while on the fly can, by day’s end, render them insensitive to anything other than blessed blackness.

Want to get the most out of your team, feel upbeat about your life and sleep better at night? Expanding your spectrum throughout the day can accomplish these goals and more, once you see the light.

Science has shown that different light wavelengths and spectrums have a profound impact on our physical wellbeing, affecting everything from our internal/biological clock to our energy level, moods and sleep patterns. When full-spectrum natural sunlight is introduced to an office environment, moods lighten and energy levels spike, while eyestrain, headaches and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) go out the window.

Unfortunately, short of landing that prized window office, the chances of a workday filled with sunshine are roughly the same as Chipotle setting up a carnitas cart in the foyer, such is the reality of today’s digital office environment. That said, a few reasonable tweaks to our over-lit office lighting can have many of the beneficial effects we associate with a walk in the sun.

One study found that turning down those KWA (keep workers awake) kilowatts not only increased office productivity by 6 to 16 percent, but lowered absenteeism as well. Another found that call center employees whose office lighting was switched from regular to high-correlated color temperature fluorescent lighting showed improved work performance, vitality, alertness and mental health, as well as a decrease in daytime sleepiness.

Consider these other office lighting tweaks for a happier, healthier, more productive team:

  • Different tones for different rooms: Choose cooler, bluer light tones to energize creativity and sharing in brainstorming rooms, middle tones to keep people alert and motivated in conference rooms, and warmer lighting in smaller meeting rooms to help people relax, engage and trust each other.
  • Add a desk lamp: Workers numbed by ubiquitous overhead office lighting get a boost when given a small, direct desk light for more specific tasks.
  • Hail, halogen! Halogen bulbs are a better choice for detail work than other bulb types because they render colors more clearly.
  • Adjust lighting throughout the day: Experts recommend cooler, bluer tones in the morning hours and warmer yellow tones in the afternoon to boost productivity and stave off the post-lunch slump. In fact, some enlightened companies are even installing technology that adjusts their office lighting tones throughout the day.

Photo credits: Shutterstock.com

Jay MacDonald

Jay MacDonald

Jay MacDonald is an award-winning journalist, author and blogger who incorporates humor and human interest into a broad range of topics. Follow him on Twitter @omnisaurus

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