Lighting in the Workspace

Lighting Illustration for Lighting in the Home Office

What is Light:

Light is the most important form of energy that surrounds the whole universe. It is light energy that makes life possible on earth as it gets absorbed by plants and plankton, resulting in the release of oxygen through photosynthesis. It facilitates the growth of vegetation, which is the primary source of food; it also enables us to see the world and adds color to our lives. Our solar system settled into the formation 4.5 billion years ago, resulting in the birth of our planet earth. Since then, the Sun has been the source of light and has sustained life on earth.

Artificial light:

The invention of the light bulb in 1879 began a new era and had a significant effect on lifestyle, economy, society, architecture, sports, entertainment, and health. No wonder the light bulb is often called the most important invention since manufactured fire. The electric bulb gave people complete control over lighting inside their homes and workplaces at the click of a switch. The light bulb helped establish social order after sundown, allowed people to travel at night, and extended the workday well into the night, which increased productivity and helped spur industrial advancements and knowledge-based services. Fast forward to today, and we can’t even imagine a life without artificial light. In our built environment, we leverage artificial light during the daytime and have total dependence once the Sun goes down. Research suggests that intensity, position, and color significantly affect our circadian rhythm, which subsequently determines how you feel in the space.

 

Circadian Rhythm:

All organisms, including humans, evolved to develop an internal clock called a circadian rhythm influenced by the earth’s rotation around the Sun (24-hour cycle of a day). This internal clock in your body results in physiology and behavior variations regulating our melatonin secretion (sleep cycle), cortisol activity (regulates stress, metabolism, immune system), and serotonin secretion (regulates mental health).

 

Exposure to Natural Light:

Light exposure at your workspace has long-lasting and compounding effects on the physical and mental health not only during but also beyond your work hours. Research shows light exposure leads to better sleep quality, more physical activity, and a higher quality of life. It is a widely accepted fact that insufficient sleep and reduced sleep quality have many health and safety consequences. Natural light is the best light that you can use at your workspace if available. According to a new study conducted by the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis at Cornell, workers in daylit workspaces reported an 84 percent drop in eyestrain symptoms, headaches, and blurred vision symptoms, which can detract from productivity2. Research has shown that exposure to natural light helps regulate hormones and keeps your circadian rhythm in check.

Intensity:

The timing of light exposure plays a vital role in how we feel throughout the day in our workspace. The intensity of the light at the workspace needs to adjust based on the time of the day as lighting during work hours can act as a regulator of circadian physiology and behavior. Exposure to bright light in the morning can improve mental and physical health. But research has shown we are most sensitive to light stimuli during the biological night, especially to blue-enriched artificial light being emitted from screens. This hurts our sleep-wake cycle, and even short exposure can disrupt our circadian system.

Glare:

Another thing to consider while setting up your workspace is glare. The brightness of light from screens is lower than natural or artificial light sources; therefore, if it falls directly on your screen, it can considerably reduce visibility resulting in strain on eyes, adversely affecting your eyesight. Your work area should have moderate, indirect lighting free from sources of glare.

Position:

The position of a light source can transform the workspace and impact how you feel in the space. Lighting positioned above eye level can create a feeling of restraint, creating a more formal atmosphere. In contrast, lighting below eye level can provoke a feeling of individual importance, creating a more informal atmosphere.

Your workspace is unique to you, so is the lighting needs for your space. A professionally designed space incorporates all the aspects of natural and artificial light that can transform the space into a place where your body and mind can be one with nature’s flow.

Reference:

  1. Wright KP Jr, McHill AW, Birks BR, Griffin BR, Rusterholz T, Chinoy ED. Entrainment of the human circadian clock to the natural light-dark cycle. Curr Biol. 2013;23(16):1554-1558. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2013.06.039
  2. Boubekri M, Cheung IN, Reid KJ, Wang CH, Zee PC. Impact of windows and daylight exposure on overall health and sleep quality of office workers: a case-control pilot study. J Clin Sleep Med. 2014;10(6):603-611. Published 2014 Jun 15. doi:10.5664/jcsm.3780
  3. Duffy JF, Czeisler CA. Effect of Light on Human Circadian Physiology. Sleep Med Clin. 2009;4(2):165-177. doi:10.1016/j.jsmc.2009.01.004

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