There are certain factors that everyone knows affect workplace productivity, but there is one important item often overlooked by most employers the world over: lighting.
An employer’s choice of lighting can have a significant impact on the productivity of a company.
A study conducted by the American Society of Interior Design for example indicated that 68% of employees complain about the lighting situation in their offices. The fact that such a substantial number of employees disliked the lighting implies that many employers could be making the same mistakes.
Light has an enormous effect on our physical and mental well-being. It’s in our DNA to perform better under specific lighting, and that’s why we react differently depending on our light environment.
One of the most striking factors influencing how we work is called the colour temperature of the light source we’re exposed to on a regular basis.
So what is colour temperature?
Higher colour temperatures appear blue-white and are called cool or daylight colours.
Mid-range colour temperatures appear cool white while lower colour temperatures range from red to yellowish-white in tone and are called warm colours.
For a better idea, these are some examples of what these colour temperatures look like in everyday life:
• The glow from the fire lighting is considered a warm colour.
• A sunset is considered a cool white colour.
• A typical sunny day is considered a cool colour.
• An overcast winter day is measured is considered a very cool colour.
What colour temperature lighting is best at work?
Cooler light makes workers more productive.
A number of studies (Cheung & Zee in the Journal of Sleep Medicine as one stand out example) have found sunlight can have a multitude of benefits on our health.
Exposure to natural light is especially beneficial to workers that are cooped up in an office all day. Natural light from both the morning and evening has been found to decrease depression.
As a result of these findings we often advise clients to bring down drywalls and use an extensive amount of glass in the offices they design. With this strategy, light is able to travel and disperse throughout the office space.
Tailoring lighting throughout the office
If you don’t have access to daylight, studies have also found that working under “blue-enriched” light bulbs actually increases work performance by supporting mental acuity, vitality and alertness while reducing fatigue and daytime sleepiness.
Researchers at the University of Greenwich found in a two-month study that the workers they put under “blue-enriched light bulbs” reported feeling “happier, more alert and had less eye strain.”
Other benefits of blue light include lowering melatonin, which is created in our glands and basically puts us to sleep. This lower level of melatonin keeps people alert in the same way coffee does.
With so many brainpower benefits, blue or cooler light should be kept in brainstorming rooms.
On the other hand, since warmer tones tend to create a sense of comfort, it makes this kind of lighting in more intimate settings where you want workers to feel calm and relaxed, perhaps in a meeting room where you want to emit trust. Conference rooms should have middle tones that produce a friendly and inviting environment, but also cool enough tones to keep workers alert and motivated. Throughout the day, light also needs to change since space acts like a working organism; lighting in the office should be cooler and blue and should gradually change to a warmer, yellow colour as the day progresses.
Programmable lighting — the next big thing?
The most innovative companies are already discovering the power of strategic lighting.
In the next couple of years you’re going to see major changes in lighting technology in companies. More and more companies will have programmable lighting that will be able to be changed as one desires.
Richard Andrews is the Managing Director of Inspiration Office.