Office Lighting Design Explained: What You Need to Know

Businesses are beginning to understand the importance of office lighting in the workplace. It can affect employee mood, health, and productivity. And lighting is an essential element in office design, one that’s often overlooked. 

In this article, we cover the effects of poor office lighting design on employees, artificial light vs natural light, circadian lighting, color temperature, and more. We hope this article helps you make informed decisions on the lighting option for your clients and their businesses. 


What are the Different Light Sources in the Office? 

There two main light sources in the workplace, these are natural light and electric lighting. 

Natural light: is the most desirable lighting source in the office. The amount of natural light entering an office depends on the building’s architecture, the position of the windows, the local terrain, the direction of the sunlight, the facility location, and the time of year. 

Electric lighting: where natural light is limited, it is essential to have an electric light system. Electric lighting is provided by bulbs, and the amount of light and colour vary with the type of bulb. 


How Much Light is Needed in the Workplace? 

The amount of light needed depends on the workplace and the following: 

  • The type of task being performed
  • The type of surfaces present in the workstation (does the material reflect or absorb light)? 
  • The general work area
  • The individual workers’ vision 


Office Lighting Explained

Negative Effects of Bad Office Lighting

Poor lighting doesn’t just have low light levels in the office. It encompasses some other lighting problems, such as: 

  • Insufficient light/illumination 
  • Poor distribution of light
  • Improper contrast
  • Glare
  • Flicker
  • Blindspot
  • Thermal heating

Each of these issues can cause both mental and physical issues in employees. Lighting is one of the most influential factors in the office environment. And if the office lighting is poorly designed, it can have a dramatic effect on employee productivity and wellbeing, including the following: 

  • Eye strain that causes headaches/migraines
  • Discomfort caused by burning sensations in the eyes
  • Drowsiness & lack of focus leading to decreased productivity 
  • Sleep disruptions that affect overall health
  • Fatigue


Natural Light vs. Artificial Light

The best kind of light for humans is natural light. This is one reason that office design should incorporate natural light as much as possible. This can be done by introducing large windows where possible, adding transom windows on top of existing ones, and installing skylights. 

The benefits of natural daylight in the office can include: 

  • Reduced eye strain
  • Reduced number of headaches/migraines
  • Improved mood
  • Fewer mistakes made
  • More energy
  • Energy efficient

If it’s not possible to add windows, it may be possible to use artificial light that mimics natural light. These light systems have tuneable white lighting and automatic dimming functions. It’s also possible to choose task lighting vs overhead fluorescent lights, which can cause some of the health issues mentioned above. 


Circadian Rhythm

The human circadian rhythm is a concept that says our bodies run on an internal 24-hour clock that is the same as one earth day. It pretty much dictates when we wake up and when we go to sleep. 

Our circadian rhythm can be interrupted by environmental factors, including artificial lighting in the office. There’s also the blue light emitted by computer screens that can cause problems with our circadian rhythm. Fortunately, there are ways to get around the issues caused by artificial lighting.


Circadian Lighting

Circadian lighting is as close to natural light as it’s possible to get. This kind of light can be achieved by installing a tuneable white lighting system. The system works to automatically change the colour temperature and intensity of the lighting throughout the day. These systems work to mimic the sun’s daily cycle. 

As a designer, you can discuss the circadian lighting system with your client, explaining the different benefits that go with these systems. 


Office Light Positioning

It’s also possible to have office lighting sources picked out; however, if the positioning of the lights is off, this can cause issues. Studying the floor plan is a great way to plan out the lighting in the office and ensure each light is strategically placed for the best results. 


Quick Tips for Office Light Positioning

Large light sources should not be placed directly above the employees’ desks.


Consider task lighting on desks for late-night workers

Natural light should be in front of or next to work surfaces and computer screens. This avoids direct glare. It may also be necessary to consider solar shades to diffuse the sunlight if it becomes too hot or bright. 


Other Ways to Avoid the Effects of Poor Lighting in the Workplace

Here are some more tips to consider to ease or avoid the negative effects of poor lighting in the office. 


Add More Lamps

To increase light intensity, increase the number of lamps to improve lighting. LED bulbs are more energy efficient, and if they’re connected to a smart system, they can be dimmed or made brighter as needed. 


Rearrange Desks

Sometimes it’s not that the lighting is the issue, but the workstations may not be placed correctly. It’s possible to rearrange desks to take advantage of lighting in the office. Placing desks closer to natural light can also help ease poor lighting problems. 


Reduce Lighting in Case of Glare

If employees are having trouble with glare, this must be taken care of right away. Identify the source of the glare and change the position of it. If the glare is caused by a light source, change the position of the light or move the desk. If the glare is caused by anything shiny, it’s possible to coat the item with matte paint or change the angle of the reflector. It’s also possible to use glare-reduction glass to get rid of glare issues. 


Change the Colour of the Room

Another option is to paint the office with a lighter colour. This works to maximize reflection and make better use of natural light. Light shades also make the room feel larger. 


Summing It Up

Poor lighting can have a drastic effect on employee productivity and wellbeing. However, with the proper lighting, employees will be happier, healthier, and able to be more productive.

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