Lighting effects on human health

Lighting effects on human health

Why Your Workplace Environment is Negatively Affecting Your Productivity

At some point, we have all felt bogged down by the weight of work responsibilities, sometimes before we even open our email inbox. Many times, you can overcome work related stress by tuning into your surroundings and garnering inspiration from your place of employment. For many, company culture and environment are two major differentiating factors in today’s job market. And for that reason, through building design and aesthetics, modern employers seek to create collaborative and unique environments, which in turn increase productivity and creativity.

But what if your workplace isn’t providing you with an environment conducive to high productivity? Let’s shed some light on the subject.

Light Forms and Their Effects

The subject is just that. Light.

It comes in many forms, such as natural or artificial lighting, white or red light, and LED or fluorescent light, to name a few. As wide as the spectrum spans, each source of light serves a very specific purpose in terms of its effect on the human brain. For example, increasing or decreasing certain light pigmentations can either help or hurt your alertness depending on which way you travel down the spectrum.

Let’s break it down.

Your eye contains microscopic cells called melanopsin, which is a kind of photopigment located in the front of the retina. These light-sensitive proteins don’t aid in seeing, but rather they send signals to the brain to aid in regulating sleep cycle and pupil size. Our body clock, or circadian rhythm, is regulated through your body’s interpretation of light cycles. When light is received into the retina and sensed by these light receptors, our bodies respond accordingly.

A normal light and dark cycle keeps your body equilibrium in check. If you’ve ever experienced jet lag or worked the night shift, you know just how out of whack your body clock can get when you try to adapt to abnormal light cycles. Our circadian rhythm, when irregular, can cause drowsiness, depression, and low energy and productivity.

Lighting in the Workplace

Last year, the CBRE headquarters in Amsterdam experimented with ‘human-centric’ lighting and discovered shocking results. Their time-controlled, ‘circadian-friendly’ lighting sequence resulted in an 18% increase in productivity and a 12% increase in work accuracy, with 76% of employees feeling happier, and 50% feeling healthier.

Circadian lighting adapts light color and intensity throughout the course of the workday to stay in tune with our body clocks. By syncing up to human circadian rhythms, this lighting design ensures that we are exposed to the right light at the right time. Through the results of this study, it’s clear that investing in dynamic lighting provides significant returns.

Poor lighting is one of the biggest pitfalls interior designers face. Whether a business is in the process of finding a new location, in the midst of building planning, or already settled, the employer has the responsibility to create a workplace where employees can thrive. Lighting is one of the most overlooked aspects of workplace design and it is important to keep this in mind –  no matter what stage of the process you are in.

For Employees

Do you ever suffer from eye strain or migraines throughout the workday? You may be suffering from a poorly lit workplace. First, make sure to alert your employer of any negative side effects you are experiencing. Then, to guarantee that your body is getting the right amount of light at the right time of day, take note of the following:

  • Having high quality, consistent white light helps maintain good vision. Natural lighting is the best source of this. Rather than an inner room or basement, opt to work near or beside windows if your workplace allows.
  • During the workday, your body is most alert when exposed to high intensity, blue-light rich light sources.

Of course, if your options are limited because of your environment, do some research on the best lighting for your office space. Try to have a mix of direct and indirect lighting, some natural and warm lights, as well as ample blue light during the day. Talk to your employer about the potential for workplace modifications.

For Employers

As an employer, there are many steps you can take to ensure your employees are completing tasks in an ideal environment. Do the appropriate research and then consider your options.

Suggestions to improve lighting:

  • Install solar tubes or skylights
  • Add windows wherever possible
  • Install indirect lensed overhead lights
  • Provide corrective/ambient lighting
  • Give LED task light lamps upon request
  • Invest in human-centric, circadian lighting

America Training Solutions

Lighting options will vary quite significantly across industries and workplaces. As an employer, it is crucial to ensure that your employees are working in an environment that allows for maximum productivity, creativity, and comfort. As you seek to optimize workplace design, explore the variety of lighting options available to you.

ATS offers live seminars all over the country in professional and convenient locations, which address the latest in innovative building technologies, products, and techniques. Architects, designers, and LEED professionals will receive up to 8 CE credits in one day-long seminar with the unique opportunity to ask questions and discuss projects and concepts with industry leaders.

ATS also offers online courses covering a variety of topics in design technique and building materials. Visit for more details.