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Flick of a Switch: How Lighting Affects Productivity and Mood

Updated Mar 23, 2023

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Lighting — the good, the bad, and the ugly — can have a significant impact on employees’ mental health and performance can be significantly altered by the amount and type of lighting in your office.

In fact, effective lighting has been found to decrease depression and improve mood, energy, and alertness. Here’s how businesses can design their workspaces with lighting that delivers the optimal place for employees to think, create and collaborate.

How lighting impacts workplace productivity

To learn more about the costs associated with not addressing lighting issues in the workplace, we turned to HOK, a top global design firm. Here are three examples of lighting projects HOK has designed that have provided lighting conducive for a productive workplace.

Workers prefer to control their own lighting.

According to Emily Dunn, a senior consultant based in HOK’s New York office, employees prefer to adjust their own lighting based on their sensitivity and needs. This in turn increases workers’ productivity.

“We have found, based on the work that we have done, that control of an environment, whether it be lighting or temperature, helps people feel better about their perceived productivity,” Dunn said.

HOK installed energy-efficient windows in its own building that provides natural light, and gives employees the freedom to dim the electric lighting system in their individual workstations and multi-occupant stations.

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Lighting flexibility allows employees to create the atmosphere they need to be productive at work.

Daylight enhances human performance.

HOK incorporated daylight features to help employees regulate their circadian rhythms. When these rhythms are offset, employees experience stress, but a building that incorporates daylight can enhance human performance.

Lighting design creates ambience.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to lighting in the workplace. According to Tom Kaczkowski, lighting director at HOK, lighting design “depends on the atmosphere that we are trying to create within the work environment.”

When King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia wanted its interior to promote innovation and creativity, HOK delivered by tailoring each space to its intended use. For example, the conference space was situated in a “shaded, passively cooled outdoor concourse” with a hint of sunlight to produce an inviting environment that keeps workers alert. The academic library, designated as a room to keep people relaxed, was fitted with warm lighting to instill a sense of comfort.

Smart organizations know that enhancing the performance of their people keeps companies growing and actively innovating.

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Thoughtful lighting design can be a powerful tool to increase employee performance. There are actual costs associated with not addressing lighting issues at work, and they could be addressed with a simple change of the bulb.

How to improve your home office’s lighting

With so many professionals now working from home, it is crucial to create a productive home office environment. Here are some steps you can take to boost your lighting situation at home.

1. Utilize your room’s natural light first.

Before you charge ahead and fill your room with as many colorful lights as you can find, take a look around and identify ways to make the most of the room’s windows – if it has them. Windows can provide an abundance of natural light, which not only is much easier on human eyes, but also incorporates the world outside your room. Additionally, more natural light around your work desk can help you concentrate on your various tasks more effectively and won’t clutter your room so much with unnecessary lights.

2. Add overhead lights.

While natural light is ideal for any space, it can’t always fill an entire room. This is where overhead lights come in handy. By placing overhead lights in otherwise dark corners or spaces in your office, you’ll help lift the mood and create a more welcoming ambiance. This will keep you alert and focused on your work, rather than dreary and unable to concentrate.

3. Purchase bright desk lights.

There’s nothing quite like a trusty, classic desk lamp. The primary function of these lights is to bring your gaze into focus. Tread lightly, however, for relying solely on an effective desk lamp without strong overheads and natural light to bolster it will quickly strain your eyes leaving your urgent, work-related tasks incomplete.

4. Finish with backdrop lighting.

Eye strain can have serious long-term effects on those who do not fully light their rooms. This is especially true in the digital age, as we work on computers and mobile devices, which produce lighting that leaves something to be desired. Ambient light can alleviate the strain from computer and phone screen lighting while offering a welcoming space in which employees can work.

Molly Greenberg contributed to the writing and research in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Sean Peek
Senior Analyst & Expert on Business Ownership
Sean Peek has written more than 100 B2B-focused articles on various subjects including business technology, marketing and business finance. In addition to researching trends, reviewing products and writing articles that help small business owners, Sean runs a content marketing agency that creates high-quality editorial content for both B2B and B2C businesses.
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