How light impacts productivity

How light impacts productivity

Lighting is an important component of any space. It’s an integral part of a building user’s comfort, along with temperature, ventilation and layout, and certainly shouldn’t take a back seat. In fact, when it comes to productivity, it should be a major consideration; in fact, lighting can impact productivity just as much as an uncomfortable temperature or stuffy atmosphere.

According to a study conducted by the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), an astonishing 68% of employees think the light in their workspace is inadequate. So what can designers and building managers do to improve these conditions? From good old fashioned fixes to new technologies, there are various solutions – it’s just a question of identifying your team’s most pressing need. Let’s look closer.

Control and colour

The survey conducted by ASID found a few key concerns; primarily, ample lighting is important. If daylight from windows isn’t available, then overhead lighting is essential, especially for task-based productivity. However, one intense light throughout the day isn’t the ideal scenario; in a perfect world, employees want to control. This could be individual desk lights or the installation of a smart lighting system to adjust with natural light levels.

Light intensity is only one consideration; another important factor is colour temperature. The crucial colour in the spectrum is daylight which, unsurprisingly, has an intimate relationship to wakefulness and productivity. Daylight is closer to the white end of the spectrum, as opposed to tungsten light, which is yellow. Employees are more energetic under white light, which is more akin to sunlight at high noon. Meanwhile, yellow light is more like the so-called “golden hour” when the sun sets, which can make people feel lethargic.

Of course, finding the right light temperature for the space will depend on how much natural sunlight is available and the unique features of the location. Achieving the right lighting in terms of colour temperature, coupled with giving employees more control over the lighting in general, can result in a boost in productivity and happier, more motivated workers.

A new hue in the mix

However, there is another colour temperature that’s playing a big role in our energy levels – blue light. Blue light is emitted by devices like computers, televisions, and phone screens, and has a unique effect on our moods and energy levels, both in the office and at home.

A National Sleep Foundation study showed that the glow from electronic devices suppresses melatonin and interferes with falling and staying asleep. A good night’s sleep is, of course, crucial to productivity, but as we all know too well, these devices are becoming increasingly central to our day-to-day working life – especially as remote working becomes the norm.

There are solutions emerging to manage the impact of blue light on our moods and motivation. Research conducted at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business collected data from a Brazil-based company to measure the impact of blue light filtration. Participants were randomly chosen to test glasses that filter blue light or placebo glasses.

According to the lead researcher, “We found that wearing blue-light-filtering glasses is an effective intervention to improve sleep”, which in turn, led to better “work engagement, task performance and organisational behaviour and reduced counterproductive work behaviour.”

Technological solutions for a fundamental issue

When it comes to optimising the light in your workspace, there is a range of solutions, from architectural strategies to individual tools. The question at hand for bosses is identifying the business’s most pressing need. For example, if your building is already flooded with natural light, perhaps access to blue light filtration is the boost your team needs. Or, if there are a limited amount of windows, it might be a question of getting back to basics with the right colour temperature.

Either way, light is key to employees’ comfort, which in turn, is essential to their performance. Light should be built into your plan for a comfortable workspace, so make sure it’s on the agenda, whether you’re embarking on a whole new build or just making some design tweaks to your office space.



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