There are certain factors that everyone knows affect workplace productivity, but there is one important factor often overlooked by most employers across the globe: lighting. Sure, it’s common knowledge that reading in the dark can harm your eyes, but lighting has effects well beyond that, and an employer’s choice of lighting can have a significant impact on the productivity of her company. Most of us don’t think much about lighting so long as we have enough to easily see what we’re doing. But poor workplace lighting–which is not the same as dim lighting–can cause headache, neck soreness, and even double vision. Lighting has also been found to decrease depression and improve mood, energy, alertness, and productivity.
The first culprit, dim lights, can be detrimental to productivity for several reasons. First, dim lighting can cause eye strain and headaches, because, when lighting is inadequate, the eyes are forced to work much harder in order to see. Dim lighting can also result in drowsiness and lack of focus, which would obviously have a negative impact on employee motivation.
The second culprit, harsh lighting, is much more common than dim lighting and is just as harmful. Florescent lighting, especially, has a number of negative effects on employees, as it has been known to cause eye strain, and it is also cited as a trigger for migraine headaches. This harsh lighting also makes it more difficult for the eye to focus, so alternatives should be sought whenever possible.
Given that a study conducted by the American Society of Interior Design revealed that 68 percent of employees complain about the lighting situation in their offices, how can businesses design their workspaces with lighting that delivers the optimal place for employees to think, create, and collaborate?
Studies suggest that the intensity and colour temperature of artificial lighting affect various physiological processes in the human body, such as blood pressure, heartrate variability, EEG, core temperature and melatonin. Moreover, exposure to lighting with different illuminances and correlated colour temperature (CCT) can affect the quality of sleep, the mood, alertness, and perceived self-efficacy of the subjects studied. In addition to physiological and psychological effects of different types of illumination, research has indicated that specific lighting conditions may also increase human performance. For instance, studies suggest that artificial lighting can have positive effects on working speed, accuracy, and task performance. Empirical studies supporting the effects of lighting have been conducted in various settings, such as retail environments, offices, and schools.
A recent study has demonstrated that artificial lighting simulating daylight was able to increase concentration and cognitive performance in students. The results showed that students working under biologically-optimised classroom lighting achieved better results than the comparison group in standardised tests for concentration ability, and their performance speed also increased. Natural lighting renovations have been shown to result in happier workers, less absenteeism, and fewer illnesses, and, because better lighting encourages satisfaction among workers, it also results in increased productivity.
Take the following case study for example: In the late 1980s, the lighting systems in the U.S. post office in Reno, Nevada were renovated to make them more worker friendly. The upgrade resulted in energy savings of about $50,000 per year, but the real improvements came in the form of employee productivity. Mail sorters in the facility became the most productive sorters in the western half of the country, machine operators boasted the lowest error rates, and the financial impact of the productivity increase was expected to boost revenue by approximately $500,000 per year. And this wasn’t an isolated incident. Countless other companies across the country have also noted productivity increases as the result of lighting renovations.
What’s more, the energy savings will create profits for your business. For example, Boeing has reduced lighting electricity in many of its production plants by up to 90 per cent, with an overall energy savings return of 53 per cent – which means they made their money back in just two years. With light being a key component of vision, and vision being responsible for 80 to 85 percent of our perception of the world around us, it’s not difficult to see why ignoring proper lighting strategies in your office could have a significant negative impact on productivity. By opting instead for more natural lighting or other lighting systems that have been proven effective, you stand to not only save energy but also increase productivity among your business’s employees.
Beyond just causing extremes of discomfort, research suggests glare in a workspace decreases productivity, it’s about not being able to see the screen and constantly readjusting your head. Basically, anything that distracts you or causes a momentary lapse in focus is going to take some time getting readjusted. Not only are we generally getting more light than we should, the amount of light that’s best varies from person to person and from task to task. For example, someone working with physical documents will have very different lighting needs than someone working with multiple computer screens.
Smart organizations know that enhancing the performance of their people keeps companies growing and actively innovating. Thoughtful lighting design can be a powerful tool to increase employee performance. There are real costs associated with not addressing lighting issues at work and they could be fixed with the simple change of the bulb.
So how do you go about installing this in your own office space?
Just as important in the process is working with a company that knows the value of commercial lighting and has worked with it before. An SME budget is unlikely to be endless, so you need an office fit-out that will bring tangible results.
With this deep understanding of how office lighting can impact your bottom line, Inergy Solutions is ideally positioned to help in this department, contact us today.