How much thought do you put into the lighting for your office? If you’re like most business owners, the answer is probably little. A recent study conducted by the American Society of Interior Designers showed that 68% of interviewed employees said they were dissatisfied with the lighting in their offices. But a thoughtful lighting plan isn’t just a matter of keeping workers happy. Dim light can cause headaches, eye strain, and lead to lower productivity, while harsh light has even more damaging effects on the eyes and can lead to migraines.
So why not spend a little time planning the lighting design for your office, because happy employees are more productive. Take the Reno Post Office, for example, where a redesign in their lighting system not only saved them $50,000 per year in energy costs but also caused a spike in worker productivity that was estimated to boost revenue by nearly $500,000.
The Bottom Line: good lighting leads to healthier, more productive employees. Think then of the money you put into a lighting plan as an investment in your company’s future.
A Bright New Plan
The start of a sound lighting system is to spend some time planning for the lighting you need. The best lighting is natural lighting, but limited window space often restricts access to natural sources. Hence, experts suggest that a layered system that mimics natural light is the best approach to creating a productive work atmosphere.
Before you start choosing the type of light system you’ll need, the fixtures and bulbs, the placement, there are a few considerations that will make planning easier:
- Create A Proper Lighting Environment: one way to enhance the brightness of your office is to paint the walls in light-coloured, matte finishes that reflect indirect light and decrease contrast and shadows.
- Consider The Space Function And The Type Of Work Being Done: space where reading paperwork or writing needs to be done bright light, while computer work needs less lighting because of screen light. Brighter, warm, white-based lighting leads to productivity in work areas. In contrast, dimmer yellow-tinted lighting creates a more relaxed atmosphere in recreational spaces or waiting areas for the public.
- Plan A Layered System Of Lights: layered lighting means combining proper overhead fixtures for ambient room lighting with both task lights for workspaces, such as under-cabinet lighting, and indirect lighting sources, such as wall sconces and uplights.
- Think About Workspaces: To reduce glare potential, plan to place overhead fixtures near work stations but not directly above them. Task lights placed at work stations will complement ambient light for maximum brightness when needed.
- Be Aware Of Regulations: planning lighting means choosing fixtures and bulbs that meet the minimum standards for providing illumination for the workspace. The Occupational Safety and Health Association’s Code of Regulations requires a certain level of light (measured in candle feet) for work areas. It designates specific standards for certain types of work (see Code of Regulations 1926.56).
The Right Light And The Bright Light
Today’s light systems offer a variety of choices from traditional fluorescents to more modern metal halide. However, increasingly, businesses are choosing LED lighting for its versatility, safety, and cost-effectiveness. Whatever system you decide on, some factors can save you money, create a more productive workspace, and provide the ambience suitable for your business.
Everyone wants to save money, and the proper lighting choices can reduce your business costs. Using task lighting allows for lower ambient illumination that is more energy-efficient, particularly when combined with dimmer switches so lights can be lowered depending on the time of day, office activity, or task necessity. Currently, the most energy-efficient lighting on the market is LED lighting. While the initial investment may be higher, an LED system quickly pays returns in energy usage that is as much as 60% lower than other types of lighting.
Bigger open spaces deserve special consideration in your plan as they will need stronger illumination. This requires attention to the luminance a light provides (often measured in lumens or lux) and the colour of lighting (usually measured in Kelvins). Luminance calculations are based on the area of the workspace and involve both calculating the brightness of each fixture and the number of fixtures you will need for the entire space. Colour depends on the Kelvin rating of the bulb. The higher the Kelvin rating, the closer to sunlight the illumination is. Large areas need bulbs in the 5,000-7,000 Kelvin range while more intimate spaces desired work better in the range of about 2,700 Kelvin.
The best lighting plans offer versatility, and some choices provide you options in your office design. Directional track-lighting, for example, is the perfect way to allow for multiple lighting configurations in case of office rearrangement. Installing dimmer switches allows for brighter illumination during evening hours and less illumination at the height of the day. They also allow you to increase light intensity during the winter months, which can increase productivity. Motion sensors are a great cost saver for areas that are less trafficked, particularly bathrooms, where lights remain on unnecessarily.
If the time has come to prepare a new office space, or to refurbish an existing one, putting forethought into the lighting plan can equal tremendous savings. It can lead to a work atmosphere that is productive and healthy for employees, and that offers the ambience you want for welcoming clientele.