Color me more productive. Or, the bonus benefits of lighting upgrades

Research conducted by the American Society of Interior Design found that 68% of workers/employees complain about the lighting in their building. Having the right lighting is becoming more of an issue for employers.

Companies across the U.S. are discovering that, in addition to energy savings, employee productivity increases when lighting is optimized to task and time of day.

It’s a given that proper lighting makes it easier for employees to perform tasks and find their way around – but it’s much more important than that. By affecting hormones such as melatonin and nutrients such as vitamin D, it also has a big impact on employee performance.

Which Light is the Right Light?

People are particularly sensitive to blue light — the main color we see when we’re outdoors. Blue light suppresses melatonin — the brain chemical that makes us feel sleepy. Exposure to blue light has been found to decrease depression, improve mood, energy, alertness and productivity. For example, tests at the Center for Chronobiology discovered that volunteers exposed to blue-based, LED-backlit computers for five hours in the evening “produced less melatonin, felt less tired, and performed better on tests of attention than those in front of a fluorescent-lit screen of the same size and brightness.” The opposite is also true – high-intensity fluorescent and dim, poorly-lit spaces negatively affect people’s mood, health, and productivity.

It goes without saying that natural light is the best option for improving productivity but, since exposure to natural light isn’t always possible in buildings, LED lighting is the next best thing. LED’s allows businesses to adjust light color temperatures to improve employee comfort and productivity.

Customizing Lighting by Task

Different areas of a building can be optimized for productivity by using different lighting temperatures.

  • Areas, where employees are reading and doing detailed tasks, will benefit from cooler blue-enriched lighting (in the 7,000k range) since they reduce fatigue and improve mental acuity, vitality, and alertness.
  • Areas where you want employees to feel more relaxed (break rooms, lounges, etc.) benefit from warmer lighting.
  • Conference rooms should have middle tones that produce a friendly and inviting environment, but also cool enough tones to keep workers alert and motivated.

Customizing Lighting by Time-of-Day

Natural daylight changes throughout the course of the day – moving from the cooler blue spectrum in the morning to a warmer yellow/red in the evening. Technical advancements in the lighting give employers the ability that we can design office lighting specifically to follow the natural cycle of daylight – shifting throughout the day to match the natural cycle found outdoors. This has been found to enhance worker performance in offices and students’ performance in classrooms. Nurses working under red-enhances light at night (rather than blue or bright white light) did not display the negative effects of melatonin — and performed their work faster.

While there is still much to learn about the ways light interacts with the body, ultimately it’s in every business owner’s best interest to have not only light that’s adequate for vision but light that’s also optimal for our biology and behavior.

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