Not surprisingly, the optimum light source for almost any space is natural light. A recent study by the Journal of Circadian Rhythms found evidence that the brightness and wavelength of ambient light is not only important for completing tasks, but can also have strong non-visual biological effects. These include regulating the human circadian system, positively affecting mood, and increasing productivity, creativity and alertness. The study further notes that most office light is about 75% less luminous than outdoor light, meaning that most traditional office lighting offers extremely low levels of crucial blue light rays -- the wavelength of light known to increase positive mood and wellness.
With winter coming, with the colder, shorter days ahead, the importance of good indoor lighting and its impact on creativity and comfort is clear. How can businesses supplement the "feel good" rays -- to increase employee wellness and productivity -- when nearly 90% of the modern office worker's life is spent indoors? Lighting design that focuses on Circadian Rhythm-regulation could be the answer as companies increasingly want to offer dynamic, healthy spaces that support their workers best performance. Building certification guidelines like the WELL Building Standard have adopted this idea as standard practice in order to earn the WELL label.
"Research has confirmed that many aspects about our lighted environment, such as daylight and the variability of color temperature, support our overall energy and wellness. Daylight has long been known to improve everything from productivity to health, but the newest contribution is the availabitity of variable lighting through tunable white LED sources and control systems that adjust color and intensity throughout the workday. These systems are set to mimic circadian rhythms offered by the natural environment," explains Scott Herrick of SPARK Studio Lighting Design.
Color temperature is just one of the variable controls offered by electronically generated LEDs. Referring to the shift in color from red to blue, color temperature control means employees can dictate the warmth or coolness of their space. Most living and working situations tend to lean toward the warmer side, whereas cooler light is more popular in bathrooms and kitchen settings.
Sonneman Light Image Technology
The latest technology by SONNEMAN - A Way of Light offers "warm dimming", allowing adjustability of the warm to cool color temperature. In addition, they offer a tunable white technology that adjusts brightness while maintaining white color temperature.
Integrative lighting systems that are responsive to environmental factors are becoming a popular solution among interior designers and architects for alleviating daytime fatigue, discomfort and compromised mood in offices of all sizes.
Brigitte Preston, Co-owner and Design Principal of renowned interior architecture firm lauckgroup explains: "The Gold Standard for me would be general overhead lighting that responds to available daylight and provides an illumination level that changes slowly throughout the day, reinforcing the body's natural regulatory system. Energy efficient LED solutions can be delivered in a variety of fixtures that can be scaled up or down for small private office spaces to large, open workstation areas."
Not only are employers looking for better lighting solutions, they're looking for customizable ones as well. Employee-choice has become a priority as high level workers seek configurability throughout their day. "We've started finding solutions that provide different light levels for a variety of functional needs, including products with dimming systems that allow users to capitalize on available daylight and allow users to adjust light for commercial office applications. Increased choice is becoming the norm with regard to enhancing office comfort, and lighting plays a big part," says Julie Gauthier, the Senior Project Designer at lauckgroup.
In addition to being a mood booster, offering employees customization of their environments can also help foster a sense of ownership in the workplace. "With the ability to make a space reflective of their own workstyles, employees can express their personal preferences, all the way down to details like lighting, which often was entirely out of their control," explains Jeff Sydness, Founder of Sydness Architects.
Considering and dealing with smaller lighting details such as screen glare can be a quick-fix with big benefits. "LED lighting is best suited for individual workstations because of its ability to reduce glare, resulting in less eye strain and fatigue. I'm still surprised by how few workplaces offer LED task lamp options, as they're one of the best ways to reduce visual interference and distraction," explains Scott Lesizza, a founding principal of Workwell Partners, a provider of workspace furnishing solutions based in New York City. "We've also seen that adjusting overhead light to filtered or lensed light aids in glare reduction," he adds.
As tasks at work often change throughout the day, so do lighting needs. Being able to avoid headache-inducing eye strain encourages employees to spend more time in their work environment rather than searching for a comfortable space that offers more appropriate lighting.
To supplement the recent market demand for user-controlled products, contract furniture manufacturers are designing innovative lighting solutions that address needs from various perspectives. Industry leader Teknion, a workplace furniture manufacturer, designs with the intention of supporting workplace wellness and takes a three-pronged approach to addressing the lighting needs.
"Lighting can be a complex issue that's difficult to solve. The ultimate goal is user comfort. Teknion believes that successful workplace lighting involves focusing on three key strategies; General and overhead lighting, ambient lighting such as desk lamps or floor lamps, and focused lighting for the 'created' space," says Dannion Smith, Director of Design and Corporate Marketing at Teknion.
MORE CHOICE, MORE PRODUCTIVITY
For companies looking to boost the productive momentum, emotional atmosphere and innovation in an office, review the current lighting systems in place. Notice zero user-configurability or dim, cold and harsh lighting? A lighting upgrade won't just upgrade the office's interiors, but could also promote creative energy, more efficient workdays, and a positive morale boost office-wide.