Sometimes, it's the subtlest features of your surroundings that have the biggest impact on your productivity. It's obvious when a sick day takes you out of commission for the day, or when that cup of coffee restores your alertness midday. But the little things--from the comfort of your office chair to the noises that surround you--have the ability to impact your productivity in less noticeable ways, compounding over the course of hours, days, and weeks.

Once you're used to your office environment, you may not even notice the lighting situation--but lighting has an enormous impact on your efficiency and productivity.

How Lighting Affects Your Work

So how exactly can the lighting of your workspace influence your productivity?

  • Mood. Light has a powerful effect on your mood as well. Bright, natural light tends to make people happier, whether they realize it or not, while a prolonged absence of natural light can lead to depression and other mood problems. If your office is especially dark, or if there aren't enough open windows, your bad mood could interfere with your ability to work.
  • Spectrum. All forms of lighting occupy a certain range of color temperatures. Warm color temperatures appear slightly more red or yellow, while mid-range temperatures appear white, and cool color temperatures appear more blue-white. According to at least one study, workers in cool color temperature lighting environments are more productive than their warm-color counterparts.
  • Computer vision syndrome. Computer vision syndrome is a collection of vision and eye-related problems that come into being after staring at a computer screen for too long, without a break. As it turns out, poor lighting in your surroundings can exacerbate these symptoms, and make them more likely to appear. If your vision is compromised, your productivity will suffer.
  • Office culture and atmosphere. You should also consider the role your lighting plays in establishing an atmosphere, and a general office culture. Bright fluorescent lighting might improve vision and fill the office with white light, but it could also make the environment seem sterile or artificial.

What to Do About It

So what steps can you take to make sure your lighting is improving your productivity, rather than harming it?

1. Install better blinds and shades.

If your office has windows, be sure to choose the right coverings. Installing motorized blinds and shades allows you to remotely control how much natural light enters your workplace. During the day, you can open them up to let in more natural light, and close them whenever it's necessary (such as preparing for a screen projection).

2. Consider investing in blue-tinged lighting.

If natural light isn't a possibility, your next best bet is lighting tinged on the blue end of the spectrum. These lights can boost mood similarly to natural light, and come in a variety of styles, so you can install them practically anywhere.

3. Raise awareness of computer vision syndrome.

Make sure your employees or coworkers are aware of the dangers of computer vision syndrome. You can mitigate the risks by installing better lighting around each desk, and by taking breaks periodically throughout the day. Every hour or so, step away from the computer and let your eyes unfocus for a few minutes, pointed toward the horizon.

4. Allow flexibility for personal taste.

On average, some lighting options are better than others--but you also have to factor in personal taste. While bright, blue-tinted light might be better for the majority of workers, you might feel more comfortable with something a little dimmer. Use desk lamps and shading to adjust the light at your personal workspace to your liking.

Changing the lighting can have a measurable impact on your mood, your alertness, and how much work you can get done in a day. While you may not have the time or budget to completely change your office layout, spending just a few hundred dollars can dramatically improve your workplace productivity.