Ergonomics is crucial to the modern workplace. While most companies and employees today are more educated on office well-being, a key component of an ergonomic workplace often forgotten is lighting.
Ergonomic lighting is essential for workplace well-being, and it plays a crucial role in preventing Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). According to a 2014 survey, 60% of adults between the ages of 20 and 50 have experienced CVS symptoms. These symptoms include blurred vision, dry eyes, and headaches.
Improper lighting, whether it’s too little or too much lighting, contributes significantly to digital eye strain. Appropriate lighting, without shadows or glare, can reduce eye fatigue and headaches. Thus, if you often experience dry eyes, blurred vision, or even headaches after working on your computer, optimizing the lighting ergonomics in your office or at your desk can help ease these symptoms.
What is lighting ergonomics?
Lighting ergonomics is the relationship between an individual and the source of light. It has a tremendous impact on productivity, workplace well-being, and preventing CVS.
Many offices have overhead lighting fixtures as the primary source of light; this causes glare or shadows. The situation becomes even worse if there’s flickering or insufficient illumination. Also, working in an office with poor lighting for extended periods can cause improper contrast (low light from the room and bright light from the computer screen), poor distribution of light, and wrong color temperature, which causes eye strain and fatigue.
That’s when lighting ergonomics comes in handy to provide the right amount of light when and where needed.
Why is lighting ergonomics important?
As mentioned, lighting ergonomics is essential in designing offices. Poor lighting can lead to:
- Low productivity
- High employee error rates
- Eye fatigue
- Low focus
- Inability to select and match correct colors
- Low worker morale
- General sickness
Working in a workstation with poor lighting can significantly affect your performance. Plus, the wrong color temperature can affect your mood and emotions, affecting your bottom line. That’s why you need to improve the lighting ergonomics in your office to maintain a healthy work environment, as well as to boost your productivity.
Optimizing for good lighting ergonomics at your desk and office
The following office lighting tips will help you optimize for good lighting ergonomics at the office or your desk:
1. Ensure proper adequate lighting
Ensuring there’s adequate lighting around your workstation is one of the most crucial aspects of proper lighting ergonomics. Because poor lighting forces your eyes to work harder to make sense of the task, causing eye strain and headaches.
According to experts, a normal office space should have 300 – 500 lux of illumination. Also, make sure your workstation takes advantage of natural light as much as possible during the day. Studies show that workers who have access to natural light are more alert while working, and they sleep better compared to those with artificially lit offices.
Choosing a bulb with higher lumens (a measure of brightness, or light output) provides you with a brighter light. Also, don’t forget that the closer the light source is to an object (besides focus and angle), the higher the lux level as the light is more concentrated.
2. Remove unwanted dark spots and shadows
Over-reliance on direct lighting leads to dark spots and shadows around your office, which is another common type of improper lighting ergonomics that causes eye fatigue and headaches.
Many people work on their computers in a relatively dark room with just a bright desk light. This causes illumination imbalance, forcing your eye muscles to contract and expand constantly to adapt to each area. The result? Eye strain and even headaches.
Using a mixture of direct and indirect lighting can eliminate unwanted dark spots and shadows. This illuminates your workstation evenly.
Direct lighting is when most of the light spread of a fixture falls on a specific area or object. These include task, spotlight, and certain overhead lights with partial shades that cast the light downwards.
Indirect lighting entails the light spread that falls outside of the direct scope and lights objects other than those in the direct illumination spread. Indirect lighting also applies to light fixtures, which cast light upwards in an upright design. They naturally cast the light upwards to the ceilings and walls instead of a specific object.
Thus, combining both direct and indirect lighting is the best lighting arrangement. Use indirect light to provide consistent ambient lighting that eliminates dark spots and shadows, and direct light where you require more illumination, such as your writing area or keyboard.
3. Reduce direct and indirect glares
Glare is caused by a bright source of light that directly enters your line of sight or indirectly by reflecting off glossy surfaces. Glare can strain your eyes because it impedes your ability to discern anything but the brightest light properly.
Bright areas, such as windows, ceilings, and luminaries, which are directly in the field of view cause direct glare. The light that’s reflected to the eye from surfaces, including the task area, which is in the visual field causes indirect glare.
Glare causes eye fatigue because it forces your eyes to adjust to its brightness level, making dull areas in your workspace hard to see.
The following office lighting tips can help you reduce direct and indirect glare:
- Place your desk and chair 90 degrees from large windows to reduce glare from the sun.
- Add blinds on windows. For East/West-facing windows, use vertical blinds to block out sunlight based on its position throughout the day. And for North/south-facing windows, use horizontal blinds to block general sunlight.
- Regulate your monitor brightness to match the brightness of the area directly behind it. Using a program, such as f.lux can help.
- Don’t place your monitor directly below an overhead light fixture.
- Use several lower intensity light fixtures instead of a single high-intensity one.
- Use convectional florescent light fixtures with diffusers to soften the light intensity.
- Use monitor privacy filters to filter out blue light and glare at the same.
- Cover your bulbs with shades to soften and cast the light away from your eyes.
4. Adjust color temperature based on mood and type of work
Lighting ergonomics not only helps in mitigating physical health issues, but it can also improve your mood and productivity.
Color temperature refers to how “cool” or “warm” the light is, and it’s measured in Kelvin (K). Warmer color temperatures facilitate sleepiness, while cooler color temperatures promote productivity by 19.4%.
Studies also show that cooler color temperatures improve mood and alertness, as well as mental health.
5. Ensure adequate contrast between background and foreground
Contrast is the relationship between an object and its background in terms of brightness or color. Poor color contrast forces your eyes to work harder to make sense of objects in the foreground.
To improve lighting ergonomics, the first thing you need to focus on is, color contrast, especially on the monitor screen where most of us spend a lot of time.
As you can see, when there’s an insufficient color distinction between the foreground and background, it’s hard to see the former.
Adjust your monitor to find the right color contrast that provides the best visibility.
Lighting contrast is the next thing to consider when optimizing for good lighting ergonomics. To ensure good lighting contrast, you should avoid the big variation in lighting between the foreground and background. If, for example, you’ve tried to use your phone outside during the day, then you’ve experienced poor lighting contrast, which makes it hard to see what’s on your phone.
To fix poor lighting contrast in your office, look for big differences in brightness levels. Start by making your background area uniform in brightness, then your immediate workspace brighter.
To dim or not to dim? Use lamps with adjustable brightness because they allow you to reduce the light to the perfect level of ambiance.
If your desk lamp doesn’t have dimmable brightness, angle the light head; this reduces brightness as it changes the direction of the light.
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WRITTEN BYKaren Kimonye
I'm a freelance writer who specializes in creating blog posts, and articles that build trust and compel readers to take the desired action.
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