Most of us spend a significant portion of our weeks within office buildings and other workplaces, usually around artificial lighting for a good proportion of the day.
Research into the effect lighting has on how we’re feeling has begun to influence the way many workplaces are lit. Designers and architects are using lighting to create working environments that can help to improve productivity and concentration levels.
Striking the balance
Experiments into how humans respond to different light levels have shown that artificial light in brighter, blue-white tones and cooler temperatures of around 5000-7000k can make us feel more alert, awake and concentrated.
However, it’s thought that exposure to this type of lighting for an extended period (i.e. a long work day) can conflict with our natural or ‘circadian’ (twenty-four-hour cycle) rhythms, making us feel tired or even stressed out.
Many workplaces are now opting for what’s being described as ‘healthy lighting’ schemes, where the tone of the lighting is adapted to mimic the different times of day. This is believed to chime better with our natural daily patterns, helping to boost productivity.
This London office installed ‘human-centric’ lighting and boosted productivity by 18%, as reported in Lux Review late last year. The time-controlled lighting scheme varied bright white light (early morning and post lunchtime) with lower, warmer and more relaxed lighting before lunch and the end of the day.
The idea is that this would mimic the natural circadian flow of the day and people would feel more content throughout the day. And the results would suggest this was the case, with surveys revealing that 18% found their performance improved, 71% had more energy and 76% felt happier.
The success of this trail seems to be shared with other companies who’ve taken up the approach. An article in Dezeen earlier this year included comments from a lighting designer who compared the effect of their human-centric scheme to a ‘caffeine-boost’ during the working day.
This lighting scheme was installed at an office in Prague and works on the same principle as the previous example, with different strains of lighting throughout the day. The scheme replaced fluorescent lighting with LEDs, blinds and control systems.
Is healthy lighting in the workplace attainable?
While this approach is certainly proving effective, it’s not without complication. For instance, any system that dims lighting at different times of the day will also need to be fitted with accessible manual controls. There will be occasions such as meetings and presentations when people will need to override the set brightness for the task at hand.
Equally, programmable lighting is not always the most affordable option on the market, meaning this new style of human-centric lighting will simply be out of budget for many businesses keen to try it.
There are, however, important points to take away from the research. In modern life, we’re surrounded by artificial light for a large part of each day and designers and architects need to be aware of the implications to the end-users.
Knowing that lighting has the power to make us feel tired, stressed or less content is something designers should stay sensitive to. Equally, understanding the ways in which lighting can be better tuned into our daily rhythms can help to plan more effectively for different areas.
For example, the stimulating effects of bright, white light might be useful within settings like desk spaces, studios and meeting rooms where productivity should remain high. But perhaps a different tact should be taken in communal areas where people meet informally and enjoy downtime.
It’s certainly seems a more intelligent way to approach lighting the buildings we work within and it will be interesting to see how this research plays out within commercial developments in the years to come.
Want to find out more about the impact of lighting on how we feel? Check out our blog ‘How does lighting affect our mood?’ for more information. Alternatively, if you have an architectural lighting project you’d like to share with us, please get in touch to discuss your requirements, or request a quote.