In the past 10 years or so, we’ve seen offices transform from dimly lit, fusty places to bright, open ones. We’ve witnessed the decline of the cubicle, and the rise of hot-desking, office pods and chill-out hubs.
Happy workers are productive workers, so investing in an appealing workplace makes good business sense. But what if you don’t have the cash to splash on a full office makeover complete with hammocks? Are there other, more affordable options that will improve your team’s productivity? The short answer is yes, and the solution is located just above your head.
Let there be light!
Humans crave and enjoy daylight. The sun propels us up and out in the morning, just as darkness nudges us towards bed at night. Each of us is acutely attuned to our internal clock, or circadian rhythm.
Circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioural changes that follow a daily cycle. They respond to light and darkness in the environment. Sleeping at night and being wide awake during the day is an example of a light-related circadian rhythm.
Light can have a profound effect on our mood and health. Many people affected by SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), for example, use light therapy to relieve the lethargy brought on by the shorter days and longer nights of winter. It stands to reason that lighting affects our productivity, but how can we harness its power to get the best out of ourselves at work?
1. Maximise natural light
Natural light is the Holy Grail of office lighting. The more natural light you can funnel into a workplace, the better all ‘round. Clear glass windows are the best way of doing this: the bigger the windows, the better.
A study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that workers in offices with windows enjoyed 46 minutes per night more sleep than their counterparts in windowless offices. A report from the World Green Building Council, Building the Business Case: Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Green Offices, listed generous access to daylight as one of the most important features of a healthy workplace.
Maximising natural light may be as easy as moving your desk closer to a window. If you have a workplace redesign coming up, consider replacing interior walls with glass panels. The clear panels will allow natural light to travel further through the workplace.
2. Look into LEDs
Most workplaces are not blessed with big glass windows, and even if they are, the scale of many buildings makes it impossible to flood the entire place with natural light. And besides, what happens in winter, or if you work the night shift?
If you can’t fill your workspace with daylight, LEDs (light-emitting diodes) are a great alternative. You’re probably familiar with LEDs because of their energy efficiency, but did you know that they are also good at mimicking natural light? That’s one of the reasons they’re so well suited to offices, and why fluorescent lighting is on the wane.
A study published in the International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics compared four lighting technologies - one fluorescent, and three LEDs. People working under LED lighting performed better on visual and cognitive tasks than those who worked under fluorescent lighting.
3. Get smart with programmable lighting
Some progressive companies are beginning to invest in lighting that enhances choice and control. Installing programmable lighting is a popular new trend in office redesigns, and one that is thought to improve productivity and save on energy costs.
LED lights, blinds and control systems designed to support workers’ circadian rhythms can be adjusted to provide an energy boost at times when it naturally dips, such as mid-afternoon. Workers have control over these light settings and can override them to suit their needs.
4. Brighten up dimly lit spaces
We now know that daylight is optimal for productivity, and bright LED lights appear to be a good alternative when natural light is limited, but does that mean dim lighting in the office is a no-no? It would appear so.
According to scientists at Michigan State University in the US, spending too much time in dimly lit offices may even diminish our ability to remember. We’re not convinced that dim lights produce dimwits, but for the sake of few bright lights, let’s not take any chances.
All things bright and beautiful
If you want to improve productivity at work, taking a close look at your lighting is a great place to start. It needn’t cost the earth, and could make a world of difference.
*For expert advice on how LED lighting can work in your business, contact Verde LED, our LED lighting partner.