Three Surprising Effects Lighting Has on Worker Productivity

It’s typical for those who recommend converting to new lighting to focus on the cost savings a business can experience by installing LED’s or other new energy saving technologies.  That certainly makes sense, given that LED’s offer significant savings, using less power and requiring less frequent maintenance.

However, a lighting change can boost your business by having a positive effect on worker productivity. Let’s look at some ways the right choices can help your workforce do more.

Daylight Increases Productivity

The circadian rhythm that governs our waking and sleeping cycles is crucial to alertness and productivity, and the rhythm is tied to the frequencies found in daylight. Research studies and field experience have repeatedly shown that exposure to daylight makes workers more productive. A study by the World Green Building Council found that natural daylight increased worker productivity by 18%. The design firm HOK redesigned a Washington, DC law firm’s offices with natural light, glass partitions, and soft, indirect lighting for aesthetic reasons, but the firm found their lawyers were more productive!

What if your setting doesn’t allow natural lighting? Lighting in the “daylight” color range—color temperature 6500°K—is the perfect match, but Cool White (4000 to 5000K) has a similar effect on circadian rhythms and is available in more lighting options.

It’s best to choose light colors that are cool rather than warm, because bluer light tends to help alertness while yellower light has no effect. In one study, researchers found that workers exposed to cool light on a “blue floor” had significantly higher alertness levels later in the day than those on a control floor where there had been no lighting changes. Workers also reported improved sleep.

Blue-white light suppresses the early release of sleep hormones, keeping the body closer to a natural circadian rhythm. Introduce as much natural light into your work spaces as possible and use cool white LED’s when natural light is not available.

The Right Lighting Means Fewer Minor Medical Issues and Fewer Mistakes

Eyestrain may seem like a minor problem, but it can compound by causing headaches (30% of employees report headaches related to eye strain) and other minor medical issues that cost time and productivity. Eye strain leads to mistakes, which lowers production further. Lastly, workers who have high morale and satisfaction are more productive, and workers who are comfortable are more satisfied.

The best way to begin reducing eyestrain is to consider the work being done, and the environment where it’s performed. Fortunately, the best lighting color for detail work is a color that helps workers remain alert: Cool White, with a color temperature of 4000 to 5000K. When possible, provide task lighting in this range for those doing close-up work.

It’s also important to eliminate glare, which is a major source of eyestrain. Glossy furniture, paint, flooring, fixtures, and equipment can all produce glare, and should be toned down.

You Can Have Too Much of a Good Thing

One source of eyestrain, glare, and other disruptive problems is spaces that are too brightly lit, and they are far too common. Most workplaces have lighting at least twice as bright as OSHA recommends. Instead of depending on high output overhead lighting, make use of task and accent lighting so that workers have softer illumination, and control over how much illumination to use.