Natural vs artificial lighting in the workplace

Natural vs artificial lighting in the workplace

If you’ve ever worked in a dark, gloomy office, you’ll know how important it is to have enough natural light in a workplace. Light is core to how your vision works and has a significant impact on your mood, cognitive function, productivity and overall wellbeing.

Employees who are happy in their work environment are 16% more productive and 18% more likely to stay at their jobs. However, many employees are lacking basic things in their workplace including fresh air, the ability to personalise their space and control the lighting conditions. Having adequate lighting is the second most valued attribute after fresh air. More than office temperature, noise levels, access to drinking water, and perks such as free food and fitness facilities.

Why is light important in the workplace?

The light in your workplace plays a big part in how you think, act and make decisions throughout the day. It’s a key part of your overall workplace ergonomics and creating a healthy working environment.

Light reflects from the objects around you, and interacts with photoreceptors in your eyes that send signals to your brain to make sense of visual information. Changes in light levels influence your body’s melatonin level, which is involved in regulation of your circadian rhythm. This rhythm is crucial for your sleep and the health of internal processes and organs such as the cardiovascular system.

Light intensity is measured in the unit ‘lux’. Full daylight on a sunny day is around 10,000 lux and an overcast day is around 1000 lux. At least half of an office space should receive 300 lux of daylight or more for at least half the workday.

workplace ergonomics

Is natural light better for work?

Exposure to natural light is associated with better emotional health and cognitive function. Workers who get enough sunlight during the day tend to sleep better, making them more rested and productive during working hours.

47% of employees say the absence of natural light makes them feel tired and 43% report feeling gloomy. Having natural light sources at the workspace also increases overall job satisfaction. Natural light is also one of three environmental factors that can reduce absenteeism by up to four days a year, alongside fresh air and temperature.

However, not everyone can benefit from natural light due to windowless environments or the layout of an office or home. At least half your office space should receive 300 lux of daylight or more for at least half the workday. Portable light meters and phone apps may help you with the measurements!

Whilst natural light has many benefits, too much uncontrolled light coming through your window can cause screen glare and eyestrain.

Top tip: If you work from home, consider the lighting levels in each room of your house to find the best spot for work. 300 lux is most effective for productivity. Bedrooms are usually the least well-lit rooms in the house, with light intensity of around 50 lux.

If your window has a good view, even better! Having a view of the outside world can enhance your wellbeing and creativity by up to 15%, and raise your productivity by up to 6%. 50% of employees say their work and wellbeing would improve if they had a nice view from their workspace. Interestingly, even hospital patients recover quicker if they have a view from the windows in their wards.

benefits of natural light at work

How can artificial light affect workplace safety?

Despite common misconceptions, artificial light is not always bad! It can actually have a positive impact on your workplace wellbeing when used alongside natural light. Office spaces are often installed with a lighting system that has cold shades, which can boost your focus and productivity. Warm shades of yellow light promote social interaction and group work activities.

The problem with artificial lighting is that it stays uniform throughout the day. In contrast, natural light moves through a spectrum. Such prolonged exposure may lead to increased levels of stress hormones, which can hamper productivity. Also, some artificial light systems such as fluorescent lamps emit light in a pulsing manner and are more likely to contribute to eyestrain and headaches.

Colour temperature Kelvin scale

Colour temperature in Kelvins (K)

In a nutshell

Lighting is a key element of your overall workplace ergonomics and wellbeing. Make the most of any natural light in your workspace, as it positively impacts your mood, health and productivity. Artificial light can also benefit your productivity at work if used correctly. Just remember to avoid prolonged exposure to cold shades to avoid eyestrain and protect your workplace wellbeing.

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Content Marketing Manager

Marisa has over 7 years of experience writing about a range of clinical topics including DSE, hybrid working and employee wellbeing. Check out more of Marisa's articles on the Vitrue Health blog!

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