Lighting at work – how to enhance your productivity

Research is increasingly showing that lighting has an important influence on us when we work. Whether at home or in an office, light offers therapeutic benefits beyond simply helping us to see what we’re doing.

Research shows that those working in dim, windowless environments get, on average, 46 minutes less sleep each night than the rest of us. They also experience lower quality rest and are more sluggish and less physically active during the workday. By contrast, exposure to natural light during the workday increases productivity by 18%.

Here we explain how to have the perfect lighting at work to support your wellbeing.

Why does lighting affect us?

The answer lies with our internal biological clock (or circadian rhythm). Our inner clocks need regular exposure to daylight to resynchronise and regulate levels of melatonin and cortisol. These are the hormones responsible for keeping us awake and sending us to sleep.

Our eyes are sophisticated organs with cells that absorb the light needed for vision, and non-visual cells that read light intensity (lux) and colour (kelvin) to determine the time of day. These non-visual cells communicate their findings to the rest of the body, setting into motion the appropriate physiological response.

How can lighting impact work tasks?

Rather than bathing ourselves in bright light at all times, evidence suggests we should adapt light levels to suit the demands of the task at hand.

Research from the Journal of Environmental Psychology shows that we may want to dim the lights when tackling creative tasks or attempting to solve a problem with out-of-the-box thinking. In these cases, darkness can elicit a feeling of being free from constraints and better able to adopt a more risky and explorative processing style.

How to ensure you’re getting the right amount of light

Seek morning light

Exposure to bright light in the morning is key to getting our biological clocks running smoothly. In summer months, this means getting up and out first thing, whether it’s walking the dog or going for a quick jog around the park.

If you’re up before sunrise, try a wake-up lamp such as the Lumie Bodyclock Rise 100 Wake Up to Daylight Table Lamp. It will gradually flood your bedroom with light and suppress melatonin as you stir.

Get outside

Get outside as much as you can throughout the day. It’s the easiest and cheapest way to make sure you’re getting enough light exposure.
Even on grey days, surrounding light is often stronger and brighter than artificial indoor lighting. This might mean hitting the park during lunchtime or suggesting an outdoor meeting where you chat to your colleagues over the phone.

Limit your screen time

While we may not be getting enough light in our workspaces, many of us are being exposed to too much full-spectrum white light in the evening, with our eyes glued to electronic devices. This can disrupt our rest and leave us feeling groggy and grumpy at work the next day.

If you’re guilty of finishing work or checking emails after-hours, try downloading a tool like F.lux (free on Windows and MacOS). F.lux tracks the sun in your area and adjusts the colour of your monitor to prevent unnecessary disruption to your melatonin levels.

Optimise your workspace

If you’re working from home, either temporarily or full-time, make sure you’re not just setting up your laptop for the day on the easiest, clearest surface.

Designate a small table as your desk and move it as close to a window as possible, even if that means shifting a chair or two around at the beginning and end of the day to accommodate. Your body clock will and wellbeing will thank you for the extra effort.

Install a light box

A light box can help to mimic natural light and replicate its therapeutic benefits for the hours when we’re stuck indoors at our workstations.
We recommend the Beurer TL 30 Ultra Portable Daylight SAD Light. It’s high-powered and doesn’t take up too much space on a desk.

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