As humans, our daily life cycles and metabolisms are closely linked to the light in our environment. The color of light, its intensity and quality all affect our general mood, and new evidence is pointing to how much lighting plays a part in our efficiency and creativity at work.
Shining a Light on the Rat Race
Living in an urban environment can lead us to think we’re “above” natural factors. Many of us do work, at least partly, at night, and entire days can be spent indoors, without being exposed to natural sunlight. Does that mean we’ve outgrown our need for light in order to function? According to new research by neuroscientists at the Michigan State University, the answer is a clear “no”. In fact, lighting may have an even greater effect on our productivity than we originally thought – it may actually have the ability to change our thoughts completely.
In this study, Nile rats were split into two groups. The first group was given plenty of light while the other lived under dim light for a period of four weeks. Tests were then given to the rats to test their spatial abilities, revealing that the rats living under brighter lighting were much more alert and better at solving the tasks set before them.
Especially interesting is the fact that the rats living in the dim light could quite easily be “cured”. When exposed to the bright light, their performance quickly improved.
Natural Lighting in the Office
The natural light that we receive outdoors is generally centered around frequencies that produce the color blue, a result of our earth’s sky. This type of light actually has the ability to increase our dopamine levels, affecting our general moods.
In an office environment, natural lighting is obviously harder to make use of, but a lot can be done to maximise the natural light that the work space does receive. Often, windows are unnecessarily covered, or areas with access to natural light aren’t assigned to dedicated work spaces. One of the first steps to improving the lighting of an office, and in turn improving productivity, is harnessing every opportunity to make use of natural lighting. This has the added benefit of cutting the costs of electrical lighting.
Get the Balance Right
Not having enough light causes us to strain our eyes when performing tasks, but the effects of dim lighting go even further than this. Not enough light can lead to fatigue, sluggish performance, depression, and low motivation levels.
The other end of the spectrum is also something to avoid – lighting that is too harsh. While cold fluorescent lighting has largely been switched for more human-centric options, there are still a lot of office spaces that seem to be stuck in the past when it comes to good lighting. Harsh lighting makes it difficult for our eyes to focus properly and can even trigger migraine headaches.
Cost vs Benefits
If you’re in charge of designing an office space, you might be worried about the cost of high quality lighting systems. Unfortunately, this is an area where some businesses will choose to cut costs and that can be a huge mistake. With the advances in LED lighting, there are plenty of excellent lighting options that offer the best of both worlds – human-centric lighting and low operation costs so don’t settle before checking out your options.
Let the Light in
With the effects of poor lighting ranging from drowsiness and depression to anxiety and lack of focus, there’s no doubt that investing in good lighting is extremely important. Not only will employees be healthier for it, both the quantity and quality of the work done is likely to improve.