Workplace lighting solutions for boosting productivity

January 15, 2015

Human beings may be the worker drones of the office but we're fragile creatures, each one of us susceptible to a range of conditions. While the science of office engineering can't reduce the number of sick days due to the flu with the placement of innovative room layouts or productivity-maximizing colour schemes, we can play a role in mollifying the mood of the worker. Environmental controls and open-plan layouts are one part of this approach, but the rest of the solution comes from the management of light.

The introduction of the fluorescent light fixture cut costs and brought uniform lighting to the insides of the home and office. Unfortunately, these strips of illumination have their drawbacks. The austere white light radiated by these fixtures is cold and devoid of the orange-y warmth of incandescent lighting. While these 'light bulbs' may be going the way of the dinosaur, new solutions are required. The answer is in building design and in new technologies. Architects play their part in the first instance, incorporating natural light that filters through skylights and oversized windows, which leaves technology with the task of creating superior light fixtures, sources of illumination that reach into the spectrum of light we associate with outdoor illumination while keeping energy consumption low.

Low utility bills and an open office design is all very well, a positive first step to dismissing the sober mood that kills productivity and morale, but we've already covered this move in a previous article. LED lighting and low-energy substitutes are a boon of modern technology, but they still don't guarantee a dramatic uptake in work. What's required is a balance between low energy requirements and human nature, a strategy that incorporates building design, technology, and that crucial human factor. Dismiss harsh shadows with warm and bright lighting, offsetting the brightness with a recognition of when the limits of human comfort are reached. Bright lights, no matter how warm, cause unpleasant visual artefacts, glare and disorienting reflections that will cause headaches.

We drop down to the other end of the scale by dimming the lighting in the space, ensuring work is kept productive, reading and work duties can be carried out safely, and avoiding unpleasant side effects. Avoid lights that are unnaturally cool, or fixtures that are so dim that a staff of loyal office worker bees are subject to eye strain due to squinting in the gloom.

Assign lighting controls as part of the responsibility of an office supervisor or workshop foreman, ensuring the designed light level is kept at a level all workers will find productive. Of course, in the end, sophisticated lighting solutions have to treat space uniquely, a task that requires design expertise and can't be accomplished with a cookie-cutter layout

Connor Pincus Group. Consulting Engineers.

Address: 1196 Toorak Road, CAMBERWELL, VIC 3124

Phone: (03) 9835 5000
Fax: (03) 9835 5050

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