What Are The Best Office Lighting Solutions To Increase Employee Productivity?
Employee productivity is all about being efficient, effective and doing things at the right time. It is the key behind the business success. And lighting is a key factor in affecting the productivity of your team. Things to look out for are people yawning, rubbing their eyes and complaining about being tired.
Humans spend approximately 90% of their time indoors. People working in offices spend on average 8 hours a day under artificial lighting. That is a long time to make either a positive or negative impact on how people feel and how productive they are at work. Because as we all know, productive work happens in a productive environment with a good quality light.
Things have changed.
Not that long ago, the entire office space was lit to a uniform 500 lux. In our industry, it is referred to as blanket illumination. Sometimes you may hear the expression’ lighting a carpet’, as the light is thrown literally everywhere. This rather outdated approach creates dull and undesirable spaces and wastes a lot of energy. Sadly, there are still many offices lit like this to this day. And way too many new CAT A spaces that are routinely lit to 500 lux and then subsequently changed throughout the CAT B fit out.
The importance of daylight.
Living in a climate with long dark winter months, we all eagerly await the first rays of sunshine. The positive effect of exposure to the sun is nothing short of amazing. We smile, straighten our bodies and grow a few inches taller. Instantly, we are in a better mood.
Now, let’s take a mental note of this feeling.
Why good lighting is important.
Keeping employees satisfied, beyond salary and perks, is a key factor for employers and as expected, it will lead to a higher level of staff attraction and retention. In the latest study “What Employees want” published by BCO and Savills in 2016, lighting comes as 3rd most important factor affecting the satisfaction of workers.
Image source: What Workers want 2016
One of the key findings of this report is Employees are seeking greater control of their office. Lighting and temperature are of key importance to employees, and there is increased demand for new technologies that would allow these factors to be controlled at desk level.
80% of office workers, said that having good lighting in their workspace is important to them.
The international online research by UK company Staples asking 7,000 office workers what is important to them, brings very interesting figures to light. 80% of participants in this survey said that having good lighting in their workplace is important to them. And a shocking 40% of the participants admitted that they have to put up with uncomfortable lighting.
So what does all this mean to you, as the business owner? Ensuring you have the best office lighting for your workplace or your tenants is a priority.
So how do you, as a business owner know that your lighting has been designed, delivered and installed as well as it can be done? First, there are standards that your new office lighting should comply with. They cover both the natural light and artificial lighting.
The latest BCO guide to Lighting encourages the use of daylight as the main source of light. The main message of the guide is to use daylight effectively and use the artificial lighting only where and when required.
With a newbuild, you can influence the amount of daylight in the early design stages, when the size of the windows and the flow of light are taken into consideration. However, if you are in a situation where your property can not be altered, you have to make the most of your options. And if you are occupying a basement space with not much daylight, artificial lighting is your only option.
With the increasing urge for sustainability and the workplace becoming more centred around employees, businesses are adopting the WELL standard. The first chapter of the WELL standard recognises the important relationship of daylight and circadian rhythm. It urges you to utilise your windows, atriums, skylights, as nothing beats the natural light. To allow more people access to the daylight, look at your space planning and reorganise your furniture and workstations.
Use artificial lighting to your advantage.
Thoughtful planning of lighting that takes into account colour temperature, glare, circadian rhythm and control, is a key to increasing the user's comfort and therefore productivity. Appropriate light levels can be achieved by lighting design, space planning and building.
The large blue chip companies are leading the way and adopting the WELL standard to ensure the wellbeing of their employees. To achieve the WELL accreditation is a complex process requiring appointing of building consultants, who can keep an eye on all attributes like Air, Lighting, Ventilation and more. We at 299 have worked on several schemes aiming to achieve the WELL certification.
The certification process for the internationally recognised WELL standard will be probably beyond the budget of most SME businesses, but hold your horses, because to light your work space following the WELL standard is actually very achievable. And this is how:
1. Visual Comfort
This part of the WELL standard looks at visual comfort. It refers to several standards, with the latest EN12464-1:21 guide being the most relevant one for the UK. It was last updated in 2021 and came into force from February 2022. It looks at tasks carried out by the user and specifies light levels required for each specific area. This is the most commonly used lighting guide, used on majority commercial projects in the UK.
2. Circadian lighting design
Lighting plays a crucial part in circadian rhythm. Being indoors for extended periods of time does not provide humans with appropriate exposure to daylight, especially during winter months. Disruptions to circadian rhythm have been linked to obesity, depression and metabolic disorders. Disrupting the rhythm with light exposure at night can lead to sleep problems.
This part of the WELL guide considers the light levels that must be achieved on a vertical work plane.
The idea behind the circadian lighting is that the lighting changes the colour temperature throughout the day to help people boost their circadian rhythm. The LED lighting used in offices is often specified as warm 3000K or cooler 4000K. Too warm or too cold can be uncomfortable in the workplace environment. But with the new kid on the block called the Tunable White, a light fitting is able to change the colour temperature throughout the day to help people stay in tune with their body clock.
The Tunable White technology is becoming more widely used.
3. Glare comfort
Excessive brightness, or glare is a common problem with artificial lighting and is associated with visual discomfort, headaches and migraines. To prevent glare in your office, make sure that suitable lighting with low glare has been specified for your project. Also, some products will have optics that are low in glare. The WELL standard requires the unified glare rating (UGR) figure to be below 19 in all spaces. It is important to remember that UGR is calculated for the space, it is not assigned to a single luminaire.
4. Visual balance
The point here is to keep a balance between various spaces within your building. The aim here is to keep consistency, so when walking from one room to another, the eyes are not fatigued through constant adjusting. Visual balance can be managed through thoughtful lighting design.
5. Quality of the artificial light
To ensure the product is suitable for the office environment in the first place, there are 3 important things to watch out for: consistent colour temperature, high colour rendering index (CRI) and flicker. For office space, the guide recommends a minimum of CRI 90 to ensure excellent colour representation. Circulation areas need to achieve a minimum of CRI 80. To achieve smooth dimming, the luminaire should be capable of working with low flicker driver ( use drivers from renowned manufacturers like Tridonic, Helvar, Philips, Osram).
6. Occupant control
As the 2016 research by BCO and Savills points out, there is an increased demand for control. Creating areas with lower intensity lighting for relaxation and more intense lighting for focused work is important for increasing productivity. With the use of wireless controls, occupiers can be given control over their lighting by using apps.
Some tasks ( like programming, CAD work or product design) might require more light, so it is best to provide your team or occupants with individual task lighting. We would recommend desk lamps or floor standing lighting.
Criteria for choosing the best lighting for your office.
When selecting lighting for your new property or considering upgrading your office lighting, there are several factors to look out for.
1. Quality of the product
The conversation about why choosing LED lighting over fluorescent is no longer relevant. Fluorescent lighting will be banned in the UK from September 2023. There are many professional suppliers and e-shops offering LED lighting. Always ensure that you are talking to a supplier who can back up the product data with data sheets, photometric files and Dialux files. Don’t just buy lighting because it is in stock. Professional products are made to order, as they are specifically selected for your project. Good quality products are well supported and suppliers would offer a good after care.
Some products are more efficient than others. Good efficiency in LEDs starts from 100 lm/W these days. As a rule of thumb, architectural feature lighting is not as efficient as linear lighting used for general lighting. Ask for data sheets to see the performance figures like the output and consumption. For further energy saving, you also want the fittings to work with sensors ( like presence sensors and daylight sensors) and allow for future proofing with integration with IoT.
3. Reputation/ experience of the supplier
Sourcing new commercial lighting is a complex process. Look at what projects your lighting supplier worked on. Have they got experience in working on relevant projects to yours? Have they ever supplied large feature lighting for a reception area? Have they worked with reputable architects or contractors? Can they support you with lighting design? Any quality lighting supplier should be able to support your project with a lighting design.
4. Style over substance
With the workplace becoming a backdrop for social media posts, we all want our offices to look Instagram friendly. This brings some danger in compromising the quality of lighting for the looks. We often see workplaces purely lit by decorative lighting like the hipster squirrel cage lights, fairy lights or neon bulb lights. Whilst there is a place for decorative lighting in the new office to bring some fun and excitement, these types of fittings will not offer sufficient illumination for productive work.
Lighting the office space well is a complex task. It is a fine balance between design, efficiency, budget and practicality. Get in touch with our light engineers to discuss how we can help you achieve the perfect lighting for your workplace or brand.