For decades, office lighting schemes were designed around the belief that more light would lead to better visual performance—the brighter, the better—and to a more productive workforce. Turns out the only measurable results from an over-lit workplace are increased energy costs and a variety of ergonomic and human factors issues—including eyestrain and headaches which ultimately have a negative impact on worker productivity. This condition is known as Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS)—something OSHA says affects up to 90 percent of office workers.
Key issues faced by today’s architects, designers, facilities managers, and ergonomists include supporting the unique lighting requirements of different tasks and facilitating the varying lighting needs of different-aged workers.
The good news is that advances in technology and workspace design are changing the rules and practice of office lighting, and today there are smarter solutions available for lighting a healthier, more comfortable, and more productive workplace. In fact, one study from the Lighting Research Center (LRC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Lighting Quality and Office Work, highlights the relationship between office lighting and worker productivity, suggesting that appropriate task visibility is the aspect of lighting that directly affects performance.
Ergonomists tell us that it is best to view computer monitors in dim settings–less ambient light is needed overhead because the monitors emit light.
However, tasks such as reading paper documents require more task-specific lighting that allows for clear viewing without the glare and reflection caused by overlit ambient lighting schemes.
Which Task Light is Right For You?
With so many types of task lights available today, it can be a challenge to know what to look for when making a purchase.
The first feature to look for in a task light is to ensure that it casts the appropriate amount of glare-free light on a work surface. Second, look for lights that are easy to reposition for varied desktop tasks. Third, keep in mind that compact fluorescents and LED lights with electronic ballasts provide a “cool” light source and cost-savings due to their reduced energy usage. Cool lighting is best used for visual tasks, such as reading a document, because it produces higher contrast.