Shining a Light on the Impact of Workplace Lighting

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Shining a Light on the Impact of Workplace Lighting: Is Your Lighting Helping or Hurting Your Employees?

The quality and placement of lighting in the workplace affects people in different ways. To combat any negative effects and make significant improvements in your workplace, there are some aspects of lighting that can be addressed with broad strokes.

Great workplace lighting enhances mood, makes workspaces more comfortable, and contributes to an overall sense of wellbeing. A thoughtful workplace lighting strategy helps people stay focused, even when surrounded by artificial light from computer monitors and mobile devices.

When it comes to office lighting, there are several behaviors of light that can negatively affect mood and productivity. Glare, illuminance, and color temperature are all behaviors of light that can be distracting. 

In this blog, we’re discussing how the lighting choices you make in the workplace can have a dramatic impact on the health, wellbeing, and productivity of your employees.

The Temperature of Light

The temperature of light is a numerical measurement of the color that’s emitted by an object when it’s heated. Consider a candle – their flames can range from blue to white to yellow or orange. In the blue region, the candle is hottest at over 2,600 degrees Fahrenheit. White flames are a bit cooler in the 2,400 to 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit range. Orange flames are around 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and red flames are between 980 and 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit.

Light sources with lower color temperatures are “warm” because they emit deep red, orange, and yellow tones. Light sources with higher color temperatures are “cool” because their visible light is on the violet and blue end of the spectrum. The temperature of light is measured in Kelvin (K).

A study supported by Philips using their TL5 ActiViva blue-enriched bulbs shows that cooler light promotes productivity among office workers. The research revealed that very cool fluorescent lighting in a shift-working call center contributed to a wide range of improvements among the workforce, including general wellbeing, functionality in the workplace, and overall work performance.1

Color temperatures in light sources2:

  • The light emitted from an average burning fireplace is approximately 2,000K. The red-orange glow of a natural fire is considered warm.
  • Between 2,000K – 3,000K, lighting colors range from red to light yellow and are still considered warm.
  • Mid-range color temperatures are between 3,100K – 4,600K and appear cool white. Lighting in this range is often referred to as neutral.
  • The sunset is approximately 4,000K and is considered cool.
  • A typical sunny day is approximately 5,000K – 5,500K and is considered cool.
  • An overcast winter day is approximately 7,000K and is considered cool.

If you were to survey your employees today, what would they say about the temperature of your workplace lighting? Is it perfect, or is there room for improvement?

Making the Most of Natural Light

One of the best ways to improve workplace mood and productivity is to introduce and make the most of natural lighting. In 2017, researchers at Cornell University studied employees from seven different office locations across the US. They found that offices with intelligently optimized natural light saw a significant reduction in the health indices that are known to cause Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).

CVS is commonly caused by extended computer use of more than three hours per day, so it’s a real concern for your employees who work at computers all day long. It can be a considerable strain, causing symptoms such as headaches, blurred vision, eyestrain, and even dizziness.

People in offices with optimized natural light reported3:

  • A 51% decrease in eyestrain
  • A 56% decrease in fatigue or drowsiness
  • A 63% decrease in the incidence of headaches
  • An 82% increase in the perceived daylight quality (in terms of color and brightness of light)

Lack of daylight and access to naturally lit views hampers the ability of our eyes to relax and recover from fatigue. By prioritizing controlled daylight in your office, you can encourage a more energetic, comfortable, and attentive workforce that can focus better for more extended periods.

If you asked your employees how they felt about the natural lighting situation in your office, how would they respond? Could changes be made to boost happiness, comfort, and productivity?

Easy Ways to Add More Natural Light

While providing as much natural light as possible is ideal, there will be obvious limits to what can be accomplished in your space. Not every employee will be able to sit within 5 inches of a window. However, there are simple ways to incorporate more natural light to everyone’s benefit.

  • Reevaluate the location of desks and work areas and reorganize to give everyone as much access to natural light as possible.
  • Reposition shelves and other large objects that block windows or sightlines to let more light into your space.
  • Consider how the lighting changes throughout the day, in the morning vs. the afternoon, and arrange work areas to make the most of the hours when natural light is available.
  • Encourage employees to take breaks outside, if only to take a walk around the parking lot or block to soak up a little sunlight.

Boosting Building Performance

A study by an HR advisory firm published in the Harvard Business Review shows that access to natural light is the number one attribute workers want in their office environment.6 But, the benefits of natural lighting extend beyond the preferences of office workers. In addition to the health and productivity benefits that natural lighting provides to your building’s inhabitants, there are also some great benefits to the building itself.

Natural light also increases the value of office space and makes it more attractive to current or potential tenants. Office space with ample natural light leases for 2 to 4 dollars per square foot more than office spaces with little or no natural lighting and sell faster than properties with less natural light.5

What If Natural Light Isn’t an Option?

We know that improving the quality of your lighting can enhance energy levels, leading to better work performance. But if you lack natural light because there just aren’t enough windows in your building, it might be unrealistic or impossible to add more. So what do you do if you’re unable to introduce more natural light? The best solution is to install a high-quality, flexible lighting system.

Dimmers give you the ability to adjust the brightness and intensity of your lights. Giving workers adjustable lighting that they can control to suit their needs is a great way to improve satisfaction and productivity in the office.

Address Your Lighting Situation

Now that you have a better understanding of how lighting impacts the comfort and productivity of the people in your building, what’s your next step?

Roast is a convenient workplace comfort tool that allows you to conduct surveys with the people in your building regarding their comfort levels.

Roast gives you a clear, broad picture of your workplace with easily digestible data that shows you the locations of the people in your building and what they’re feeling in regard to their environmental comfort. Examine trends and make lighting changes based on the immediate needs of your employees. Rearrange furniture, install cooler or warmer lighting, or adjust shades.

Find out the unique comfort challenges your building inhabitants face and uncover opportunities to make the workplace a happier and more productive environment. Try Roast today with a free 14-day trial, or contact us to speak with an expert.


  1. The Effect of High Correlated Colour Temperature Office Lighting on Employee Wellbeing and Work Performance, Journal of Circadian Rhythms
  2. How Lighting Affects the Productivity of Your Workers, UNC Keenan-Flagler Business School
  3. Study: Natural Light is the Best Medicine for the Office, Cision PR Newswire
  4. Daylight and the Workplace Study, View
  5. Benefits of Natural Light in the Workplace, New Day Office
  6. The #1 Office Perk? Natural Light, Harvard Business Review

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