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Relax those Eyes: “Light” and “Comfort” Collide!



A few years back, there was some heavy buzz about the “ergonomics” of office supplies and furniture—with a vast range of products released to address various needs (such as chairs, keyboards, and standing desks). To be brief, these items were designed to improve the relationship between workers and the devices they used all day in an effort to reduce strain—and injury—from repetitive motions or poor posture.


And yet, despite heavy marketing for product-based sectors, the field of ergonomics extends far beyond gadgets and furniture and even encompasses a sub-branch known as “light ergonomics.” Here, scientists have studied the relationship of lighting to a number of human behaviors, and have found a plethora of correlations relevant to the modern office.


According to researchers from Boston University, for instance, “severe headaches account for 48% of work-related aches and pains and are directly correlated with problematic office lighting.” And, the same team notes that visual discomfort can negatively impact job performance and productivity.


But, what causes visual discomfort? And, how can we rectify it? Below are a few areas of common concern, and some accompanying tips.


Lighting is Task and Time Dependent


As discussed in a post last week, lensed-indirect lighting has been routinely rated as a comfortable and much-preferred lighting option when artificial light is necessary. But, beyond simply selecting the right type of light, facilities should be careful to provide the right intensity. Even disbursement of lighting is important, and some types detailed-oriented work are best completed under supplemental light sources, such as desk lamps. What’s more, areas that rely on natural light during the day should have a plan for when light shifts in the late afternoon and evening, to improve consistency.


Glare Changes Everything


Even if lighting levels are set perfectly for a building and task, high-gloss wallpaper, shiny surfaces, and computer screens can still redirect light in uncomfortable ways. As both an employee and a facility manager, try to be deliberate about where items are placed relative to windows. Make adjustments where needed.


Contrast Affects Needs


The text you’re reading right now stands out as a result of fonts being set dark against a light background. As items become more monochromatic (for instance, light grey on white), our need for sufficient lighting increases to help effectively discern shapes. For this reason, the physical design of a space can actually affect the light it needs.


The Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety offers a tremendous outline for understanding, assessing, and correcting various lighting problems in the office. Those interested in reviewing their own lighting will learn a lot by simply visiting this page. Of course, another great way to understand the ergonomics of lighting in your office is simply to ask for feedback from employees on a routine basis, and to make small tweaks whenever requests come through. As mentioned before, an investment in the right lighting can dramatically change the health, comfort, and productivity of those in any workspace. 


So “light,” is worth getting “right.”


This is a continuing discussion on our conversation about “lighting in the workplace,” feel free to add to the discussion through any of our social networks, or email, info@crowdcomfort.com!  

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