Lighting and Worker Productivity

a guest post by Lisa J. Reed, Lighting Designer

Lighting and Worker Productivity

Does lighting impact worker productivity? You bet it does. Just as students are influenced by light in their spaces, employees benefit from better lighting, too.

What are the "benefits" of better lighting?

The benefits include intangibles like pleasantness, but there are also some measurable cost benefits to improving lighting in the workplace:

Improved productivity – There have been plenty of studies about lighting and productivity. One of the more famous ones was way back in 1986. When the lighting was improved at the Reno Post Office, productivity improved by a measurable 8%. The purpose of the lighting improvements was simply to save energy. The productivity was an unexpected bonus.

Reduced absenteeism and employee retention – Bad lighting can cause headaches or eyestrain or just general unhappiness. We know intuitively that a nice environment with nice lighting is where we want to spend our time. While it is difficult (but not impossible) to monetize the impact of lighting on people, we know for sure that employees cost much more than lighting does. Make the investment in lighting now, and reap the benefits in employee presence and retention for years to come.

What is "better lighting"?

Aside from the obvious – if your lighting is 20 years old it may be time for an upgrade – here are some specific areas where your lighting dollars can make a big impact:

Daylight – The more we know about the impact of daylight on people, the more we realize how important it is. We have already discussed its impact on health, retail and education. Similar outcomes are linked to employee productivity. People like daylight and they perform better with it.

Indirect light – Visual comfort increases with indirect light. Efficient indirect lighting systems can illuminate an office space for less than 0.5 watts per square foot. Use indirect light for general lighting but be sure to add adequate task lighting where it is needed.

Right amount of light – Too much of a good thing isn’t a good thing. (Remember that entire bag of Halloween candy you ate when you were 10?) Too much light can cause headaches or glare. Remove fixtures, remove lamps, or install lower wattage lamps or lower power factor ballasts to save energy while "right-sizing" light levels.

Control of light – Admit it, you are a control freak. No one likes to feel out of control of his or her environment. Give employees control over their lighting. Install individual switches, dimmers or manual "on" switches with occupancy sensors to give people control of their spaces. When they opt to leave lights off or dim them, the employees are happy and you save energy.

Investing in better lighting clearly saves money in the long run, but sometimes the investment is difficult to justify because the capital funds for construction and facility improvements come from a different pot than the operating funds for payroll and employee compensation.

What is your best tip for achieving the benefits of better lighting in the workplace?


Lisa J Reed photo - Lighting Blog

Lisa J. Reed has been attracted to lighting (like a moth to a flame) for 20+ years. She is the Founding Principal at Envision Lighting Design, LLC in St. Louis, where she designs, teaches, and writes about architectural lighting.


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