In recent years, we have held interactive workshops with leading experts in lighting, design, architecture and HR, with the aim of understanding the way in which the modern workplace is changing.
But what steps can office managers and employers take at a practical level to help enhance productivity, inter-connectedness and wellbeing? And when it comes to light specifically, is it really possible to make a meaningful difference for the user, the organisation and the building?
Lighting for the user
Everyone agrees that employees are the most important asset of any company, but how often is the workplace really designed around them? Thinking about light, the primary need is obviously visibility. We have to be able to see our task properly.
If we’re trying to concentrate on, say, a lengthy report, excessive brightness and large differences in contrast might distract us or cause fatigue. Higher light levels would be good, but we also need to ensure low glare and a degree of uniformity.
What about emotional comfort? If we’re in a break-out area, we might not be looking for a calm, low-contrast environment, but hoping for a livelier and more engaging atmosphere.
Color is important too, of course, as it has a strong emotional power and can trigger significant reactions. But getting it right isn’t always easy, as we not only have to consider intensity, but also temperature and hue. Studies suggest that a higher – or ‘cooler’ – color temperature stimulates alertness and focus by suppressing melatonin, a sleep hormone which is sensitive to the blue part of the spectrum.
So it’s possible to make a tangible impact on the working lives of individual employees. But we will rarely work alone. This is why it’s also important to focus on the space we share with others and the needs of the organization as a whole.
Lighting for the organization
The brightness of a room has a major impact on how space is perceived and the mind-set of employees. Brighter walls are known to bring positive associations of openness. But can too much brightness lead to eye strain? Well, the key is creating dedicated spaces for different activities and having the ability to change lighting to accommodate different modes of work.
Sometimes, reduced brightness can be useful too, particularly in conjunction with a warmer color temperature. The feeling then is often one of intimacy, which can be important in achieving coherence within a group. Wellbeing is, after all, affected by our sense of belonging.
The chosen option may vary from organization to organization and location to location within a building. It might also depend on your corporate goals and brand identity. This raises the intriguing possibility that the workspace can reflect the core values and culture of a company. Lighting is actually a very effective tool for enhancing a sense of brand.
Lighting for the building
Technological advances are changing the way we shape spaces and enhance comfort. LEDs – a high-quality, low-energy light source – have opened up a wealth of possibilities.
Digitization of lighting is a major trend. There is a whole range of data we can gather via an installed grid of connected luminaires. Not only does this help with energy efficiency and cost savings, but it also allows us to address maintenance and occupancy issues.
Because they produce less heat than conventional light sources, LEDs can be embedded into materials and the structure of the building itself. It’s now possible, for instance, to make use of smooth, light-giving ceilings which also combine to regulate acoustics within a particular space.
Want a whole wall of light? It’s now possible to shape and control the surroundings of an office environment at the touch of a button. And the power is not just in the hands of facilities managers. Any worker can potentially micro-manage their own space through something as simple as a smartphone or tablet app. It’s empowerment to shape the immediate area around us.
Balancing the individual’s needs in their work surroundings with the inherent commercial benefits for the business of improved performance, effectiveness and productivity are mutually beneficial. Flexible, dynamic and versatile, the links between the right light and employee wellbeing and comfort at work are clear.
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