Lighting, believe it or not, can have a significant impact on one’s concentration and productivity, especially those of office workers. And now according to recent studies, it seems that lighting has a deeper impact on our lives than we had ever known.

In fact, according to a recent study, Philips says that there is a significant link between light and circadian rhythms known as “built-in clocks” which is what determines our sleep cycle, relaxation, and stimulation. Lighting has also been said to decrease depression as well as improve one’s energy, mood, alertness, and productivity.

So as you can see, light has a profound effect on our body as Stanley Felderman of Felderman Keatinge & Associates, a design studio that operates alongside his wife Nancy Keatinge, says so. Both of them believe that humans are genetically programmed to perform better under specific lighting, which is what allows us to react differently depending on our light environment.

A study by the American Society of Interior Design shows that 68% of employees complain about the lighting situation in their offices. Because of poor lighting, people get headaches due to the strain it puts on their eyes.

That’s why office lighting should be one of the very first things to consider during the office design phase.

Proper lighting can not only be good for a person’s health, provides positive attitude and productivity, but it also helps the company save up on money as employers can monitor the well-being of their employees.

However, there are some lights that do not boost a person’s health and productivity and those are artificial or harsh lights. Artificial lighting is another kind of light that is not considered ‘natural,’ including overhead light fixtures, lamps, etc. Offices, however, use a type of artificial lighting that is neither too harsh or too dim.


Let’s talk about lighting temperatures and colors and what they mean.

Light temperature, measured in Kelvin (K), is the numerical measurement of color that is emitted when an object is heated with a high enough temperature. When the temperature increases, the object changes color and starts emitting various colors of that light.

Let us take the example of a blacksmith heating an iron horseshoe. When the temperature of the horseshoe rises, its colors change from red to orange, then yellow, then white and then finally, bluish-white.

The lower color temperature light sources are known as ‘warm’ because they emit red, orange and yellow colors. Higher color temperature light sources are considered “cool” because they’re in the violet and blue range of the color spectrum.

Here is a rundown of the color temperatures of the light sources:

Higher color temperatures (4,600K or more) are known as cool or daylight colors as they appear blue-white.

Mid-range color temperatures (3,100K–4,600K) give off a cool white appearance.

Lower color temperatures (up to 3,000K) are considered warm colors and range from red to yellowish-white.

Felderman and Keatinge gave other examples of what these colors look like in everyday life:

  • The glow-from-the-fire lighting is over 2,000K and is known as a warm color.
  • The sunset lighting is about 4,000K and is known as a cool white color.
  • A typical sunny day lighting is about 5,000K or 5,500K and is known as a cool color.
  • The lighting during an overcast winter day is over 7,000K and is known as a cool color.

Here is a graph of how these color temperature variations affect productivity:

Kelvin Spectrum: How Lighting Affects Productivity

Source: Westinghouse Lighting & Journal of Circadian Rhythms


Some of the things that you need to consider when choosing office lighting are:

1. Headaches And Migraines

Harsh overhead office lighting is usually one of the causes of migraines and headaches. If any employee experiences headaches or migraines during their work, it could cause them discomfort, which prevents them from feeling productive or motivated.

And if that employee requires medical attention for their condition, it could affect the overall productivity of the company they work for.

2. Lack Of Or Poor Sleep

Within the human body is a circadian rhythm, which is the internal clock that is triggered by natural lighting, which our body responds to for the whole day. The reason for this is because our bodies are naturally attuned to the rhythms of sunlight.

So if companies were able to replicate this type of lighting during office hours, their employees will be more motivated and energized.

This, in turn, helps improve their quality of sleep at night, which result in longer and restful nights as well as well productive days.

3. Strained Eyes

If a computer staring at the bright light of a computer screen all day is bothered by poor office lighting, it could cause extra strain on their eyes.

This bothersome combination could interfere with one’s ability to concentrate and ultimately, lower their productivity.

4. Fatigue And Drowsiness

Quite often, tired or fatigued employees will turn to distractions such as online videos, games, checking their social media status or listening to music to liven themselves up. T

hough an alternative lighting system could help prevent such things, thereby increasing an employee’s motivation to carry on with their work.

The only way out of this predicament is to increase your access to natural light and let’s open up more on that in the following passages.


Natural light is the ideal solution for office workers since it not only helps our eyesight but it also boosts our energy and mood levels, happiness and encourages a general willingness to show up at work without delay.

In one study, 75.8% of employees said that they prefer natural light, whereas 56.9% of them are satisfied with their current workplace arrangement. What’s more is that natural light has proven to reduce the effects of seasonal affective disorder.

Also, natural is a relatively less expensive alternative.


With more light options at workplaces, employees experience a greater sense of comfort and control over their surroundings. And when employees work in a much more pleasant environment, their quality of work will evidently increase as well.

Employees, depending on personal preference and the type of project that they’re working on, can decide whether or not they prefer dimmers or brighter lighting, but that’s only if or when a company decides to install lights with dimmers on them.

This gives employees more control about how they want to work and in what type of environment.


Office work lighting varies depending on the size of the room or area as well as the type of work that can be done with it. Some of the main types of lighting include:

1. Ambient Lighting

This is a brighter form of lighting which is usually used in hallways, conference rooms, and reception areas to give the place better illumination. Larger lighting installation is required for this, especially with overhead light fixtures.

For this reason, many offices use fluorescent lighting. But in spite of its less expensive upfront cost, this type of lighting can cause adverse effects on both health and productivity in the long-run. Instead, you should opt for incandescent lighting. Or perhaps if fluorescent lighting is used throughout your office, use natural light to negate its negative effects.

2. Task lighting

Task lighting is when you wish to illuminate a specific area where you are cooking, reading a book, writing or working with your hands. You can use this type of lighting, especially during cloudy days, like when there is a deficiency of natural light.

However, for it to be effective, the light has to contrast with the rest of the space. For this reason, a desk lamp could certainly come in handy.

3. Accent/focal lighting

Accent lighting is used to illuminating something that you put up for display. A common example of this is when people wish to illuminate a miniature model of a building that they wish to construct to show their clients.


You will be doing yourself a huge favor if you consider your workplace lighting as a couple of adjustments can make a monumental difference for both your well-being and productivity.

Here’s how that can be done:

1. Turn Down Overhead Lights

Many workplaces have twice as much of the lighting level recommended by OSHA as Michael Helander, CEO, and co-founder of OLED company OTI Lumionics says.

He later adds that the human eye is very bad at determining the actual levels of light. This is because we see light based on the amount of contrast between different types of light in our world. In other words, we use comparisons to determine light levels.

For example, if employees see that the light in the hallway is more lit up than the office itself, they might feel that the office isn’t bright enough, even though it has the exact same brightness as the hallway.

Apart from that, we as human beings have a knack for thinking that more lighting is better for us. Helander says that North Americans tend to ask for bigger, more powerful and brighter lights as it makes them feel safer.

Another way to put it is that they think more lights help them understand the world better when in fact, it is the opposite. If our eyes get more exposure to light, it will create a ‘disability glare,’ which makes it even harder for us to see things clearly.

2. Opt For More Flexible Lighting

The amount of light that is best differs from one person to another as well as the tasks they want to get done. For instance, someone who works on multiple computer screens will have different lighting needs than those who work on physical documents.

That’s why the best solution is to opt for variable or flexible lighting, which allows one to dim overhead lights as well as provide individual light and lamps that can be turned on or off based on a person’s preference or task.

This, as a result, also saves up on electricity since you no longer need lighting for space that isn’t being used.

3. Use OLED Lighting

If you know about high-end tablets, then you’re already aware of what OLED (organic light-emitting diode) lighting is. It is the kind of lighting that is used to create flat-panel lighting, which is easier on our eyes than conventional light bulbs.

4. Decrease Blue Light

Helander says that most office environments rely on fluorescent and LED lights, which give off blue light. Blue light occurs naturally and is responsible for boosting our attention and mood in the morning and early afternoon. Its biggest problem, however, is that it disrupts our sleep cycles, especially when we continue to work past sunset.

The way around this is to look for lighting alternatives that give off less blue light. You may want to consider wearing blue light-blocking glasses given that computers and other digital screens give off blue light as well.

You can even install a blue-light blocking app on your smartphone or tablet, especially when you’re getting ready for bed.

5. Use As Much Natural Light As You Can

Most office environments these days, don’t allow many natural light sources even if there are windows. This depends on the weather and time of the day.

And sometimes, it may get cloudy some days, but it’s still healthy to get as much natural light as possible in order to reduce strain on your eyes and other related issues.


If for instance, you don’t have access to natural sunlight, then “blue-enriched” light bulbs could be a good alternative. Several studies say that “blue-enriched” light bulbs that are 17,000k actually helps boost work performance by supporting mental vitality, acuity, and alertness, while also reducing daytime sleepiness and fatigue.

The University of Greenwich researchers reported that workers who were put under “blue-enriched light bulbs” for two-months were found to be much happier and alert and were said to have less eye strain.

Blue light is also said to reduce melatonin, a hormone produced in our glands, which puts us to sleep. It is said to keep us alert in the same manner as coffee.

Given its numerous cognitive benefits, it would be a wise move to install blue or cooler lights in brainstorming rooms so that workers can feel invigorated and excited whenever they wish to share their ideas with the company.

Warmer tones, which create a sense of comfort, should be used in intimate settings if you want workers to feel calm and relaxed, like the meeting room, for example, if you wish to create a sense of trust with them.

Middle tones should be used to instill a friendly and inviting environment, like in conference rooms, but they should also have cool enough tones to keep workers motivated and alert.


Believe it or not, office furniture also plays a significant role in avoiding the negative effects of artificial lighting and allow us to enjoy the positive effect of natural lighting, as long as we set our furniture in the right position against natural lighting that is. When we get this done, it will have a very positive effect on the overall work productivity.

One very good tactic is to arrange office furniture in a way that allows workers to face opposite the artificial lighting. This will reduce the intensity of artificial lighting that workers would have otherwise come in contact with, which would then result in headaches and eye strain. Once you get this right, workers can maintain their work productivity, thereby improving the overall outcome of the company.

Even though the positioning of furniture is crucial, it is also important to have the right kind of office furnitures such as standing desks and ergonomic chairs. Ergonomic chairs are quite useful in reducing stress in workers, relieve stress and ensure the perfect seating arrangement.

Doing this also lends a hand in improving a worker’s efficiency and productivity by making them feel comfortable and happy.


Besides workplaces, lighting also affects our mood and productivity at home. As a matter of fact, it has been documented that insufficient lighting can contribute to depression and deficiency in Vitamin D. Proper lighting, on the other hand, has been known to improve mood and energy levels.

Other studies found that lighting can affect appetite. In the case of brightly-lit rooms, people were found to eat slower and lighter meals. But they usually overeat in rooms with dim lighting.

However, the most significant impact of lighting at home is that it affects our circadian rhythms. Here, lighting has a two-sides-of-the-same-coin kind of effect as it could encourage you to sleep or also keep you awake all night.

Natural light is what is best for mornings and daytimes whereas dim or artificial lighting is best for evenings. If you get these lightings mixed up, it could make it difficult for you to sleep or find energy throughout the day.


To recap, harsh or dim lighting can be detrimental to the overall productivity at workplaces, where cooler, blue or natural lighting sources can do the opposite of all that and help us save up on monthly energy bills and improve the overall outcome of a company.

How Lighting Affects Productivity and Mood

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