Pain Free Working

Your Ultimate Guide to Office Lighting Ergonomics

When it comes to designing an efficient and comfortable workspace, office lighting plays a pivotal role. Proper light schemes are an essential aspect of office ergonomics, impacting productivity, well-being, and overall job satisfaction. 

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore why good office lighting is important to your employees, discuss the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) standards, and provide recommendations on the correct lights to create an ergonomic work environment.

What are the Different Kinds of Ergonomic Lighting in the Workplace?

When we hear “ergonomics” around the office, lab, or factory floor, we think of proper workstation height, good computer screen brightness and keyboard placement, and correct chairs and seating.

Ergonomics plays a pivotal role in shaping the work environment, encompassing far more than just desks, seating, and accessories. So, what exactly does the term “lighting ergonomics” entail?

Lighting ergonomics involves the deliberate planning and positioning of lights with a primary focus on enhancing the safety and comfort of workers. 

It seeks to answer several crucial questions:

  • What type of lighting sources are employees using?
  • Where should these light sources be placed?
  • What should be the ideal intensity of the light they work with?
  • And, what color of light is most suitable for their tasks?

These guiding questions serve as the foundation for conducting a concise illumination ergonomics assessment in the workplace. The specific lights needed, of course, vary depending on the nature of the job. 

For instance, industrial workers may require higher-intensity illumination, whereas office workers typically benefit from soft, uniform lights to support tasks done in front of a computer screen.

Light or illuminance levels are more often than not higher than they need to be, especially for computer work. Many older offices do not have ideal lighting design, which of course affects our eyes and the computer work performed. 

At 40 years of age, eyesight begins to deteriorate more drastically and the amount of light needed for a given task may increase. 

To truly understand the illumination requirements for your employees, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the diverse sources of light available and their respective applications.

Daylight Illumination

The extent of natural daylight entering a building depends on various factors, including its architectural design, the sunlight’s intensity, its angle, the season, and the local surroundings. Additionally, maintaining clean windows is crucial. 

In cases of excessive sunlight, options like tinted glass, curtains, awnings, or blinds can be effective solutions. Note that vertical blinds work best for East/West facing windows and horizontal blinds for North/South facing windows.

In the context of workplace lighting ergonomics, it’s essential to harness natural sunlight, but in a balanced manner that avoids blinding employees or making them feel like they are toiling under direct sunlight. Striking this equilibrium is vital for a harmonious work environment.

Notably, a study revealed that jobs with high interaction levels, such as those of sales representatives, customer service associates, or administrative assistants, can sometimes be quite demanding. In such cases, exposure to natural light can prove to be particularly beneficial.

Artificial Electric Lighting

Various varieties of electric lights possess the capacity to influence the quantity of bright lights, the light’s color, and the perception of objects. Choosing the right lighting for your workplace and the specific task at hand is of paramount importance, as the color and intensity of the light have the potential to impact the mood, alertness, and even the sleep patterns of your employees.

Commonly utilized electric lighting types in office settings encompass fluorescent, mercury, and LED (Light-Emitting Diodes). Meanwhile, industrial workspaces tend to employ lighting sources such as metal halide, high-pressure sodium, and mercury.

There is a diverse array of artificial lights available for different workplace scenarios.

General Overhead Lighting

In the realm of workspace lighting, the choice of the general light type is crucial. General overhead lights serve as the foundational source that offers overall illumination, giving a  big visual field and increasing productivity.

One of the most prevalent forms of general overhead lighting includes ceiling fixtures, commonly found in most buildings. This kind of light fixture is typically affixed to the ceiling and upper walls and disperses light uniformly across the room. 

They prove exceptionally well-suited for illuminating expansive spaces such as conference rooms, open-plan offices, and lobbies.

Local Lighting

Local or task lighting proves to be an excellent means of giving a brighter light over the immediate workspace and its nearby vicinity.

This lighting category is ideally suited for tasks demanding a high degree of concentration and meticulous attention to detail, such as reading, writing, or crafting. It grants users the ability to fine-tune and govern light levels, ultimately assisting in the reduction of eye strain and fatigue.

Furthermore, it delivers adaptability for individual users, as adjustable task lighting is easy to add and be molded to their specific requirements. A prime illustration of this is a desk lamp, which furnishes supplementary illumination for activities like reading, writing, and other close-up work.

Localized-general Lighting

This combines the advantages of both general and task light, making it an ideal choice for workspaces requiring a balance between comprehensive illumination and pinpointed focus.

Why is Proper Lighting Ergonomics Important in Office Ergonomics?

Proper ergonomic lighting is essential within the realm of office spaces for several compelling reasons.

First, it enhances productivity by enabling employees to maintain focus, reducing eye fatigue and headaches, and ultimately leading to higher work efficiency and improved task performance. 

Additionally, the right lights contribute to improved mood and well-being in the workplace by offering appropriate light intensity and color temperatures, creating a more pleasant and inviting work environment. 

Lighting also plays a critical role in reducing health risks, as poor lighting can result in various health issues such as eye strain, headaches, and discomfort, potentially leading to long-term health concerns if left unaddressed. 

Prolonged work in an office with poor lighting, when there are flickering lights or insufficient light, can lead to issues such as inadequate contrast (resulting from dim lighting in contrast to the brightness of a computer screen), horizontal work surface, uneven light distribution, and wrong color temperature.

In the same way, excessive contrast, characterized by a significant difference between the brightest and darkest areas, can also pose issues. When our eyes constantly shift between areas of varying light intensity, like when working on a computer in a dark room, it triggers frequent contraction and expansion of our irises, leading to eye fatigue and visual strain. 

Inadequate alignment of lighting with the specific task at hand can result in Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), manifesting in symptoms including eye strain, blurred vision, headaches, neck discomfort, itchy eyes, and sleep disturbances.

Lastly, office lights significantly impact safety and accident prevention by ensuring well-lit areas that reduce the risk of accidents and enhance overall workplace safety.

This is precisely where the principles of lighting ergonomics prove invaluable, ensuring the provision of the appropriate lighting precisely where and when it is needed.

What is the OSHA Standard for Office Lighting?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in the United States furnishes workplace lighting guidelines. While OSHA refrains from specifying precise lighting levels, it does establish a requirement for employers to furnish “adequate” lighting. The interpretation of “adequate” may be somewhat subjective, but OSHA typically suggests the following:

For general office areas, a minimum of 30 foot-candles (fc) of illumination is the common recommendation.

Workstations and locations where specific visual tasks are performed, on the other hand, necessitate higher lighting levels, typically ranging between 50 to 75 fc.

OSHA also imposes regulations regarding emergency lighting to ensure safe egress during power outages or emergencies.

It’s worth noting that these recommendations can fluctuate depending on the specific nature of the work being carried out and the individual requirements of employees.

What is the Correct Lighting for an Office?

In the context of office lighting, the ideal setup involves a careful balance of multiple elements. 

Natural light should be harnessed whenever possible, with desks strategically positioned near windows to foster a connection with the outdoors and support a healthy circadian rhythm. 

Artificial lighting, on the other hand, should encompass a mix of ambient, task, and accent lighting, where ambient light fixtures provide overall bright light, local lighting focuses on work areas, and accent light fixtures add aesthetic touches. 

The ambient lighting you use should be low in light intensity or glare-free. Indirect or direct/indirect light fixtures provide the best lighting solutions for many offices.

Moreover, flexibility is key, and fixtures that allow adjustments in brightness and color temperature to cater to diverse tasks and employee preferences are essential. 

To maintain a comfortable and productive workspace, measures should be taken to minimize the direct glare of reflected light on computer screens and reflective surfaces, which may include the use of screens that reduce glare. 

Reflected light from polished surfaces, such as keyboards, may cause annoyance, visual discomfort, or loss of visual performance and visibility.

The illumination scheme should ideally offer flexibility, allowing for the adjustment of light levels, such as through dimmer switches. When tasks involving paperwork are undertaken, this often necessitates higher light. 

However, the direct light must be primarily towards the paperwork rather than the computer monitor screen. 

If computer-based tasks dominate the workload and take precedence over paper-based tasks, it may be prudent to reduce reliance on overhead lights and instead incorporate adaptable task lighting. 

This gives each employee control over how much light they need to complete their task, improves their mood, and reduces eye strain.

Regular maintenance of lights is equally important, ensuring they remain clean and in optimal working condition, and promptly replacing any bulbs that exhibit flickering or reduced brightness.

Which Light Fixtures is Best for Ergonomic Working Conditions?

To create an ergonomically sound working environment, LED lights are frequently the preferred option. This choice offers several distinct benefits, including remarkable energy efficiency, which not only conserves power but also leads to reduced long-term operational expenses. 

LED lights come in diverse color temperatures, allowing for a convenient adjustment between warm and cool lights to suit the specific needs of your workspace. All of the lamps in your light fixtures should have the same color temperature.

Additionally, LED bulbs boast an extended lifespan in comparison to traditional incandescent or fluorescent lights, diminishing the need for frequent replacements and associated costs. 

LEDs ensure instant illumination without any flickering or warm-up time, guaranteeing immediate and consistent lights in your workspace.

Final Note

Ergonomic office lights are a critical aspect of creating a conducive and productive workspace. By considering the principles outlined in this ultimate guide, you can create a well-lit environment that promotes your well-being and enhances your work performance. Remember that the ideal lights setup can vary from person

Tricia Montano

Tricia founded Pain Free Working in 2019 due to suffering from degenerative disc disease in her L5-S1 from working an office job for the past 18 years. She and her team strive on finding and reviewing the best office equipment to help fellow pain sufferers find relief and to enable people like her to do their jobs comfortably.