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A Guide To: Office Lighting

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If you're running a small business, lighting your office should (in theory at least) be quite straightforward. All workplaces will have been designed with lighting very much in mind of course, but there are numerous factors that still need to be considered, many of which might surprise those amongst you who assumed lighting was something you'd never even have to consider. Lighting is an essential provision for any workplace though, no matter how small, and to help small businesses understand what's expected of them in terms of lighting standards and practices, we've compiled this handy guide. Some lighting guides can appear very complex and technical, but as long as you understand the basics you shouldn't need to worry yourself with 'learning the language'. More often than not, ensuring employees have adequate lighting in which to carry out their respective tasks in a healthy and safe manner requires little more than a little knowledge and a lot of common sense.

Today, we walk you through the recommended office lighting standards and levels, how to fix your office lighting if the levels are too bright or too dull, and even offer up some lighting inspiration for your office.

Office Light Standards and Levels

Lighting Levels: Of course different levels of lighting will be required for different types of work. For example, skilled work that requires close, accurate detail will require a more intense level of lighting than simple corridor lighting. Localised lighting might also be required in some situations to both cut costs and improve illumination on certain specific areas so that employees don't suffer eye-strain.

Uniformity: In most cases it is preferable and more comfortable to provide uniform lighting over the workplace by utilising a combination of artificial and natural light. Localised lighting can prove ideal in certain situations, but there is also the possibility of glare, especially for those working with computers. Of course, glare can also be cause by natural lighting so this is also something that should be taken into consideration when you're arranging your office.

Control: It's been proven that giving employees in open plan offices the option to control their own localised lighting improves work rate and job satisfaction. This is because what constitutes 'perfect lighting' will prove subjective between workers. This doesn't just extend to localised lamps, but allowing employees access to window blinds so they can control the level of natural light too.

Luminance (Lux): A 'lux' level is a governmental standard that traces the level of lighting in a workplace. Different workplace environments will need to legally comply with these levels for the health and wellbeing of the workplace denizens. The primary contributing factor to a lux level will be the distance between the light source and the illuminated area but different strengths and colours of light will have also contribute to different lux levels. For example, the human eye is most sensitive to amber lights, so an amber light will have more lux than a blue or red light (for example). A lux level of 500 is recommending for general office work (writing, reading, data processing etc.) but for more specific situations there are a variety of recommended levels offices should be adhering to. Below we've included a few examples of required lux levels for various office-based situations:

Public areas where there is little or no work underway at any given time, lighting is still required to prevent employees having accidents or walking into one another - (20-50 lux)

Storage rooms where tasks of a visual nature are performed, but only occasionally – (100-150 lux)

General offices, CAD stations, and conference and meeting rooms – (500 lux)

Areas with drawing and design work where there is a large element of quality control – (1000 lux)

Work areas containing detailed drawing and detailed mechanical and technical work – (1000 – 2000 lux)

Wherever visual tasks of a low contrast and small size for a prolonged period of time are being performed, the level required could range anywhere between (2000 – 20000 lux) depending on the specific situation.

What To Do If Your Office Light Levels are Too Bright Or Dull

Here we'll examine a few common problems relating to offices with too much or too little light and will go through the practices you should use to rectify them.

Too Much Light

Glare: By far the most common problem of excessive light is screen glare; which is caused by light reflected from monitors, polished surfaces, windows and glass picture frames. If your employees complain of glare problems there are numerous fixes. You could try using several low-intensity light sources instead of one high-intensity source, use diffusers (light fixtures that diffuse the light source), increase the brightness of the area surrounding the glare or simply reposition the fixtures to reduce the amount of reflected light directed towards the employees eyes.

Eyestrain: Depending on the age of the employee and the quality of the text they are reading, too much light can cause significant eyestrain. It will vary depending on the employee, so make sure you're aware of each employee’s personal preferences.

Contrast: An often overlooked cause of eyestrain. Try making the area around the problem area darker and if the source of the problem is a computer screen, adjust the monitors’ contrast and brightness controls until the employee in question is comfortable with the levels.

Not Enough Light

Detection: First measure the average illumination levels in your workplace and compare them to the recommended levels (many of which are listed in the section above). Also ask your employees if they are suffering from eye-strain or find themselves having to squint to work properly and check to see if there are shadows cast over work areas, corridors and especially on stairways, where accidents can prove calamitous.

Bulbs: Make sure that you replace light bulbs on a regular basis. Not only would you otherwise run the risk of a bulb giving out at an incredibly inopportune moment, but older bulbs give off less light so it's worth replacing them before they burn out.

Cleaning: Light fixtures should be cleared regularly as any dirt and/or dust can significantly affect the amount of light. If your fixtures are difficult to reach, you might want to consider replacing them with fixtures that have open tops, which allow air currents to move dust and dirt through the fixtures so they don't accumulate on the fixture itself.

Also you can remove shadows by using more local lighting sources and reflected light (a good tip to help light reflect well is to paint the office walls in bright colours). You could also (obviously) simply add more light fixtures in places where the light is most lacking.

Office Lighting Ideas

In this final section we'll be examining a few examples in which office lighting has been arranged effectively.

The lighting in this large, open-plan office has been spaced so that there is a gentle, uniform light covering the entire space:

Lighting-for-office-Design Office Lighting

The windows have also been fitted with blinds, allowing for natural light control, and the whole room has been decked out in bright, neutral colours to improve both natural and artificial light reflections. The rectangular light fixtures in the ceiling are also using diffusers to soften the light.

In this small corner office, localised lighting sources have been installed so that each employee has control over the light present in their area:

Office Lighting

Again the light colours increase the amount of reflected light in the room and the whole room has been lit by a softer overhead light, which casts a uniform glow over the room. This is a perfect setup for any small office suitable for someone performing intricate tasks on a regular basis.

Here's another open-plan office, with the lighting configured for a creative design firm:

Office Lighting

As drawing and general creative work requires a great 'lux' level than in conventional offices, the lighting here is more pronounced, though the ceiling fixtures have been covered by attractive material domes, which diffuse the light and offer a pleasing aesthetic.

This example shows a single office that makes the most of the natural light and has juxtaposed the light walls with a dark floor and desk, keeping the light focused in the right places:

Office Lighting

The desk lamp also offers localisation options and the moveable light gives options for more intricate work.

Found this helpful? Download the Juice Electrical Supplies guide to office lighting.

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