How lighting impacts employee health and productivity

How lighting impacts employee health and productivity

By Michael Eccles, Technical Service Manager at Lyco

Working in a poorly lit environment can have serious effects on staff productivity. Bad lighting doesn’t just prevent people from doing their job properly in a practical sense, it can also cause headaches, eye strain, and mood swings, all of which can contribute to a general feeling of job dissatisfaction and poor health. Consequently, employers may find themselves will an unenergized workforce and higher staff turnover, which can be costly.

Of course, different workers will have different needs, meaning that what is deemed as the “right” lighting will vary significantly from one industry sector to another – a modern retail setting is unlikely to have the same requirements as a warehouse, for example. Lighting is rarely a one size fits all solution, with different areas of the same building also calling for different lighting requirements depending on the exact task that is being carried out there, which could well change depending on the time of day, season, and individual using the space at any given time.

The impact of bad lighting

Poor lighting can lead to many problems, including:

Eye strain – Badly lit offices and other workspaces can lead to employees enduring uncomfortable eye strain and headaches, which in turn can lead to a lack of focus and reduced morale and performance.

Musculoskeletal problems – Poorly lit areas and eye strain can force employees to adopt awkward postures in order to complete their tasks, leading to complaints about spinal or musculoskeletal injuries.

Inefficiency and boredom – An uncomfortable working space can reduce an employee’s level of job satisfaction or ability to complete tasks efficiently, creating a bored, unmotivated, and irritable workforce.

Absenteeism – A single episode or combination of the above factors in the working environment can cause staff to take sick leave, dramatically impacting overall productivity and financial stability. It is estimated that absenteeism costs UK businesses an around £36 billion each year, so it’s well worth assessing whether workplace lighting is hindering staff performance.

Increasing mood and productivity with good lighting

Good lighting is one of the most important factors in providing a healthy working environment. Research conducted by Philips Systems revealed a strong correlation between light and the human circadian rhythm, otherwise known as the “body clock” that determines our sleep cycle, stimulation, and relaxation. Our overall feeling of health and wellbeing can quite literally change with the flick of a switch.

A similar study by Cornell University revealed that a quarter of office workers believe poor lighting results in poor work performance, due to discomfort and headaches. Conversely, the same study also found that LED lighting can increase productivity by up to 5%. LED lighting can help regulate the body clock, boosting performance and helping employees feel more energetic and alert. The EU’s Lighting for People project has proven that sufficient lighting in the workplace, such as LEDs, increases productivity, and the higher quality lighting, the better productivity.

Making the switch to LED

Due to location or layout, many buildings receive very little natural daylight, if any at all. In these instances, artificial lighting is generally the only option and therefore choosing the right type of lighting is essential. Fluorescent lighting has long been a popular choice in commercial environments due to its low cost, but from a health point of view it is far from ideal. Although not always obvious to the naked eye, fluorescent lights constantly flicker in order to maintain their illumination. This flickering contributes to the health issues mentioned above, and can even lead to severe stress or anxiety. This constant flickering is one of the many reasons business owners are switching from fluorescent lights to LEDs.

As well as improving health and mood, LED bulbs possess many practical benefits over their alternatives, such as:

Reduced costs – LED bulbs offer energy savings of 80-90% over traditional incandescent or halogen bulbs, and up to 50% savings over fluorescent tubes. What’s more, LEDs last up to 2 or 3 times longer than the majority of fluorescent tubes, and over 50 times longer than incandescent bulbs, meaning fewer purchases over time.

Low maintenance – Because LED bulbs last longer and they don’t need to be replaced as often, workload and disruption to daily operations is minimised. LED bulbs are also able to withstand exposure to extreme temperatures, dust, and shock, making them less prone to breakage.

Greater control – LEDs are extremely flexible, with many possessing a dimmable range down to 5 or 10 percent. This gives employers and staff greater control over their environment, and allows them to adjust light levels to suit different preferences and tasks. Many LEDs also possess an adjustable colour spectrum, allowing users to adjust the colour of a light to suit a range of different situations at various times throughout the day.

It’s also important to note that many traditional bulbs including a large number of incandescent and halogen bulbs will soon to be made obsolete, as part of the EU’s light bulb phase out initiative. September 2018 marks the final phase of this process, meaning there’s no time like the present to upgrade to LED.

With the right lighting, the future is bright

Improving the lighting within a building isn’t usually as simple as changing a light bulb, but with proper planning and by working with an experienced lighting profesional, the process needn’t be overly disruptive or costly.

A full LED retrofit project is typically completed in strategically planned phases. By first addressing high usage areas, the biggest savings can be realised in the shortest amount of time – any savings achieved from the first phase of implementation can be used to fund the second phase, and so on. What’s more, in order to ensure minimal disturbance to the running of a business, LED retrofits are most commonly completed outside of trading hours, be that overnight or during weekends.

For forward thinking organisations who value the health and happiness of their staff, the quality of lighting should be a top priority. Making the switch to LED can help achieve this goal, as well as providing many other secondary benefits, most notably significant cost reductions over time.


How lighting impacts employee health and productivity