Light matters: the ergonomics of light.

Jonathan Rush

Jonathan Rush, Partner

A guide to home working.

Almost all of us have recently had to decamp from a purpose-built office and set up a new working environment in our homes.

Like me, you may be feeling some of the effects on your body, your alertness and your wellbeing.
I’m sure we have all considered our working spaces in terms of our comfort and posture (and ability to separate from family if needed!) but I’m pretty sure very few of us have considered if the lighting we receive in our new ‘workplace’ will support good, productive working.

Sore eyes, tiredness and lack of concentration are some of the physical impacts that bad lighting can have on us. But light can also affect our sleep and our mood. Good quality light exposure during the day can support healthy sleep, calibrate our circadian rhythm, and enhance our mood and happiness.

In these emotionally straining times, it is vital we consider our lighting not just for work but for our emotional wellbeing.

Here are my six simple tips for a healthy and productive home working environment.

1. Get some morning daylight.

Take a walk (observing social distancing of course), eat breakfast facing a window (open windows if possible so you can get some UV/IR etc) or go in the garden for at least 30 minutes every morning.

Saturation of bright, full spectrum natural light wakes us up, re-sets our circadian system and increases our alertness. It’s the best way to set you up for the day ahead and can replace the light exposure you naturally received from the average daily commute to work.

2. Clean your windows.

Apologies for adding another job to your list, but you want to get as much natural light into your house as possible! You will be amazed how much dirt and grime can build up on glass and reduce the amount of daylight you receive, so if you can safely clean both the inside and outside or your windows then do so.

3. Sit facing a window.

Studies have shown that people who sit next to windows in offices have 46 minutes more sleep on average per night than those who don’t. Sleep is the gateway to good mental and physical health. Receiving daylight throughout the day direct to your eye regulates circadian rhythms and you might be lucky enough to get a view, which is great for your wellbeing,

Any daylight is better than none so don’t worry if you don’t have views of rolling hills and an open sky.

Be careful of not straining at your screen and of harsh direct sunlight as this can cause discomfort.

At a time when we cannot meet in person the ability to show our facial expressions, or non-verbal communication, is invaluable and quality light is vital for this Daylight is a great source to show our faces in VC – it is bright, soft and really good at rendering our skin tones.

4. Look up!

Remember to take regular breaks, change your field of vision and give your eyes a break by looking at items in the near distance or scanning the room. Try taking 10 mins break to look out of the window and refresh yourself with daylight and a view of nature (if possible).

5. Think about artificial light.

If you don’t have access to any daylight and cannot move to space that does, you may need to bring in artificial light to make your space brighter. You need soft but bright light so try adding indirect light using ceilings or walls to bounce light onto your working space. Try to use cooler (whiter over 3000K) light sources as opposed to warm (2700K) light.

There is plenty of research available that suggests people who can select lighting to their own preferences are happier, more engaged, more productive and have greater concentration than those with a lighting condition dictated upon them.

You can design the lighting of your homeworking space to your preferences. Avoid bright artificial light sources and try not to work in the dark.

Here is an example of how small changes can have a large impact. 

6. Learn. 

Now is a great time to start learning about how you like to work. What lighting conditions do you prefer and are these met by normal office lighting standards? Do you get enough daylight throughout the day? We will undoubtedly discover that we can work effectively, productively and safely in our homes with tailored lighting designed to our tastes and preferences. I for one would like this newfound knowledge to be used to inform the lighting of our future workspaces.

You can watch my full video below!