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January 8, 2018

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Lighting in the workplace

Employees’ tasks are becoming increasingly varied, and purely desk-­based work is often mixed with creative, communicative tasks. Global lighting group Zumtobel, in association with the Fraunhofer IAO Stuttgart, has gathered some interesting insights on office lighting from a global user study.


The studies involving over 2000 participants have showed that 77% of people prefer neutral white lighting colours (4000–5000K).  More than 60% of the participants said they would prefer to work with an illuminance of 800 lx or more. However, normative planning is limited to only 500 lx in offices. 


The results highlight the importance of office lighting and focus on human needs — both as a factor creating immediate added value and in order to increase the attractiveness of working environments. Also to strengthen the employees’ loyalty towards the company. The findings are expected to help industry professionals improve their understanding of the different needs of various groups of employees. It is also expected to help increase the perceived lighting quality to a much greater extent, beyond existing limits and standards in future lighting projects.


Treating light in an office space as part of a holistic lighting ecosystem means that it can be actively used to improve employee wellbeing and boost creative potential. In the set of questions regarding layout of their workplace, as many as 30% of study participants indicated poor alignment of their workstation with respect to the window; 82% of survey participants indicated that they prefer a lighting solution with combined direct/indirect components.


However, only 38% have this type of lighting solution in their workplace. Moreover, study participants with direct/indirect lighting above their workstation had a much more positive assessment of their wellbeing than participants with purely direct lighting. The survey revealed that very few offices offer employees the chance to adjust the lighting to meet their individual needs. 81% of survey participants reported limited or often no opportunity to control the lighting situation at their workplace. However, the better the options to adjust the lighting, the more satisfied the employees are and the higher they rate their wellbeing.


LEDs were most favourably rated by the survey participants. As regards the preferences for colour temperatures in the office, these are distributed heterogeneously between 3000 and 7000K. However, the users’ preference for the range between 4000 and 5000K is by far the most marked. Due to the uniform distribution, differentiation by the specific user groups does not make sense. Almost 57% of all employees stated that they are not able to adjust their office lighting to their individual needs and variable work settings, or are only able to do so to a limited extent. Restricted user access and insufficient options for adjustment correlate with a clearly poorer assessment of lighting quality and wellbeing. Study participants that are able to control their own lighting also had a higher assessment of their personal wellbeing.


What is remarkable is that in the interactive part of the study, more than 60% of survey participants chose illuminance levels of 800 lx or higher. This result exceeds the recommendations in the currently applicable standards and guidelines with their respective minimum levels for the lighting of computer workstations. Independent of the season, the lighting remains constantly switched on in many offices throughout the day. 72% of the study participants said that the lighting in their office is operated for in excess of six hours per day over wintertime. Almost one-third of the people surveyed said this is also true in spring and summer.


Both natural daylight and artificial light affect humans on three distinct levels. Light supports perception in visual terms, light plays an emotional role by influencing our moods and light is biologically significant because it is directly connected to a wide range of physiological processes. Over the course of 24 hours, light is a subtle companion, meeting the diverse demands of a modern life in leisure time and in the workplace, indoor and outdoors. Optimum light is just as important for health, motivation and performance as it is for the completion of specific tasks.


Discovery of a new kind of receptor in the human eye has added a fresh dimension to our understanding of the effect that light has on wellbeing, mood and general health. It was only shortly after the start of the new millennium that light-sensitive ganglion cells on the retina, which incorporate the light-absorbing pigment melanopsin, started to appear on the radar of mainstream science. The ganglion cells containing melanopsin have their highest sensitivity in the low-wavelength spectral range and are therefore particularly receptive to blue light. These discoveries have served to emphasise the key role played by natural light during the course of the day and the year, for both humans and nature. The elementary relationship with nature is not just reflected in these physical connections.


Social psychologists at the University of Bretagne-Sud in France have gone as far as suggesting that the weather situation has an impact on human behaviour. When the sun is shining, we are more open, more confident and more likely to share our telephone number with someone than when the weather is dull and wet. It is also interesting to note that even something as simple as a good weather forecast has a positive effect on the size of the tip that people leave. The shining sun or the pouring rain can therefore have a direct influence on social behaviour and issues of personal finance.


Today, people in industrialised countries spend around 80% of the day inside — with reduced exposure to the essential dynamics of natural light. Lighting technology innovation in recent years has made major strides in terms of generation, distribution and control, greatly expanding the raft of possibilities offered by artificial lighting design. Active Light from Zumtobel opens up this potential and takes into account the special relationship between humans and light. Natural light is the model for Active Light, which blends subtle changes in light colour, intensity and direction at the right time and for the right activity, helping put the crucial lighting dynamics back into everyday life in a range of different applications.


In this way, Active Light is said to provide optimal support for the human biorhythm. The default illuminance of 500 lx at the workplace stipulated by the standards is often perceived as insufficient, demonstrating how the lighting level should be increased for specific activities or at certain times of day. Zumtobel’s technology like tunableWhite can integrate changing light colours into the lighting scenario as a highly effective design element.


That means cold-white lighting moods until early afternoon, followed by lower-intensity warmer light hues as evening approaches. New possibilities in terms of digitalisation and controls also open up further opportunities, helping the light of the future automatically adapt to particular tasks and respond spontaneously to gestures and groups of people.



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