The relationship between light and work performance.
During the past months, we have had to move our working habits to a completely different environment and we have had to quickly adapt to its new conditions. This has raised concerns about the health and productivity of our working from home, and has brought to the foreground a number of issues, such as the boundaries between work and personal life, time management and engagement.
According to a report on performance at work released by Philips1, the most useful way to think of productivity is in relation to our wellbeing. Their research findings suggest that the work environment has a significant impact in facilitating a productive state of mind. This reaffirms the importance of considering the design of your workspace, paying particular attention to aspects such as colour, materials and layout. A quintessential element of a work environment that ensures your wellbeing is lighting.
In order to ensure that the light in your workspace is beneficial for optimal performance, it is important to find a balance between two types of light: artificial and natural. Artificial light is known to improve performance by increasing concentration and alertness. However, it may create less pleasant effects as well, such as causing eye strain and decreasing the production of melatonin in the evening2. Natural light, on the other hand, has been proved to be the most beneficial for employees, as research findings suggest that it improves performance by reducing stress and increasing satisfaction while working3.
However, as we are getting closer to the end of the year, the amount of natural light we benefit from during a workday is diminishing by the day. As the rate of Covid-19 infections is increasing and we are preparing to spend even more time indoors, you might be wondering how this might affect your own wellbeing, and whether it could be reflected in your work performance.
Natural light is the most beneficial for employees because it improves performance by reducing stress and increasing satisfaction while working.
If you find yourself wondering how to make the best out of a challenging situation, then you are likely to want to take a look at the 5 suggestions we propose for improving your natural and artificial light while working from home.
1. Change the layout of your furniture
The most important aspect to consider when arranging the layout of your working from home space is the balance between natural light and the shadow it creates. You may want to ensure that the position of your furniture facilitates the pertaining of as much natural light in the room as possible, and furniture can be of great help for this. Tall pieces of furniture should of course be placed away from the window, so as not to obstruct the light. You might want to place your desk close to the window, where the most natural light is guaranteed. In order to avoid the glare effect on your computer screen at particularly sunny times, you could position your desk in perpendicular to the window.
2. Make the most of the natural light available
The best way to create the illusion of a more illuminated space is by having as many elements that reflect the light in the room as possible. This can be done by choosing bright colors for walls and furniture, such as white or light yellow, but also by choosing materials and textures that are not matte, but glossy. Additionally, adding a big mirror can have a big impact in changing the feeling of the room. You want to aim to apply these tips specifically on the walls and areas that natural light is more likely to fall on.
Light is proven to be a key factor of a workspace that facilitates both.
3. Windows that facilitate light
Windows can be of great help when attempting to increase the light available in a room as well. Because they have a direct impact on how much light is allowed in your workspace, you may consider replacing your windows and opting for bigger ones with thinner frames. Additionally, placing your workspace in a room with windows oriented towards the east is beneficial for increasing productivity in the early day. If you prefer working in the afternoon, then you may consider facing the west side instead.
4. Balancing natural and artificial light
During the summer, we are sometimes woken up by the sun in the early hours. As we are approaching winter, that becomes more and more rare, and, on most days, it is a struggle to get much light. Because a good start of the day is often essential in setting the tone for the rest of it, a helpful tip is to turn on the lights when waking up. Due to its effects on increasing alertness, artificial light can have a significant impact when it comes to putting you in the right state of mind for having a productive day with work. Depending on the amount of natural light available, you may also choose to combine the two during the day for optimal effects.
5. Balancing two types of artificial light
As warm and cool light tones affect our moods in different ways, it is important to invest in both and to consider the distinction between them when scheduling a day of work. You might only want to use cool tones, such as blue, during specific times of the day that require you to be highly focused, so as to avoid overworking. In order to ensure a good sleeping pattern, you might also want to use a warm color to illuminate your home in the evenings, such as yellow.
Working from home during the winter can be difficult and our capabilities to adjust to new environments may be tested, both in terms of maintaining our well-being and a good performance at work. Light is proven to be a key factor of a workspace that facilitates both. For this reason, knowing how to expand the benefits of natural light and how to incorporate artificial light is essential.
If you would like to learn more about our tips or if you are wondering how they can be applied to your own home situation, get in touch with us, we would be happy to help.
3. Leather, P., Pyrgas, M., Beale, D., and Lawrence, C. (1998). Windows in the workplace: Sunlight, view, and occupational stress. Environment & Behavior, 30, 739-762