The Impact of Light on Employee Productivity


Thought all you needed to boost productivity in the office was plug in the new coffee machine and watch the pace skyrocket? Nice try, but there are many other factors impacting on the speed and calibre of work being done, and light is kind of a biggie…

Funnily enough, it’s also one that employers often choose to overlook. Why? Well, we don’t get it either to be honest, especially since it has been proven that the lighting in the workplace has a significant impact on the worker’s concentration, efficiency and general work productivity.

You don’t need to just take our word for it, either. Light has been the subject of plenty of psychological research that backs up our expertise.

Strategic, stylish lighting at the newly finished LeoVegas offices.

If you’re doing it properly, it’s actually important to consider the kind of lighting in question, and if it fits with the work being carried out in the space.

Let’s take a closer look at your options here…

Artificial lighting in the workplace

In an office where the majority of work is done on computers, light is important to relieve the effect of the brightness of the computer screen on the eyes of the workers. This could easily be achieved with artificial lighting but there are some things to consider.

Firstly, there are two approaches to artificial light; dim light and high-intensity light.

Dim lights have a tendency to cause drowsiness, a reduction in productivity levels and straining of the eyes unnecessarily, which can lead to headaches and long term eye issues. Dim lighting also isn’t great for motivation.

On the flip side, high-intensity lighting also affects workers in its own way. Because of the harshness, high-intensity lighting – like fluorescent and halogen lights – makes it harder to focus the eye, which can cause workers to get a headache. In fact, this type of light has actually been identified as one of the major causes of migraines, and anyone who’s suffered through a migraine will know that it’s certainly a bit of a productivity killer!

A mix of natural and artificial lighting is part of a strategy we created for Gama Healthcare.

Natural lighting in the workplace

So, if there are pitfalls to artificial lighting, why is natural lighting so much better for us? And is there a balance to be found?

With the average UK adult spending so much of their waking hours indoors and a large percentage of that at work, it’s more important than ever that employers prioritise staff wellbeing, perhaps by selecting office space based on access to natural light.

1. Daylight actually helps you sleep better at night

There’s a strong correlation between the daylight exposure a person gets and their sleep quality. This is because of a link between light and circadian rhythms (AKA your body clock) which is what releases hormones determining your natural sleep cycle of relaxation and stimulation. Not receiving enough natural daylight during the working day causes major disruption to this rhythm.

2. Natural light and mental health

Based on the above theory, it follows that natural light can impact mental health too. After all, none of us is at our best without quality sleep for a prolonged period of time.

Depression, bipolar disorder and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are all linked to disruption to the circadian rhythm. Research also shows that natural light helps people to be generally much happier, calmer and less susceptible to the impact of stress.

3. Natural light and physical health

Vitamin D deficiency can be damaging to an employee’s physical health too. The body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin.

It’s essential for a number of core bodily functions, including strengthening the immune system, maintaining body weight and ensuring healthy cognitive function. Deficiencies have been linked to increased employees sickness and therefore absence.

4.Natural light saves your business money

Choosing a workplace with enough natural light will absolutely save you money. Seems like a bold statement but usually, a large amount of energy (read: money) is spent on controlling the lighting and temperature of a space.

If your office is naturally flooded with light during the day, it follows that you’ll be saving money on heating, air conditioning and artificial lighting strategies.

Cutting down on your energy usage also reduces environmental impact, so it’s a great move towards sustainability and a Net Zero office, as per our previous post.

By opting for natural lighting, you can not only save energy bills but can also increase the productivity of your employees, and thereby improve the overall outcome of the business too.

Plenty of glass to make the most of natural light for Millican Law.

The positioning of office furniture

During the day, the easiest, safest and most advisable option is to position the workspace in a way that maximises natural light.

Okay, so you can’t move your whole office building into a better position but, to avoid the adverse effect of artificial lighting and to enjoy the positive effect of natural light, this can be as simple as some savvy interior design and furniture placement.

For example, glass walls will share natural light around the available space, increasing exposure, and it’s advisable to arrange the office furniture in a way that faces your team opposite the artificial lighting. This is because it reduces direct contact with the lighting, which could otherwise cause workers to get eye strain and headaches, and helps them to better see their screens.

It’s also useful to have the right office furniture, such as ergonomic chairs or standing desks to ensure they’re at the best height for the light available at any given time of day.

More use of glass partition walls for our work with Ripe Insurance, separating areas off but still allowing the light through the space.

Sounds intense…

Not for us! Not to show off, but this kind of thing is our speciality. We know how to use artificial lighting to your advantage, and we’re big fans of prioritising lighting, while at the same time focusing on your needs, those of your employees, and saving you money in the long term.

With our combined years of expertise, we’re used to making the most of an existing space, working with details such as lighting, in order to maximise employee productivity and wellbeing with clever commercial interior design and smart lighting choices and strategies. If it seems like something you’d like a little backup with, we’d be only too happy to help.

Get in touch with the Ben Johnson Interiors team today to benefit from our in-depth knowledge of workplace refits and redesign.