How to select the right light for a productive workplace environment

Most people who have ever worked in an office environment agree that insufficient light can make you strain your eyes, make you tire fast and causes headaches. Also, it’s bad for your eyesight.
Right light for a healthy and productive workplace environment goes beyond simply providing light that is bright enough for reading. Colour of the light is not something people always think of but it can have a large impact.  A wrong tone can cause tiredness or vice verse anxiousness. Light becomes an especially important consideration on supporting your employees health when workplace has limited or no access to natural light.

P. R Mills et al. 2007 studied a shift-working call centre to investigate the effect of newly developed fluorescent light sources with a high correlated colour temperature (17000 K) upon the well-being, functioning and work performance of employees. Improvements were observed in the intervention group in the areas of fatigue (26.9%), alertness (28.2%), daytime sleepiness (31%) and work performance (19.4%),

What colour light to prefer in the office

A light with a yellow hue that can work well at home to relax and make the surrounding more cozy. In a workplace environment, however, white tone is a better choice. Yellow tones appear in nature during the sunset when our body naturally prepares to going to sleep. People working in an environment with yellow light often end up consuming more coffee and still get tired faster since a lot of energy goes to staying awake.

While yellow light are good for creating a relaxed atmosphere at home, in workplace it can make people sleepy.

Ideally light should be considered together with interior design. White light with blue walls may result in extremely unfriendly and gloomy atmosphere that would not encourage productive and stress free atmosphere. Who would want to work in an environment that makes you think of a prison?

How strong should the light be?

LED lamps have become extremely popular in the offices over the recent years. They give clear white light and help save on the energy cost. Unfortunate they can have a downside as well. Too strong light can interfere with our natural day-night pattern. This could cause an increase in anxiety or even insomnia.

It’s not good to be too close to LED lamps and extended exposure is not recommended. Imagine a visit to a brightly lit shopping mall. When customers end up having headaches after only half an hour or one hour in such environment, how do you think the employees working long shifts in this environment would feel?

The light in the office should be clear, but not exaggerated, and resemble the regular daylight. Best choice for a light in an office environment is usually fluorescent bulbs with a temperature of 6500k.

Practical side

Do your research on manufacturer certificates and read the instructions carefully when choosing lamps and bulbs to go with them. When specific light bulbs are used in wrong lamps or handled incorrectly (for example some lights should not be touched by bare hand at all) your investment in bulbs that should last for for 100 000 hours may end up being done in 4 000 hours.

If you don’t have a say in the choice of lamps in your work environment, there are still things you can do yourself to handle long days in artificial light better. Make the best of the times you don’t need to stay in the office. Go out of the building for your lunch break for example. Try to spend as much time outside as possible.


  • If possible, try to have as much natural light in the work environment as possible.
  • Best light is clear but not exaggerated and resembles daylight. Best bulbs for an office environment are usually fluorescent, 6500k bulbs.
  • Provide adjustable desk lamps for the convenience of your employees. Make sure they have minimum glare. Too bright light has been related to various workplace related health issues such as hyperactivity or insomnia.
  • For office walls prefer a natural lighter tone. Neutrality is the key here, avoid too bright or too dark. Office is a place where different people work together and neutral is the surest way to go.
  • Pick the right type of light bulbs to the lamps you have in the office and make sure they are handled correctly.


The effect of high correlated colour temperature office lighting on employee wellbeing and work performance. Peter R Mills, Susannah C Tomkins and Luc JM Schlangen. Journal of Circadian Rhythms20075:2 . ©  Mills et al. 2007

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