During the past month, I’ve been busy redecorating and rearranging my home office. I spend most of my time there after all, so it needs to be conducive to productivity. For all my planning, there seems to be an aspect of my home office that I’ve largely ignored — the lighting.
According to a study from the Light Right Consortium, “People who are more satisfied with their lighting rate the space as more attractive, are happier, and are more comfortable and satisfied with their environment and work.” As far as home office improvements go, investing your time on proper lighting seems like it’s worth it.
Here are some pointers to get started on a well-lit office:
Increase amounts of natural light. The best way to light a home office is through natural light, not only because it’s brighter and more even than artificial lighting, but also because it’s free. I’m glad that my home office seems to do well in this area, because one wall is a glass sliding door to an open veranda, while another wall has a large window.
If you don’t have the benefit of natural light in your office, it seems like common sense to compensate for it by using bulbs that replicate daylight (full-spectrum bulbs). But research shows that such bulbs only make a difference if you’re performing tasks that require fine discrimination of color (if you do print design work, for example).
Opt for indirect lighting. Don’t imitate corporate cubicle farms by installing direct, parabolic lighting. Professors at Cornell University conducted a study (pictures here) that showed the negative effects of these lights in an office. These lights were bothersome and made the subjects’ eyes tire and lose focus more easily. Apparently, direct parabolic lights also lessens productivity (as self-reported by employees). For the effect on your eyes alone, it’s better to opt for lensed indirect lighting for your ceiling fixtures.
Plan your furniture layout well. The first thing you have to consider when rearranging furniture is preventing reflected glare on your monitor.
I mentioned above that I have a lot of natural light flowing into my office. This presents a disadvantage, too, because too much direct natural light produces reflected glare on the screen. This lessens my options for monitor placement. My solution to this is to place translucent blinds on the windows to diffuse the sunlight a bit.
Here are other things you need to consider for your layout:
- If you have other glossy or shiny surfaces in the office, make sure that any reflected glare they have is out of your line of sight.
- Use large furniture such as shelves and dividers to maximize or block bright sources of light, depending on your needs.
- For offices that are openly connected to other rooms (no wall), include the lighting in the other room in your plans since it affects the lighting quality in your office.
- Paint your walls in bright colors. Just make sure that they’re not too bright or glossy, producing glare.
Properly space your light fixtures. When planning your fixtures, remember that your entire office should be uniformly lit. Watch out for areas that might be too dark or too bright. Avoid placing fixtures within your usual line of sight, and don’t install them within three inches of a wall (they’ll create sharp areas of shadow and light).
Have as much control as you can. If you can afford it, install dimmers and other methods to control brightness. When used properly, these devices can conserve energy and allow you to adjust your lighting as natural light changes throughout the day. Also, if you’ll be using desk lamps, make sure that you can adjust them on three planes.
Although improving lighting quality in the home office sounds like a lot of work, it’s much better than having a building’s existing lights forced on you. I hope the points I’ve raised above have been — pardon the pun — enlightening.
How well did you plan for the lighting in your home office? What effect does it have on your work?