When it comes to workplace hazards, rarely does the mind go to lighting; it is often taken for granted. Consider this: without light from a natural or artificial source, we wouldn’t be able to complete our work. Because lighting plays such an integral role in our ability to produce quality work, it begs consideration when it comes to the different types of lighting and their various effects on workplace wellness.
There are three primary lighting types found in average workplaces. They include, incandescent, fluorescent, and LED (Light-emitting Diodes). Each lighting type has distinct features:
- Incandescent: This lighting source tends to be found in older structures. It is not energy efficient and it emits quite a bit of heat. Despite its energy consumption, incandescent lights are considered to be environmentally friendly, due to their non-use of mercury.
- Fluorescent: Fluorescent lighting is much more energy-efficient than incandescent lighting, and it emits lower amounts of heat. However, the cornerstone of fluorescent lighting is its use of mercury, making it less friendly to the environment.
- LED: LEDs are considered the best option for lighting in workplaces because they use low energy amounts, do not emit heat, and are environmentally friendly. The cost up front to install LED lighting is considered higher, but the long-term investment is considered to yield the best ROI, as LEDs outlast the other lighting sources quite significantly.
Incandescent lights (not to be confused with halogen lights) are being phased out by the Canadian government because of concerns over their inefficient use of energy. Likewise, fluorescent lighting, while cost-effective, is losing favour over concerns that the mercury they contain may leak into the environment if they are not properly disposed of. This leaves LED lighting as the top option for most workplaces. Fluorescent lighting also remains popular and can still be found in many workplaces.
Which Type of Lighting is Best?
The evidence regarding the effect that lighting has on workplace wellness is relatively inconclusive. However, most studies show that better lighting increases productivity and that lighting that is too dim or too harsh reduces it. Regardless if you choose LED or fluorescent lights, the lighting needs to be appropriate to the task.
When it comes to LED lighting, it’s been suggested that it causes more headaches, particularly in migraine sufferers. Fluorescent lighting has also been shown to cause headaches. Is the lighting the cause of a headache, or is it just a by-product of lighting being everywhere? The jury is still out. However, more studies suggest that fluorescent lighting is especially problematic for migraine sufferers. As well, any lighting that creates harmful glare should be addressed, as glare causes headaches and eyestrain.
Let the Sun Shine In
Aside from the artificial light sources discussed above, there remains another very important light source that is often overlooked: natural light from the sun. Eco-business published a study that examined the effects of natural light on office workers. The results were astounding and included:
- Office workers who sat near a window reported 46 more minutes of sleep nightly than those who did not
- Productivity and sales increased 3%-40% among office workers exposed to natural lighting sources
- Creativity increased 15%
- Absenteeism went down 6.5%
The results are not surprising; the study also identifies natural light sources as the number one desired element in workplace designs. If that isn’t making the case for window seating, then perhaps this will: daylight is known to promote human productivity and health potential.
When it comes to workplace wellness initiates, simply opening the blinds seems to have a positive impact.
So, what type of lighting is best? It seems that natural lighting, supplemented with LED artificial lighting is the preferred combination for optimal wellness results. However, where natural light isn’t possible, LED or fluorescent lighting that is appropriate to the task is a suitable alternative.
Written by Jennifer Miller | Curriculum Development Coordinator
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