Did you know your office is, literally, making you sick? And no, it’s got nothing to do with an employee you can’t stand or bad coffee in the break room. Unexpected elements in your office are actually detrimental to your health — in particular, the office lighting.
You might not notice, but office light fixtures (particularly cheaper or older light fixtures) could actually be causing a number of health issues for you and your employees. Here’s a look at common health issues and the possible underlying culprit along with three ways to improve your company’s office lighting system.
Eye Strain and Migraine Headaches
Although it happens too fast for our eyes to see it, fluorescent lights are actually constantly flickering. Prolonged exposure to these lights can cause eye strain. Combine that with staring at a computer screen for 8 hours a day and you’ve got a recipe for a migraine. If you ever left the office at 5pm and had blurry vision and a headache, now you know why.
Stress and Anxiety
Work is stressful enough, the last thing you need is for your office lighting system to contribute to that stress. The problem is, sunlight provides us with a full spectrum light, helping us regulate our bodies’ day-night cycle (i.e., known as the circadian rhythm.). Low quality lighting doesn’t provide us with a full spectrum, which messes with our hormones. This causes stress and in some cases can lead to anxiety and even panic attacks.
Think poor lighting only affects you when you’re in the office? If you find yourself tossing and turning at night, it may be due to your office lighting. Light affects melatonin, a hormone which helps regulate sleep. And when you don’t get enough of it (as is usually the case with bad office lighting), you could be losing sleep. And no sleep leads to a whole slew of other problems!
Poor office lighting can lead to more accidents around the office, such as slip and falls, or traffic accidents in the parking lot. If you’re the property owner you could even be found liable in such a case. And those aren’t the only type of injuries that can occur. Bad lighting may force you to sit in an uncomfortable position in order to see the computer screen, causing back and neck issues.
More Sick Days, Less Productive Employees
So, what do all these headaches, accidents and back injuries lead to? Less productive employees taking more sick days. While you might not think bad lighting can have that profound of an effect on a company, check out this example: a U.S Post Office in Reno Nevada did a complete overhaul of their lighting system, including adding windows to allow more natural light to enter the facility. The post office was able to boost revenue over $500,000 per year after improving their lighting system.
Improve Office Lighting In 3 Simple Steps
So, what can your office do to improve poor office lighting? Consider these three steps:
Replace older light bulbs and fixtures.
Fluorescent lights are cheap, which make them the obvious choice for property owners and office managers, but today there are more options out there. For example, “warm white” CFLs can help save your eyes, and reduce the likelihood of headaches. Plus CFLs are energy efficient, saving even more money and reducing your office’s carbon footprint.
Use a desk lamp rather than an overhead light.
Why is it that overheard lighting is the norm in most offices, when it’s so bad for you? Studies have shown that “task lighting” like what you would get from a desk lamp, provides optimal visual conditions. Try getting yourself a small desk lamp and if possible, turn off overhead lights.
Let the sunshine in.
Let in as much natural light as possible. If you are not near a window, try hanging mirrors to reflect light, and painting the office a soft white color to brighten spaces. If those options aren’t available, take frequent five minute breaks outdoors.
Samy Mounas is the co-founder of Gold Star Electrical, a residential & commercial electrical company serving New York City, Long Island, & Westchester county. Follow Golf Star Electrical on Facebook and Twitter.