The Science Behind Workplace Lighting

By Sylvia Melena, M.A.
 

Workplace Lighting

© Beboy – stock.adobe.com

Great working conditions, including effective workplace lighting, increase employee motivation, productivity, and performance.
 
The Seven Elements of Employee Motivation
 
The research of Krüger & Rootman focused on the following seven elements of employee motivation:
 

  1. Interesting and Meaningful Work
  2. Employee Recognition and Feedback
  3. Employee Involvement (Empowerment)
  4. Working Conditions
  5. Strong Leaders
  6. Company Policies and Environment
  7. Compensation [1]

 
In previous posts we reviewed the first three elements. This post will touch on Element 4 – Working Conditions.
 
Element 4 – Working Conditions
 
Krüger & Rootman’s research involving 400 small businesses found a positive correlation between working conditions and employee satisfaction and commitment, which influence employee motivation.   Working conditions encompass a broad array of factors. In their evaluation of the impact of working conditions on employee motivation, Krüger & Rootman addressed the workplace, equipment, work hours, and the leader-employee relationship.[2]  To highlight the significant role working conditions play on employee motivation, productivity, and performance, this post will touch on the workplace with a special focus on lighting.
 
The Workplace
 
The workplace is a very broad category and encompasses numerous physical, psychological, and emotional aspects of the work environment.  Physical aspects include such things as the building, floor plan, space configuration, temperature, air quality, noise, lighting, amenities, special accommodations, equipment, interior design, aesthetic appeal, and much more.  The physical aspects of the workplace also influence the psychological and emotional needs of employees.  All of these aspects require individual attention to gain a better understanding of the role they play in creating a great workplace. For example, let’s briefly take a look at lighting.
 
Lighting
 
At first glance, having adequate workplace lighting seems fairly simple. However, a closer look at the science behind lighting strategy reveals that there is a lot more to it than meets the ordinary eye.  When planned and implemented strategically, workplace lighting can have a positive impact on employee health, increase levels of efficiency, reduce sick leave usage, and improve productivity.[3]
 
According to medical science, almost all human physiological and psychological functions follow a tempo that is directly linked to the daily and seasonal cycles of natural light.  The human brain has a biological clock that is synchronized to daylight as it is received through the eyes. Natural light is so important to body functions that it controls body temperature, heart rate, mood, fatigue and alertness, which affect workplace productivity and performance levels. Thus, if not carefully planned, indoor workplace lighting conditions can unintentionally desynchronize employees’ biological clocks, which can be detrimental to productivity and performance.[4]
 
However, natural light alone is not the only important source of workplace lighting.  While employees are more likely to prefer natural light and a view of the outdoors from their work spaces, natural light may also have some disadvantages.  Light entering the work space from the outdoors sometimes causes glare and other issues that affect visibility.  Therefore, optimal workplace lighting conditions are those which achieve a sound balance between natural and artificial lighting sources. They are also implemented strategically based on the tasks performed in the space, building limitations,  “the human experience (visual and thermal comfort, health, orientation in space and time, connections to the outdoor),”[5] and the special needs of the employees occupying the space, including ergonomic needs, workplace accommodations, and more.
 
Like anything else in management, there is no cookie cutter approach to achieving optimal workplace lighting.   Due to organizational limitations and constraints, it is not always feasible to address all the aspects of lighting strategy.  However, it is important to carefully assess all factors for feasibility and make strategic decisions. Also, employee lighting preferences are not always what is best for the workplace.  Thus, educating employees and managing their expectations plays a key role.
 
Implementing workplace lighting that supports efficiency, productivity and performance requires expertise, planning, and strategy.  Effective workplace lighting is a prime example of why it is vital to create working conditions that are conducive to a great workplace, employee motivation, and top performance.
 
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[1] Krüger, J. & Rootman, C. (2010). How do small business managers influence employee satisfaction and commitment?  Acta Commercii, 10(1). pp. 59 – 72.
Retrieved from http://www.actacommercii.co.za/index.php/acta/article/viewFile/114/114.  Creative Commons License.
 
[2] Krüger & Rootman, 2010.
 
[3] Altomonte, S. (2012). CH2 – lighting and physiology. Construction Economics and Building, 5(2), 40-46. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5130/AJCEB.v5i2.2959.  Creative Commons License.
 
[4] Altomonte, 2012.
 
[5] Altomonte, 2012.
 
[6] Altomonte, 2012.
 

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