The Importance of Lighting in the Office

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Lighting is often forgotten in modern office environments, as we look to update tech, software and layouts. Over time, poor lighting can increase fatigue and eye strain. With some simple adjustments, you can eliminate this common source of headaches.

What are the risks?

Computer use comes with a number of risk factors for the development of vision problems. With the advent of the computer age, and its use in the office increasing particularly over the last 20 years – the human eye was simply not designed for prolonged exposure to computer screens.

Equally, the lighting conditions in your office can increase these problems generally associated with spending a lot of time in front of a computer.

In 2013, Spanish researchers confirmed that damage to your retina by LED technology from computer screens, mobiles, TV and some traffic lights is permanent. Dr. Celia Sanchez Ramos pointed out that once damaged, the retina cannot be replaced and can never regrow.

Alarming words in the modern-age of almost ubiquitous use of such technology.

Closer to home, Dr. Jim Kokkinakis of The Eye Practice, was referenced in a Daily Telegraph article outlining the "enormous" increase in those complaining of eye discomfort associated with screen-time.

What can be done to minimise the impact of poor lighting conditions coupled with prolonged periods of computer use?

Develop a lighting checklist (some examples)

  • Do I experience glare near my line of sight?
  • Are desk and equipment surfaces gloss or matte?
  • Do the windows have blinds/curtains?
  • Do I have enough light to complete my tasks?
  • Avoid transitioning too often from extreme light and dark
  • Are there any annoying reflections in my office environment?
  • How well-placed is the local lighting?
  • Do the lights flicker? Or is the illumination steady?
  • Have I eliminated the shadows?
  • Are the desklamps covered to diffuse the light?

The Importance of Lighting

Proper lighting can reduce fatigue and headaches. Though too little or too much light can be an issue, and the presence of glare and reflection play a bit part in eye discomfort. Considering that people receive 85% of their information through their sense of sight, you can see how eye strain can lead to loss of concentration, headaches and worse.

What can I do to improve my office lighting?

  • Place your monitor to the side of the light source not directly underneath
  • Avoid having the screen facing the office windows
  • Avoid facing the office windows yourself
  • Avoid glare and reflection by tilting the top of your monitor forward and cover with an anti-glare screen
  • Clinical optometrists often suggest the 20/20/20 rule. That is, after 20 minutes of computer use, look at something 20 feet (6 metres) away for at least 20 seconds
  • Clean your monitor regularly and correctly
  • Control the natural light from your windows with curtains, tinting or blinds

Looking for an ergonomics checklist? Try this page by Ergonomics in Australia.

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