Lighting in the office – what to pay attention to: Not only ergonomic furnishing and comfortable ambience contribute to work being productive and efficient and to a healthy workplace in office, but also lighting is a decisive factor.

Both lighting in general and flexible lighting based on the according job are important. Latter one must be adapted to the respective task with the appropriate lighting. Let’s have a look on what to pay attention to regarding the office lighting.

Overview on the most important facts on office lighting

  • Illumination at the desk: minimum 500 lux
  • Yet even better are 750 or 1.000 lux
  • LED colour temperature should be 5,600 kelvins
  • For VDU work dim light is ideal
  • When working on documents direct light is most appropriate.
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Our infographics on office lighting illustrates the most important terms.

An appropriate lighting in the office is important

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Much daylight from the side and lighting from above make a well illuminated office.

Our brain receives a million of information a day which need to be processes within split seconds. About 80% of this information is received due to visual stimuli.

Thus, the health of our eyes should matter in the first place. The need of an appropriate lighting in order to work productive and relaxed is especially important for anyone working several hours daily at the office desk or monitor.

Working multiple hours at the computer with a lighting inadequate or too bright can quickly become too exhausting and will get you tired. It may even cause headaches and eye irritation.

On the other hand, appropriate lighting in the office is definitively co-responsible for the employee’s motivation and performance. So better not leave this issue to chance but rather plan a concept of lighting carefully.

How office lighting affects the performance

Bürobeleuchtung: Das Foto zeigt ein helles Büro

Office lighting really makes a difference! We work more efficient in a bright office. | Picture: Africa-Studio /

Lighting has a great influence on the human biorhythm. This can easily be tied to our improved wellbeing when we enjoy the warming light of the sun.

According to the scientific point of view, light has particular effects especially on the circadian rhythm. We have particular cells in our eyes, named ganglion cells, which register short-wave light in the morning with special sensitivity. As a result, the release of melatonin in our brain gets prevented. Instead, cortisol gets released in our body which benefits concentration and causes staying awake.

Thus, in the afternoon, natural lighting already changes as sunrays are long-wave and provide a high ratio of red light. By this means, the endogenous release of melatonin gets restarted and processes in the body slow down gradually.

The result is that we become more comfortable, tired, and look forward to a calming evening.

This for sure shows that the appropriate lighting can contribute much to being productive, concentrated, and efficient at the office. Developing a properly concept from which all employees will benefit is necessary.

Using daylight effectively – tips for aligning offices

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Working at the monitor in a bright office is a pleasure.

Bright office suffused with daylight

Although modern, artificial office lighting can already provide a good imitation of sunlight, it can by no means replace it completely. Therefore, it is always an advantage to be able to use as much natural daylight as possible in an office! You should already consider this aspect when you are looking for the right office space.

In other words, the best light is still direct light coming from a window and, ideally, the desk is placed at a right angle to it.

Current statistics show that about 40% of all electricity costs incurred in German companies are due to office lighting only. An office should rather be located higher up in a building and have large, bright windows that let in plenty of daylight – preferably facing southeast or southwest.

Greater light in the office without lamps

  • Using the appropriate wall colour can also help a lot! Light-coloured walls reflect daylight and artificial light much better and thus distribute the light throughout the entire room.
  • It is also important that the bright light on the screen and the natural ambient light do not contrast too much with each other – this would tire our eyes much faster. The same phenomenon can be seen when we watch TV or work on the computer in the dark.
  • Another advantage is that equipment and surfaces should be matt, if possible. The same applies to the computer screen. If you pay attention to this when buying office equipment, you will benefit in the long run.
  • Do not place your desk directly in front of the window, but at a right angle to it. This way, the light can fall onto the work surface from the side, and you avoid having to constantly avoid disturbing areas of shadow on the desk while working.


How to improve office lighting: useful tips

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Office lighting via LED panels that produce a soft, consistent light.

If the office is too dark and has too little daylight, new lamps should be installed. However, bear in mind that these will often be in use all day, especially during the winter months. It should be obvious that this will lead to high electricity costs.

Would you like to have your office completely newly illuminated? Then you should consider the following:

  • The lamps should always be installed in such a way that no one is dazzled.
  • In most offices, general lighting is provided by recessed or surface-mounted ceiling luminaires that also have specular reflectors so that the light does not glare downwards. These systems are particularly suitable for larger offices with workplaces at different locations in the room.
  • Install the lighting parallel to the window on the ceiling and equip it with an integrated dimmer so that the intensity can be adjusted depending on the amount of daylight.
  • If the office room has a higher ceiling, the respective light source should be able to provide more power. This is because the greater the distance between the work area and the light source, the less light reaches the work area.
  • Ceiling lights have the great advantage that they distribute the light throughout the room excellently. Not only do they emit it directly downwards, but at the same time they distribute it throughout the room so that the entire office is fully illuminated.
  • As a general rule, illuminance at desks should not be less than 500 lux. For all other areas in the office room, a level of at least 300 lux is considered ideal.

Lighting for smaller and lower office

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An LED floor lamp that additionally brightens up the workplace if required.

If rooms are smaller or have a lower ceiling height of less than 3 metres, it is more appropriate to install a system of rods, cables, or rails. These have several spotlights attached to them, which can be directed to any area in the room.

This provides direct light where it is needed, and the alignment can of course be changed at any time.

To save electricity costs, it may also be profitable to integrate indirect ambient lighting into the room. A good and modern way to do so are uplights. They cast light in the direction of the ceiling and walls, from where it is emitted into the entire room, creating uniform lighting.

It is important here that these uplights are installed in such a way that they are not in direct view and do not dazzle.

Another option are downlights that are mounted on the ceiling, with the walls then reflecting their light. A side benefit is that posters, paintings, and other highlights on the walls can be brought into focus very well.

Experts also recommend the integration of so-called cove lighting. They are mounted on the walls close to the ceiling and their light is reflected into the room through the ceilings. The cove often contains special light strips equipped with energy-saving LEDs. This light is both bright and uniform as well as pleasant to work with because it does not dazzle. At the same time, it is extremely efficient.

Probably the most modern way of integrating indirect lighting into an office, however, are so-called OLED panels. By now, they are available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and generate a glare-free and very soft light that authentically reproduces the colours in the room.

Lighting conditions at the monitor

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A desk lamp provides more light at a workplace with monitors.

Overall office lighting should always be accompanied by individual lighting for each workstation because it ensures that each employee enjoys ideal lighting conditions at his/her desk.

Not every task requires the same lighting! The desk luminaire should therefore have different settings and be adjustable in terms of both direction and brightness:

  • For working at a monitor, dimmed light is ideal
  • whilst bright, direct light is best if working on documents.
  • An additional solution is to install indirect office lighting behind the screen using, for example, a free-standing luminaire made of satin glass or opaque, glare-free fabric, which distributes the warm light around the workstation and thus ensures ideal lighting conditions.

Although the technical regulations for workplaces prescribe an illuminance of no less than 500 lux, there is still plenty of room for improvement. Studies show that pleasant and productive work is only made possible with a luminous intensity of 1,000 lux.

It is also advisable to combine this illuminance with light sources – such as LEDs or halogen spotlights – whose colour temperature is at least 5,600 kelvins. Also distinguish between cool white and warm white, as the latter is much more pleasant to work with and creates a relaxed atmosphere that contributes to productivity.

The post "Lighting in the office – what to pay attention to" written by:

Sophie Voigtländer

Expertin für Bürogestaltung und Ergonomie

Sophie joined deskonia at the beginning of 2021. Since then, she is mainly responsible for translating all kinds of texts into English.

She studied International Communication and Translation.

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