Casting the Right Light, on Working From Home

Following our last article before Christmas (Happy New Year by the way…..Let’s hope it develops into a far better one than 2020 !), we have received various requests from employers and employees for a little more information specifically related to one of the basic physical elements of the Foundations of the WFH Office, that of Lighting.

Whilst some companies pay particular attention to this vital area within a conventional office set up, many do not. General lighting is provided as part of the standard working environment, often as a ‘one type suits all’ setting, irrespective of the roles carried out by individuals or where they are located within the office. With many employees moving to WFH on a permanent or hybrid basis, understanding more about the legal obligations and the moral requirements, could be invaluable to organisations of all sizes.

Problems Caused by Poor Lighting

The ‘one type suits all’ approach to lighting may be okay for some businesses but for many, a more considered approach can pay significant dividends. Bad lighting is known to be associated with a range of physical and mental ill-health effects including:

  • Headaches

  • Blurred vision

  • Irritated eyes

  • Eye Fatigue

  • Neck & Back pain

  • Stress

  • SAD (Seasonal Affect Disorder)

Almost all of these will undoubtably lead to reduced productivity levels but potentially also to sickness, absenteeism and poor staff retention and so providing solutions is vital for the benefit of both parties.

The types of lighting fall into two main categories, natural and artificial. In a conventional office, subject to its size, ensuring all employees have access to natural light is almost impossible for only those located relatively close to windows will benefit. This takes on even more importance when you consider that during the winter months, some employees may also commute to and from work in the dark, potentially leading to Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD) for some.

Therefore, the importance of appropriately positioned quality artificial lighting cannot be overestimated.

A Few Lighting Facts

  1. In the UK, there are no statutory workplace lighting levels. The Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare - Regulation 8, simply requires that lighting at work is "suitable and sufficient" and that, where possible workplaces are lit by natural light. There are Approved Codes of Practice (ACOPs) which are recommendations, but these are not mandatory. These mention elements such as: - Lighting should be sufficient to enable people to work, use facilities without experiencing eye-strain - Where necessary, artificial lighting should be provided at individual workstations - Where possible, position workstations to take advantage of the natural daylight available.

  2. 80% of employees said that good lighting in their workspace was important to them according to a 2018 online survey of 2,000 desk-based office workers by office supplies company Staples. It also highlighted that 40% were having to deal with uncomfortable lighting every day and a third (32%) said better lighting would make them happier at work.

  3. 3% of the UK population are believed to suffer from SAD for around 3 to 4 months of the year. Studies of bright light therapy show that 15-30 minutes of exposure to daylight is enough to trigger endorphins ‘happy hormones’, that lift mood, improve concentration and aid sleep. Research also shows that this type of regular exposure to daylight reduces signs of dementia, lifts mood and improves overall health in older adults. Just exposure to natural light is enough, it doesn’t have to be direct sunlight.


Lighting Recommendations and Solutions

Meeting the regulations for employees within a WFH zone can potentially be easier to implement and manage than in a conventional office as each situation is specific to the localised environment. However, for the employer, it is likely to be somewhat difficult to assess each individual scenario and so a good starting point as a minimum, is to offer employees guidance and advice on how to best set up their lighting and what products to consider so as to avoid the problems mentioned above.

The lighting requirements of each WFH zone will differ subject to whether it is in a dedicated Garden Office, a dedicated room within the home or a space within a dual function room and so the individual will be largely responsible for assessing what their set up requires and to match this with the employers allocated budget.

We would suggest providing employers with guidance on some or all of the following aspects.

Help Reduce Eyestrain by recommending employees:

  • Consider the type of localised lighting at the workstation and its positioning (avoiding glare onto screens and keyboards or casting unnecessary shadows)

  • Consider fitting light units with appropriate types of lamp that are conducive to wellbeing

  • Set up workstations close to windows where they can be exposed to natural light whilst working (but avoiding natural light glare on screens)

  • Take occasional breaks outside (coffee/tea or lunch breaks)

  • Consider ambient lighting to help with mood and wellbeing

Consider providing employees with healthcare plans that include vision examinations or possibly giving these examinations in the main office as part of an employee wellness program

Choose the Most Appropriate Lighting and Lamps

Subject to budget allocation, help employees consider which one (or which combination of) the following will assist them in achieving the above:

  • Desk Lights

  • Floor Standing Lights

  • Ceiling or Wall Lights

  • Spotlights

  • SAD lamps*

  • Natural Light

It is worth keeping in mind that plug-in light units as opposed to hard wired units such as ceiling lights, are always preferable as they are quicker and cheaper to introduce. But remember that it may be necessary to consider PAT testing of such units.

The light unit is of course only one element of the solution as it could be argued that the Lamp used within, is equally as important.

*For reference, a SAD lamp, light or light box, uses light therapy to help improve mood and wellbeing. They produce very bright lights to recreate the sunlight that you miss during the winter months. The light produced is measured in lux and a good SAD lamp will offer a brightness of around 10,000 lux. It's believed that SAD lamps encourage the brain to produce less melatonin, which makes you sleepy, while increasing the production of serotonin, which affects mood.

In summary, personalised lighting options can help create a more work conducive, happier, healthier environment and so getting to understand the natural and artificial lighting needs within the employers WFH zone and helping to influence and deliver the solutions, are invaluable yet don’t have to cost a fortune.

The WFH Zone is the UK’s first online portal designed to assist organisations in the process of setting employees up to work from home in the most cost effective and ethical way. Our service provides a filter and search facility that helps employers and employees find quality suppliers of a range of Services and Products specifically associated with a work from home zone.

68% of desk-based employees said that they would feel more valued by their employer if they considered their health and well-being and invested in suitable lighting.

Source – 2018 Staples report