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One of the main questions our lighting consultants receive (daily) is how to properly light a home office. If you’re regularly spending six or more hours a day in your office, properly lighting the space can increase productivity, accuracy and minimize fatigue or eye strain.
Whether you’re a designer working from home or a business professional that telecommutes, you want your workspace to be, above all else, comfortable. Just like an old chair or a warm cup of coffee, office lighting can vastly improve the hours you spend at a desk. If you consider your computer monitor an “office light source”, I’m glad you’re reading this.
Before we jump into what lighting is best to include in a home office, it’s important to understand “Why” these are the correct choices. We’ll start by explaining the three main types (or layers) of office lighting:
- Ambient Light is used for circulation and to control contrast.
- Task Lights put high light levels where they’re needed.
- Accent Lighting direct light to a particular area.
- (Bonus!) Natural Light – If possible, situate your desk by a window and enjoy that big yellow light bulb in the sky.
Now that we know the different types of light layers and their general function, we can start to pick out the perfect fixtures. If effectively combined, these layers can create an amazing home office space you’ll never want to leave (but will most likely have to at some point.)
- To reduce glare and eyestrain, evenly distributed ambient lighting may be provided with overhead ceiling fixtures, pendant lights and/or track lighting systems. Large centrally located fluorescent ceiling fixtures may provide sufficient general illumination, but invest in upgraded bulbs with color rendering as close to natural sunlight.
- The torchiere is an excellent source for ambient illumination because it directs light up to reflect off of the ceiling and fill a room with indirect light
- Portable desk lamps and floor lamps allow you to move the light close to the task area. Angled and adjustable desk lamps aid in close reading and computer work. A swiveled armed desk lamp or wall swing lamp will help defray outside illumination, especially where varying degrees of illumination stream through windows. Use fluorescent or LED lamps for task lighting.
- For accent light, halogen lamps offer the best color rendering and especially soft soothing illumination.
You understand light layers. You’ve chosen the perfect fixtures. Now what? You don’t want all this time you’ve spent making everything perfect to go out the window. Luckily, we’ve got some quick tips to get the most out of your new lighting within your space:
Light Your Home Office to Reduce Eyestrain
Don’t watch TV in the dark! How many times have you heard that? Don’t look at computer screens in the dark either!
The truth in the statement lies in understanding contrast ratios. The eye can adapt to a very wide range of light levels, but it can only adapt to one light level at one time. When one looks at a bright computer monitor on a dark background the eye doesn’t know whether to adapt to the bright monitor or the dark background. When this happens hour after hour, day after day, fatigue sets in.
The same thing can happen when looking at a brightly lit sheet of white paper in a dark room.
To lessen eyestrain:
- Lower the brightness on the monitor
- Increase the light in the surrounding area; or
- Do both.
Just the opposite problem can occur when one places a computer monitor in front of a window. The bright daylight surrounding the screen makes it difficult to see what is on the screen.
Watch for Reflections on Shiny Surfaces
Another area of concern is reflections on shiny surfaces, like computer screens and slick printed material. These reflections obscure the task making it difficult to read.
Windows are often the most noticeable cause of reflections but other light sources can be a problem, too. As you may recall from basic physics, the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflectance-so if light strikes the task (or monitor) at the wrong angle, it will bounce into your eyes. Moving the offending light, changing your orientation to the light, or both can mitigate this problem. This relationship is called Eye-Task-Source Geometry.
Ideally the light should come from the side, for example; light coming from the right (whether ceiling, wall or desk mounted) will reflect off to the left. Light coming from the front will tend to reflect up into your eyes. Computer monitors also reflect light sources that are located behind you (over your shoulder).
Feel better? Nothing like a nice, comfy workspace right? Now that you’re an office lighting guru, we want to see your work in action! Remodeling a room? Show us. Transformed your home office into a well-lit idea den? Let us know. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your design photos, suggestions for our next how-to/style guides or questions you’d like to see answered in future articles.
Thanks and until next time!