Lighting is often overlooked in the decor of an office – but it makes all the difference. There’s nothing more powerful you can do in making an already-decent space look great than lighting it well.
No matter your office situation – working from home, working from a cubicle, or even working in an open concept – improvements to lighting can translate directly to improvements to mood, or a changed office feel. So, it’s important.
Avoid direct artificial light
There’s a reason direct lighting is also referred to as “glare.” It’s an ugly feeling, like you’re in a spotlight all day long, to be working in strong direct lighting. Bright white overhead lights feel like the inside of a DMV – don’t make your office feel that way.
Instead, use upward-facing lights which bounce off walls, use lampshades, and use anything else you can think of to illuminate an entire space without harsh shadows.
Light should diffuse. It shouldn’t overwhelm.
There are many guides out there on choosing the right bulbs for your environment. Generally a slight yellow tint says “comfort,” a slight blue tint says “professional” or “clean,” but be careful to go too far to either extreme – deep yellows can make spaces look dingy, and bright blue says “artificial.”
Natural lighting can be great
Don’t overlook the unique benefit of natural light coming from a window, skylight or another portal. Sunlight can produce warm lighting that improves the work environment. On the other hand, you may need to account for direct sunlight that creates overwhelming glare during certain times of the day.
For detailed work, use detailed lighting
This one might be a little trickier to understand, but it’s actually not that complex. If you’re working on a screen, then you want to avoid glare from external lighting.
That means that diffusion is still fine, but if you need the ability to see some details of paperwork, etc. up close, make sure that there’s a table lamp with definition to where the light shines – ideally, somewhere that won’t reflect off of your computer monitor.
In some situations, a desk lamp can be placed behind and to the side of a monitor, or an armed light can spotlight your to-do list or other papers without interfering with your gaze for the bulk of the day, which, unfortunately or not, for many industries is on a computer monitor.
Think through shadows
Look for monitor glare, of course, but also pay attention to the shadows! Deep shadows (often at a certain time of day) can be distracting, and they can sour the mood in an otherwise well-designed space. You may consider (especially in offices with large windows) adding uplighting or other sources of diffuse lighting which will remove shadows during times of day where they’re often darkest.
Remove all flickering light
It should go without saying, but any artificial light source that flickers (overhead industry lighting is the worst offender) can cause headaches and kill concentration. Remove any lights that flicker unless they’re intended to flicker.