Smart lighting is one of the most common entry points for anyone starting down the home automation route. How can this type of smart lighting can be used in the workplace?
We’ll take a look today at how smart lighting affects mental health in the workplace. This is an issue of equal interest to workers and employers.
The working landscape today is more competitive than ever before.
With so much expected of employees, health and well-being in the workplace remain in the spotlight.
City University London conducted a study on Lighting, Well-Being and Performance at Work with some interesting findings.
While this review suggested that lighting in isolation is “unlikely to have a strong effect on performance”, it goes on to add that lighting is indeed one of several key factors that help to “create healthy working environments” promoting both “well-being and productivity.”
Further, the review points to growing evidence linking “lighting conditions, shift-work and biological health conditions”.
The review’s recommendation is that companies should invest in personalized workplace lighting to “support well-being and performance.”
Why are we catapulting back in time 100 years?
Bear with us. It will make sense…
Researchers looking at on performance in the workplace back in the 1920s believed that optimizing environmental factors always led to improved performance and work rate.
Elton Mayo from the Harvard Business School first tested these ideas with a focus on lighting, humidity, and temperature. The Hawthorne Studies ran for over 15 years observing 20,000 subjects in the workplace.
The most salient finding of these studies, termed the Hawthorne Effect, showed that performance always increased no matter how variables were manipulated by researchers. Lights up or down led to greater productivity. The same happened with temperature and humidity. The conclusion was that workers responded to the attention they received and this is very important when considering the effect of smart lighting on mental health today…
Although these studies did not find a direct relationship between lighting and performance, they demonstrated that paying attention to the needs of employees could ultimately improve productivity.
The Human Relations Movement was established in the wake of these studies and remains influential today. Their approach to workplace design places a strong emphasis on the overall environment being key to both performance and well-being.
So, while these studies perhaps meant less research was conducted concerning how lighting impacts performance, this was ultimately a positive for workers and employers alike. Research was slanted toward how workplace performance could be enhanced through the well-being of workers. You, the worker, can remain in better shape and happier at work while your employer will ultimately gain in terms of increased output: a true win-win.
So, tweaking environmental factors will not directly bring about better performance but an improved working backdrop can definitely bring about happier, healthier employees.
Why is this the case with regard to lighting in particular?
With the US Environmental Protective Agency stating that people spend roughly 90% of their time indoors, by definition this leaves precious little time for exposure to natural light.
Your circadian rhythm – that’s your internal body clock – tells you when to wake and sleep and is influenced by the sun. Since you spend most of your time under artificial lighting, when this is too dim during the day, it can lead to troughs in energy.
There’s another knock-on effect from poor lighting during the day…
Brighter days and darker nights can help you to sleep better, and avoid fatigue and other stressors and health problems collectively known as social jetlag. Social jetlag can play a part in triggering a range of conditions from depression and obesity through to addiction behaviors and health issues like diabetes. These issues can even contribute to chemical or substance dependencies and may require substance abuse treatment.
In the worst scenario, limited access to natural light can be a factor in seasonal affective disorder, a form of depression. Treatment often involves exposure to bright artificial light up to 20 times brighter than most indoor lighting.
Just 15 minutes of exposure to natural light helps your brain to release endorphins, hormones linked to mood.
Poor quality lighting in the workplace not only affects mood, but it’s also associated with both stress and anxiety. Physically, bad lighting can trigger eye strain and headaches while imparting a general sense of fatigue and lethargy. Roll all these possible consequences of inadequate lighting together, and the picture for employee’s mental health is as dim as that artificial lighting.
When the Harvard Business Review reported that in a survey by Future Workplace, American employees polled about workplace attributes placed “access to natural light” along with “view of the outdoors” above all other perks. 47% of those same workers suggested a lack of natural light at work made them feel sluggish with 43% claiming they felt “gloomy.”
A Michigan State University animal study found that spending too much time in dimly lit environments at work could make learning and remembering harder. This study went so far as to say that changes in environment light could lead to structural changes in the brain.
There’s a very broad spread of further research, all of which backs up the link between poor lighting and mental well-being, but how about a solution?
Here are some simple methods for any workplace to improve lighting conditions to round out.
If you’re thinking about the well-being of your workers as well as your own bottom line, these basic pointers are worth pondering…
The way poor lighting brings down mood, energy levels, and productivity has been conclusively established.
Smart lighting in workplaces, particularly when this takes on the personalized touch of biodynamic lighting, has many advantages. Not only will you feel more valued by your employer, you’ll also feel more sprightly and energetic. This will lead to getting more done at work in less time while feeling significantly better.