Business Today

The right light

Light influences the body clock. Bad lighting at work can make you sluggish.

     Print Edition: Feb 20, 2011

There is another reason to take lighting at the workplace seriously - research has now linked it to employee productivity. A study by City University, London last September, which looked at the impact of lighting on performance and well-being at the workplace, suggested that whilst "lighting alone is unlikely to have a strong effect on performance, it is one of several factors that combine to create healthy work environments that in turn help promote employee engagement, well-being and productivity".

Says Nirupam Sahay, a lighting expert and Senior Director of Marketing at Philips Lighting India: "The role of light in circadian (daily) rhythm is crucial."

 Making light work for you

  • Get rid of the glare on your computer screen
  • Parabolic lighting coming from the top works the best
  • Go for gooseneck table lamps. Again, light should come from the top
  • Experts recommend white light with a tinge of blue at the workplace
  • When working from home, use the same principles of lighting for your work space
According to a Philips study that examined the effects of light on the body clock, light sends signals via the novel photoreceptor cells, a specialised type of neurons or nerve cells found in the retina, and a separate nerve system to our biological clock, which in turn regulates the circadian and circannual (seasonal) rhythms of various bodily processes. Cortisol (stress hormone) and melatonin (sleep hormone) play an important role in governing alertness and sleep.

Cortisol, among other things, increases blood sugar to give the body energy and enhances the immune system. However, when its levels are too high over an extended period, the system becomes exhausted and inefficient. Cortisol levels increase in the morning and prepare the body for daytime activities. They remain sufficiently high over the course of the day, falling finally to a minimum at midnight. Melatonin levels, on the other hand, drop in the morning, reducing sleepiness. They normally rise again when it becomes dark, which is when cortisol is at its minimum level, permitting healthy sleep. For good health, it is important that these rhythms are not disrupted too much.

So, what kind of lighting is most appropriate for workplaces ? "There is research to show that white light with a tinge of blue has a positive impact on the productivity of employees," says Sahay. Also, parabolic lighting coming from the top works the best.

If you are uncomfortable with your workplace lighting, you can customise it to suit your need. You can augment the direct light or common area lighting coming from the top with a table lamp with its glare away from the screen. It will be ideal if its lighting can be regulated. And, what colour of lighting is ideal for the eyes? "Whether the light is yellow or blue, it does not matter," says Anita Sethi, Senior Consultant of Ophthalmology at Artemis Health Institute in Gurgaon. But lighting at the workplace should be bright enough for proper illumination but not too bright.

"I would even recommend ambient and diffused lighting at workplaces," says Sethi. Also, the lighting should not radiate too much heat, because along with the dryness caused by the air conditioning, it can trigger computer vision syndrome or dry eyes (log on to businesstoday. in/your-eyes-are-dryingfor-a-break).

-Saumya Bhattacharya

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