Lighting the way to an age-friendly work environment

 

With the changing nature of work and an aging workforce, employers have to focus on workplace design. That includes lighting.
 

Read on to find out more about the importance of office lighting on the aging eye.

Lighting the way to an age-friendly work environment

 

Organizations are facing one of the biggest challenges of our time: we’re all living and working longer. Today 30-50 % of office employees are older than 45.[1]

Furthermore, the nature of work is changing. We spend more time indoors than ever before. With our current dependence on PCs and mobile devices, we do more and more of our work on screens. We also have conflicting needs for workspaces that both promote collaboration while at the same time providing private spaces to stimulate concentration. A study in 2008 found that workplaces that sacrifice individual focus in favor of collaboration result in decreased effectiveness of both[2].

How can organizations optimize the work environment for the increasingly aging workforce while improving productivity and well-being for all? The answer has much to do with human-centric design.

Human-centric design is more than ergonomic furniture, comfortable room temperature and acceptable noise levels – lighting is becoming an even greater focus as we learn more about the impact of light: natural daylight, artificial illumination, reduction in lighting contrast and use of colors can all have an enormous effect on how people think and feel at work.

The importance of good office lighting

Lighting influences us functionally, physiologically and emotionally. In functional terms, light enables us to see both small details and the wider world around us. The current European standard for writing, typing, reading and data processing in offices is 500 lux. However, this is only the minimum, and may not be enough for more intense or sustained visual work, or for aging workers.
 

Inadequate lighting has strong implications for the aging workforce. We all experience changes to our eyes as we get older. The lens loses flexibility and becomes cloudier, making images more blurred. Aging also affects the vision in terms of glare and when moving from dark to well-lit areas.[3],[4] As a result, a 60-year-old person needs significantly more light than a 20-year-old to see the same visual detail.

Lighting the way to an age-friendly work environment

The benefits of personal lighting control

These results suggest that working environments would benefit from advanced lighting solutions that accommodate both task needs and different age groups. In 2013, Philips conducted a survey amongst people who tested a desk lamp that allowed them to adjust its light intensity and color temperature according to personal preference. Although people made very diverse choices in the lamp’s settings, 90% or more reported sharper vision, optimum eye comfort, the ability to see smaller details and improved contrast. These results not only illustrate the strong benefits of personal lighting control, it could also be concluded that each person’s eyes are unique and that perception of light is very personal.
 

IThe Philips survey demonstrates three of the five aspects of artificial lighting that can have a positive impact in the workplace according to other studies. The right light intensity increases visual acuity[5] and reading speed[6], improves concentration and alertness[7], and may enhance collaboration[8]. The right ;color temperature reduces eye fatigue[9] and sleepiness[10], and increases self-reported performance[11]. Personal control of the workspace leads to higher job satisfaction[12], improved mood[13] and higher perceived productivity.[14]
 

The ability to adjust individual workplace lighting conditions according to personal preferences has been associated with better mood, improved lighting quality ratings and environmental satisfaction[15]. Because individual preferences vary widely, individual control is the only practical means to ensure that people have a good chance of obtaining their own preference.

The fourth aspect is light distribution which increases visual comfort and enhances a room’s appearance[16]. The fifth aspect is appealing lighting design, which combines the other four parameters to create an aesthetically pleasing work environment while providing a high level of psychological and visual comfort for all employees. Research has shown that lighting appraisal is linked to job satisfaction[17], organizational commitment and employee engagement.[18]

Lighting the way to an age-friendly work environment

Human-centric lighting is good for business

These studies would suggest that human-centric lighting not only has a positive impact on people’s performance and well-being, it also supports an organization’s business goals. But is it really worth investing in lighting solutions beyond standard systems?

It has already been stated that lighting appraisal has been linked to an employee’s organizational commitment and their desire to change jobs. Another study has demonstrated that employees who are mentally and emotionally committed to an organization are likely to be top performers and will miss 20% fewer work days.[19]

As the population continues to age and the way we work keeps changing, the organizations that succeed are likely to be those that seize the opportunities offered by new innovations in lighting. By creating lighting that goes beyond just enabling employees to see adequately, organizations will not only see the benefits in people’s performance and health, they’ll also see the results in their bottom line.

Want to know how the lighting in your office measures up? Take our Facebook test to find out!

If you want to learn more about the importance of lighting and the aging workforce, check out our Lighting University homepage, where you can join an online forum on the topic or tune into a free webinar.

[1] Exact percentage may vary across different organizations

[2] Gensler, 2008

[3]Haegerstrom-Portnoy et al. 1999

[4] Bitsios et al 1996

[5] Adrian, 1993

[6] Mott, 2012; Barkmann, 2010; Fuchs, 2001

[7] Steidle, 2010; Hoffmann 2008; Ruger, 2005

[8] Galetzka, 2010

[9] Dou, 2011

[10] Viola, 2008

[11] Viola, 2008

[12] Lee and Brand, 2005; Herman Miller 2007

[13] Newsham, 2003

[14] Bordass, 1993

[15] Veitch, 2010

[16] Wright, Hill, Cook, & Bright, 1999; Barbosa, 2010; Boyce, 2003; Houser, Tiller, Bernecker, & Mistrick, 2002


[17] Charles, 2003

[18] Veitch, 2010

[19] Miller, 2009

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