You probably thought you’d be back in the office by now. Instead, recent media reports indicate that “working from home” is likely to be a permanent part of almost everyone’s weekly schedule. That might mean you’re considering a new desk chair or a better internet connection, but what about lighting? Here are a few things to consider as you establish a more permanent home office.
At the start of the pandemic, offices were carved out of dining rooms, plopped on kitchen counters and even squeezed into large closets. As you plan to move from temporary arrangements to a more defined space, care should be taken in considering the location. To insure a good night’s rest and the maintenance of a balanced circadian cycle, humans need plenty of blue-rich daylight. Seek an office space with windows. The results of almost every scientific study indicates that blue light during the day and the lack of blue light at night maintains good melatonin production and insures a good night’s rest.
Because so much work centers on the computer, placement in relation to those important windows and the light they invite is crucial. A window in front of the computer screen will be blinding and a window behind will cause glare on the screen. The best place for the computer is perpendicular to the window.
While there is no medical evidence to suggest that working on a computer in a dark room is bad, it does increase eye irritation. To avoid this common problem, supplemental light should be included in the room where you work. The amount may differ depending on the type of work and your age.
Generally speaking, older adults will need more light to perform almost any task. For a variety of reasons, as our eyes age, less light reaches the retina. Including supplemental task lighting, like a shaded desk lamp or floor lamp will help. If all the work performed is on the computer that may be enough. If, however your work involves reading from printed sources, more light is required. A typical office is lit to about 50 footcandles of illuminance. Most bedrooms measure less than half of that. If the job involves detail work, replace the existing ceiling light with something that can provide more lumen output.
If you are going to be working from home, you are going to be joining more video conferences. Along with a professional microphone and an upgraded camera, proper lighting should be considered essential.
Basically, you want the light in front of you. Lighting from behind places you in shadow, making it difficult for viewers to see your facial features. Desk lamps might be the easiest solution. There are also USB plug-in video conference lights that are even more effective. You will need to experiment. Every video conference program allows you to “test” audio and video. Most of us typically ignore this step and simply jump right into the call. Take a few minutes to check the video results. Try it with the lights on, off, half & half, or any other variation available. Settings may vary with each program. Check each one prior to a call.
If you did change the ceiling fixture to get more light, it does not mean anyone wants to see it! Remember to aim your camera away from direct view of the luminaire.
Burning the Midnight Oil
Most computer monitors emit a very blue light source that, when viewed at night can deliver adverse reactions in our body. If working late into the night on a project, the background color and intensity of the computer should be adjusted. Find an amber color with a reduced brightness that is comfortable. Avoid working on, or making any aesthetic decisions under this new background, as it will alter appearances. Save color choices for the morning!
Working from a home office on a much more permanent schedule is going to change how the world functions. Because it is such a crucial aspect of our life, doing it with good lighting will be more important and provide better results.