Lighting plays a much greater part in our productivity than most people realize. There is quite a bit of research that supports the idea that productivity increases along with the amount of light in your workspace (at least up to a certain point).
However, if the increase produces glare, it is counter-productive. This is especially true for people working in front of a computer. The best lighting solution is one where the lighting is indirectly bounced off the ceiling. This helps diffuse the light and cuts down on the amount of glare. Some of the best lamps I’ve used are the halogen floor lamps that shine their light all on the ceiling.
Another thing to consider in lighting your workplace is the spectrum of the light. Different light bulbs give off light in different parts of the spectrum. Ideally, you want light that is as close as possible to sun light. In the past, florescent bulbs have not been very good at this. I once attended a university where the communications department had specifically put in incandescent bulbs in their classroom areas because they felt that the florescent light was distracting. There are modern florescent bulbs that cover a very wide spectrum. They are more expensive, but the cost is often more than offset by increased productivity.
A final area to consider is the impact of the seasons on your lighting. Areas that are well lighted in the summer may be less than adequate during the darker winter months. If you feel like you are hitting something of a winter slump, the remedy may be as simple as turning on some additional lights.
Originally published on November 16, 2005.