Although there is a constant drive from businesses and government policy-makers to improve workplace productivity, few include lighting design in their discussions.

Lighting is one of the most important parts of any workspace from the open plan office to the factory production line. It's well known incorrect lighting can cause migraine headaches and eye strain, but few people recognise its impact on productivity.

Open plan offices are a classic example. Once office blocks are built, developers usually get engineers to introduce a blanket cover of lights. This causes problems because everyone has different lighting needs. This depends on their tasks and the state of their eyes.

Have you ever had a workstation that didn't seem comfortable, but you couldn't put your finger on exactly what the problem was? It may have been the lighting.


Generally speaking, people are more motivated when they work under lights that are close to the colour of the sun. Colder colours that are bluer in nature make people feel cold, and when we feel cold, we are less motivated and less productive.

Once the correct colour has been determined, the next consideration is the intensity, or quantity of light. For example, when writing on to white paper, more light is needed than when typing on a computer screen.

This is important for people who do both of these tasks. A good idea is to have a task light that can be switched on and off.

So many people run into problems when they need to multi-task. I met a receptionist recently who had bloodshot eyes after working in an incorrectly lit room for many years. She had to look up from her computer to greet visitors. The problem was the ceiling lighting was creating a glare and after so long, her eyes had had enough. This problem was easily fixed, but it could have been dealt with years before.

Very few business owners are aware that productivity suffers when their lighting is below par. It usually requires a complaint from someone before anything is done.

This suggests employees in many industries may be inhibited from working to their potential because of inadequate lighting design, costing their bosses large amounts of money.

Many business owners are also unaware flexible lighting options are available. This means they can be moved around without taking up too much time. There are now LED light fittings and systems available that can be remotely controlled. These allow each person to control their own lighting.

Savvy business owners know the best way to get the best out of their workers is to make their workspace as comfortable as possible.

If people are feeling cold, getting eye strain or migraine headaches, they will always be looking for ways to move away from that space.

It may be difficult to determine exactly how badly productivity is affected by inadequate lighting design, but it is likely to be a substantial problem that is easily fixed.

Kevin Cawley is an award-winning independent lighting designer with clients across the world. See target='_blank'>