When thinking about designing a room for any use, it’s important to remember that beyond furniture and decor, lighting really sets the mood and tone of the space. And it is equally important to remember what the room is going to be used for and to adjust the color temperature accordingly. Color temperature is, put simply, a description of how light appears when seen by the human eye. It is measured in degrees Kelvin (K) – 2700K means the light will seem yellowish-white, moving to white at 3000-3500K. And a 5000K bulb will make the space seem bluish-white. All this affects the way space will affect mood and productivity, so it is vitally important when designing an office to set the color temperature to suit workers. There are different approaches to color temperature for offices, so let’s look at some of the factors and opinions on the ideal temperature.
Usurping incandescent lighting, most offices became fluorescent when the technology emerged, mainly because of relative affordability. However, it was called into question how healthy it was for office workers, and rumors began swirling that it caused migraines, negatively affected sleeping patterns, and even contained radiation which could lead to cancer. As far as migraines are concerned, fluorescent lighting won’t cause them, but they won’t help either – as any migraine sufferer will tell you, bright lights of any sort are a distinct no-no. In terms of sleeping patterns – studies found that the levels of melatonin production during an average working day, where there is a break between office work and sleeping off a few hours, will not have any effect on sleep. More important are factors such as diet and exercise. And studies found that the level of radiation is so minute that workers didn’t have to worry about cancer.
Now seen as superior to fluorescent lights, LED lighting is more versatile (dimmable, adjustable) and cheaper (longer-lasting bulbs and more energy efficient), so it is the obvious choice for offices. With greater control over the color temperature of your office lighting, and with proven results with regard to worker productivity, wellbeing, and happiness (see below), LED lighting seems to be here to stay.
Lighting and productivity
There is no better light than daylight to induce a positive mood and heightened productivity. Sadly, most offices don’t have enough windows, or don’t face in the right direction, and are at the mercy of weather and season. As a result, many offices are lit to effectively reproduce daylight via artificial means. Typical daylight color temperature is between 5000 and 7000K, depending on region and season, so it isn’t a surprise to see many offices using lights and bulbs above 5000K (but no higher than 5500K as this can induce agitation). The cooler blue light is proven to boost productivity, alertness, and prevent drowsiness. By contrast, warmer light of 2700 – 3000K induces sleepiness as it induces melatonin production in the brain, a natural relaxant, and no good for motivated, productive workers.
While it is a good idea to keep lighting in the main office 5000K or higher, employees also need time, and space, to relax and recharge. Therefore, in your break rooms, it is advisable to keep lighting more mellow, with a slightly lower Kelvin measurement. This yellower light will allow workers to enjoy their break times and come back to the office enthusiastic and rested. But while employees should feel comfortable, too much yellow light will signal ‘nap time’ to their brains, and for this reason, most offices keep the break room bulbs between 3500 and 5000K.
Employees, interviewees, customers, and investors are likely to walk through your office’s corridors at some point, and here the color temperature is again a factor. Most offices will set the temperature slightly lower than the main office, to appear inviting and relaxing. But not so low as to induce drowsiness or inertia. It is all about striking the right balance between daylight lighting and that which will make people feel comfortable. The usual color temperature for corridors and reception areas is between 3500 and 4000K.
A productive happy office simply works better. And lighting can really make or break the mood and energy of a workspace, meaning that finding the right color temperature is a vital part of any business.