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Lighting Your Home Office

When setting up their home office, most people tend to focus on the big purchase items–the desk, chair, and filing system. Lighting often comes up as an afterthought–and yet, poor lighting can cause eyestrain, headaches, and is most certainly not a mood enhancer. Considering the high percentage of time we spend in our home offices it makes sense to create a setting with optimal lighting.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. What’s the general strategy for lighting a home office?

Lighting a home office is like dressing for a climate with variable weather–it’s all about layering. When you think about the range of activities that take place in workspaces–reading, filing, working at your computer, talking on the phone, holding meetings–you quickly realize that most are focus-intensive tasks that simply can’t be well lit by a single light source alone. Instead, start by lighting your office with a warm, ambient light. It’s ideal to place your ambient light/s on a dimmer switch, so you can have the flexibility to adjust light levels depending on the time of day and type of work you’re doing. Supplement this central source of light with task lamps on your desk and other important spots.

Overhead spotlights or ceiling-mounted fixtures can be the cause of irritating glare on your computer screen. If your office already has these in place, you don’t necessarily need to turn them on. Instead, create a more even ambient light by using a light fixture that can bounce the light off of the walls and ceiling.

2. What’s the role of the task lamp?

Task lights provide a focused light source for specific activities. If a range of activities takes place in your office space, it’s best to get a dedicated task light for each one. Adjustable arms are ideal for accommodating a wide range of setups.

3. Why is the placement of the light source important?

Where you place your lights is vital in avoiding unwanted glare and shadows. For example, an overhead spotlight placed behind you can result in terrible glare on your computer screen. To avoid shadows being created by your task lamps, place the light on the side opposite from the hand you use to write–if it’s on the same side, your hand and arm will cast annoying shadows.

4. What about natural daylight?

Natural light usually improves the ambiance of any room, which helps enhance focus and productivity. In some rooms, however, at certain times of day, direct sunlight can create an overwhelming glare. You can mitigate this effect by installing simple translucent blinds. If there’s a window in your office and you’re working at a computer, the optimal position for the computer is on a desk that’s placed perpendicular to the window. Placing your computer in front of the window can stress your eyes because the brightness from behind can create too much contrast.

5. How can lighting alleviate the effects of working at a computer all day?

Minimizing glare and contrast is key to reducing eye strain. Harsh light is what creates the monitor glare that tires out our eyes. Having your lights on dimmers and hanging light-diffusing blinds in your windows lets you modulate light levels throughout the day, depending on the time and task. It’s important to note that paperwork related activities demand a higher light level than computer work, which means that most of us when at our computers should consider turning down the ambient and task lighting.

Home Office Lighting Recap:

  • One overall source of lighting is not enough to accommodate the varied activities of a home office; it’s best to layer light sources.
  • Use task lamps to illuminate focused work.
  • The correct placement of task lights is important to avoid glare and shadows.
  • Natural daylight improves the ambiance of a room, but at certain times of day can be too bright.
  • Being able to adjust light levels throughout the day is ideal for the eyes and promotes productivity.

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Lighting Your Home Office
Lighting Your Home Office
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