The importance of lux in offices: 500 lux

The importance of lux in offices: 500 lux
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Working in an appropriately bright environment often makes you feel peppy and alert. At the same time a dark environment can make you feel sluggish and even anxious. This is the reason why in office buildings a minimum amount of lux is needed: 500 lux.

Lux inside of buildings

A normal office or store should be lit with at least 500 lux, meaning that every square meter should receive at least 500 lumens. This light level allows you to read comfortably or work on machines and computers.

General areas are sufficiently lit with 300 lux, entrances and dining rooms require as little as 200 lux. Very finely detailed work requires significantly more light than a normally lit office space. In these spaces 2000 lux helps you see clearly to carry out this intricate work.

The importance of daylight

A healthy wake-sleep cycle should be promoted by experiencing bright days and dark nights. It is crucial to spend your days in a bright environment. Better office lights of 500 lux and up could play a large role in that. Even better would be to receive plenty of natural daylight in your workspace. It will make employees more alert and thus more productive.

Your circadian rhythm is kept in sync with real-time, meaning that the bright sunlight makes your inner clock know that it's daytime. This means that when you get out of bed in the morning, the sunlight outside confirms to your brain that it is indeed morning.

Bright light also affects your brain in a way similar to caffeïne. Professor Mariana Figueiro calls this a “cup-of-coffee” effect. It makes you more alert. Even at other moments during the day, an increase in light can help you feel more perked up, due to this caffeïne like reaction.

But needing enough light in an office is not only something practical. A lack of light can cause some severe problems for your employees.

office lux

Low light levels lower productivity

When you are continually being subjected to low light conditions during the day, this dysregulates your circadian rhythm. A badly lit office of less than 500 lux makes you feel sleepy, because your body thinks it's getting close to bedtime. Essentially your days and nights become reversed when you spend your days in a dimly lit office and your nights at home behind a bright screen. A brighter day does not only make your employees' days more productive, it will also make them sleep better at night. Making them even healthier and smarter in the long run as their brain gets to fully rest.

Another reason why dim light makes you unproductive is that it can cause headaches and eye strain or even anxiety and depression. The first two occur because your eyes have to work harder to be able to see well enough. It can make focussing harder and it makes you sleepy. When too much time is spent in a dimly lit office, it could potentially change the structure of your brain. Your brain has a harder time processing information and forming links, making remembering and learning more difficult. This happens because an important peptide (brain derived neurotrophic factor) isn't formed enough in the brain under low light conditions. Without this peptide, fewer connections are made in our brains. This decrease in connections results in decreased learning abilities and poorer memory performance.

500 lux office

Monitor your workplace

A lux sensor is the best way to be sure that your office is appropriately lit. This lux sensor should be installed at eye level of your employees. By measuring at eye level you will be sure if 500 lux is reached.

The lux sensor should be installed in the following way:

  • Measuring lux should always happen at eye level (keep in mind if people are sitting or standing up).
  • Making sure that all light fixtures are working and clean provides the most accurate measurement.
  • Measure multiple times in the same spot, keeping in mind whether there might be ambient light or not.
  • Measuring at night might be the easiest as the presence of daylight can be excluded.

Even LED panels gradually become less bright through wear and use. A brand new LED panel that originally emitted 500 lux might be emitting only 250 lux near the end of its life (after about 4-6 years). The problem is that, as the brightness very gradually decreases, you don't notice the difference. Which can lead to sitting in the ‘dark’ for weeks, without even knowing it.

The lux sensor should be regularly used to see if lux levels are still high enough for your employees to work productively. Better yet would be to get an automatic alarm notification when the lux threshold is about to be reached. Using a lux sensor is a brilliant way to keep track of your employees' health without having to constantly walk around the office with your lux meter. You would only have to act when there's a problem, giving you extra time and more importantly: peace of mind.

Such a monitoring system with built-in alarm function is Reporter, the plug & play sensor module that lets you connect up to 4 sensors to the cloud. Without needing any technical knowledge!

The importance of fresh air

Not only light levels should be monitored in your office, CO2 levels also make your employees unhealthy and unproductive. Ventilation should happen at appropriate times to ensure that CO2 leaves the building and fresh air comes in.

Fresh air is extremely important when it comes to good health. Your employees will feel more alert and will even be sick less often. Studies have shown that breathing in better air improves (strategic) decision-making and other cognitive functions. People have shown to also handle crises better when the air quality in the workspace was better. They were able to plan, stay prepared and strategise more efficiently.

It is detrimental to health and performance to neglect CO2 levels in an office, as it has a similar effect on your employees as light levels lower than 500 lux. This however doesn't mean that you should keep a window open at all times, especially during a cold winter. Ventilation should happen at the appropriate moment when CO2 levels are too high. An alarm message from Reporter will warn you when this moment is, as the CO2 sensor measures the air quality in your office. Besides, only ventilating at the right time also reduces energy waste as heat is not constantly being lost.

Invest in health, get productivity in return!

When you invest in a healthy and motivating office space with at least 500 lux and enough fresh air, you will get happy, healthy and productive staff in return. Reporter helps you keep your employees safe without you having to plan taking regular measurements into your overfilled agenda. Reporter gives you peace of mind and alarm notifications when needed.

Do you still have questions or are you ready to get started monitoring your office with Reporter? Don't hesitate to get in touch!

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Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

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Michigan State University

Harvard Business Review

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