Maybe it's time to learn about the problems that fluorescent lighting can cause and some of the solutions to counteract them. Having the right technology is important, but other factors can impact the productivity and well being of your staff and with offices beginning to welcome staff back, you might want to think about changing a few things.
How Our Bodies React to Long-Term Fluorescent Lighting
The human body is designed to operate on a sunlight-system. Up with the sun in the morning, and go to sleep when it gets dark. The sun and our body work together in circadian rhythms. However, with the invention of the light bulb came the disturbance of the circadian rhythm. When fluorescent lights became popular for office lighting, around the 1970s, people began to work under a different type of sun. Their natural circadian rhythms no longer moved in perfect beat with the light source. Instead, people began to experience unfortunate health effects, such as:
- sleep problems
- immune system breakdowns
- eye strain
The Flicker Behind the Fluorescent
So what is so wrong with fluorescent lighting? In some ways, they make a lot of sense, right? They are more environmentally-friendly than incandescent lights and they cost less to operate. They generally seem like a good thing to put in an office building.
Part of the problem lies in the flicker. Fluorescent lights don't just glow. They pulse very quickly because the electricity passed into the light bulb isn't constant. It might appear to be a steady light flow, but our sensitive bodies pick up on that flicker, even when we don't consciously see it. That flickering, pulsing light could be the culprit of your staff's headaches, migraines, eye strain, and even anxiety.
Artificial Light's Subtle Effects
Our bodies are always working in the background, protecting ourselves from illnesses and producing hormones that help us get through our days. Unfortunately, sitting under artificial light for long periods of time can mess up those internal bodily productions. One hormone, melatonin, which helps us get sleepy stops being produced under intense light. In the natural world, our bodies would stop producing melatonin when the sun comes up. But that system gets messed up under artificial light. It might be dark outside, but your body is not producing melatonin because of the lights. This tends to lead to sleeplessness, or contrarily, a crash in energy before it's time to stop work.
And then there's blue light. Some fluorescent lights emit quite a bit of blue light (as do screens of various types). The blue light stops melatonin production, which isn't healthy to say the least. The blue light confuses your sleep-wake system and can make you feel more tired than you should feel.
Cortisol is another hormone affected by artificial light. Low cortisol levels make people feel stressed. Artificial light tends to lower cortisol levels. Are your workers feeling more stressed out than they should be?
Let the Sunlight Shine In!
The solution to some of your fluorescent light problems may be as simple as increasing the amount of natural sunlight in your office space. Open up the shades! Turn off the lights when you can see by the natural light coming from your window. Allow your body's many intricate processes to work the way they were meant to work: in rhythm with the natural sunlight. You'll find that you and your staff will sleep better, feel happier, and have a better attitude working in the office.
Not enough natural light available? Avoid headaches and unwanted stress by using light covers that filter out the harmful blue light. Or switch to a fluorescent light that is labelled as "daylight spectrum." Balance out the fluorescent lighting by keeping a lamp at your desk with an incandescent bulb that won't flicker.
When you and your staff are experiencing more natural circadian rhythms, your work experience and energy levels are going to improve! Use the transition process and Covid-19 workplace restrictions to set out seating in a way that exposes staff to as much natural light as possible.