Seasonal Affective Disorder

Are you SAD?  Are your employees SAD?

When dark and gloomy winter weather strikes, good lighting is critical to the maintenance of a motivated, productive and healthy workforce.  This is especially true when most of us work for long hours under artificial light that is usually not appropriate for the tasks we carry out.

Poorly lit workplaces contribute to a number of problems from basic fatigue, loss of productivity, increase in ‘human error’, headaches, and a variety of depressive anxiety disorders – of which the most widely acknowledged is SAD.  Poorly lit workplaces may also contribute to poor posture, which in turn leads to eye strain, RSI (repetitive strain injury) and chronic fatigue syndromes.  All sounds pretty serious doesn’t it – and it is!  Bad lighting sucks – I have actually been in a UNISON office where the lighting is so bad that a guy has to wear a baseball cap at his desk – oh and for those of you who don’t know UNISON are the Trade Union who look out for your health and welfare at work!!!!!  

Kinda ironic that he was sitting under “state of the art” T5 luminaires providing him with a brain numbing 1273 lux on his desk!

Just because it is new or specified as “state of the art” doesn’t mean it is right.

SAD affects almost 10% of the UK population in winter.

If all of that isn’t enough to spur you into action to improve the lighting in your office or factory just consider the upside of making changes.

Good lighting can increase productivity by as much as 15%.

A well designed lighting system can save you thousands of pounds in electricity savings.

Here are just a few of the simple steps that you can take to improve employee well-being and job satisfaction as well as reducing operating costs:

  • Just talk to your employees to find out which areas are too bright or too dim or just lousy (flickering, old tubes for example) or bring in an expert (like me!!!!!  Stewart King)  to do the exercise professionally
  • Check that light levels are appropriate for the task in hand (too much light can be just as bad as too little!)
  • Remove lamps that are not needed and maximise use of natural daylight
  • Think about the colours in your workplace – colour can be instrumental in enhancing the mood of employees
  • Make sure the walls are adequately illuminated so that anyone working on a computer can look up and easily focus on the wall at a distance – this reduces eye strain by exercising the eye muscles appropriately

Interestingly it is only within the last couple of years that a new photoreceptor (type of special ganglion cell) was discovered in the eye that has no association with vision but is purely linked to the pineal gland which controls hormone levels and our body-clock.  The sensitivity of this cell is shown to be way into the blue end of the visual spectrum which means that use of cooler colour temperature lamps (such as the 6500K that comes as standard in Clearvision Virtual Daylight) it is possible to enhance lighting effects without massively increasing lighting loads.

Out with the yellow in other words – get rid of those horrid gold and yellow SON lamps – “best lighting for swimming pools” my ar** – forgive me but honestly that is how these horrible things are being sold!  Yes, they are very efficient – so was a Tyrannosaurus Rex – that doesn’t mean you want one in your building!

In fact the new lighting standard BS EN 12464 now states that “lamps with CRI (Colour Rendition Index) less than 80 should not be used in interiors where people work or stay for long periods”