How lighting can impact the well-being of employees

7 January 2022

Most of us don’t reflect all that much on what kind of lighting we find ourselves in, but there are many reasons to why we should. Light has been proven to affect many aspects of our well-being, for example when it comes to mental health, motivation, and energy. The Link spoke to Henrik Clausen, Director of Fagerhult Lighting Academy, to learn more about the concept of human centric lighting. 

“In 2002, we found out that we have a third receptor in our retina. This receptor is communicating directly with the part of our brain controlling the hormone levels of Cortisol and Melatonin, which affect our mood, motivation, stress levels, and sleep patterns. With 20 years of research, we have now concluded that lighting plays a significant role in our well-being,” Henrik says.

What is human centric lighting?
Human centric lighting can be summed up as artificial indoor lighting aimed at reproducing the daily indoor rhythm of natural sunlight. According to Henrik, nothing beats natural light, but more and more studies show that with Human Centric Lighting, we can come pretty close. “We humans are calibrated to daylight. Amongst many things, it gives us energy and tells us when to sleep. In Europe, only 4% of the population gets enough of it, which is a problem. Even though we can’t compete with natural lighting, we are working to find light solutions that can come close.” 

Henrik explains that there is a misconception that human centric lighting is something you can buy in a single product, when in fact it is something you achieve. “You can achieve human centric lighting with consultation from experts, where aspects such as colour, amount, timing, spectrum and space play their roles. The levels depend on what your goal is with the lighting.”

Increasing concentration, motivation, and innovation
According to Henrik, most offices today have only one light solution, which is originally made for reading. “That lighting is fine for the basic aspects of a workday, such as being able to see the keys on the keyboard, or the notes on a notepad. But when it comes to being creative, being able to interact with people on a high level of trust, and to use our full potential, not only individually but also as a team, that’s where the ‘one solution fits all’ lighting becomes inefficient.”  

“We are in many discussions with innovative offices because we think that in the future, the soul purpose of going to the office will be to meet other people. The best ideas are born when interacting, sharing thoughts and experiences. But to fully understand each other we need to be able interpret the small details in for example body language, in which much is lost in the two-dimensional virtual meetings. There is a whole other dynamic when we interact in real life.”

Henrik emphasises that in these creative meetings, the right lighting can really set the tone and create better mental conditions for everyone involved, paving the way for better ideas and cooperation. “Since lighting can set our mood by affecting our hormones, it can really improve the outcomes of meetings, whether it is for a creative meeting or one that requires difficult conversations.”

Bringing the outdoor experience indoors
Recently, Henrik took part of a research project together with Aalborg University in Copenhagen on Double Dynamic Lighting, aiming to bring the dynamic outdoor experience of daylight indoors. “When studying daylight, we can see that we have the direction of flow, the movement of the sun, and the clouds coming over our heads – it is more dynamic than you think. Whereas indoors, the electric light is static. We thought, let’s create a system which monitor the movements of the clouds, the blue light, the number of white clouds, the direction of the sun, and then put it into a central system which replicates this indoors in real time. We are launching the first prototypes soon.”

The future of lighting
Henrik believes that in the upcoming years, the younger generations will become more aware of the effects lighting has and will therefore demand their workplaces to provide good lighting. “I think it will be as normalised as ergonomics. Everybody knows you need an adjustable table and a good chair, but I think future generations will recognise the impact lighting has on our hormone levels, which can allow them to do a better job, as well as better their mental health. It is a very exciting area with a lot more to discover.” 

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