Which would you rather have, fatigue or headaches?
Or maybe the choices should be irritated and dry eyes or neck ache or backache? The results could go on to include light sensitivity, blurred vision, problems refocusing, or double vision. If your workspace is not lighted properly one or all of these symptoms could endanger your health.
Not only are health issues prominent in workspaces that are poorly lighted, but workers are also less productive. The introduction of the computer into a workspace makes the issue of proper lighting even more important. Add to all of this the increasing prominence of work at home employees or businesses and the problems become even more important to address.
At-home workers are more likely to make do with the lighting design available mostly out of ignorance or a tight budget. The work at a home person is at risk of damaging their sight and their overall health if they ignore their physical needs.
APPLY WHAT YOU KNOW FROM THE COMMERCIAL ENVIRONMENT
Finding the right light levels is important in any space. Establishing a balance in contrasts is the goal. The eye can adjust to all types of light levels but it can only adjust to one at a time. If your lighting scenario is requiring your eyes to adjust to several at one time or is requiring the eyes to adjust from bright to low, or high contrast to low contrast at the same time or within seconds, eye strain and headache will be a problem.
DO AND DO NOT FOR LIGHTING YOUR OFFICE
The idea is to produce proper light balance. This is achieved with a combination of lighting fixtures that will give the eye the proper queue it needs to adapt easily.
Layer your lighting. A lighting plan should be broken down into three layers task, ambient, and accent. Each has its reason for being.
Task lighting is just what it sounds like. You light a specific area for the task at hand. Sometimes this means moving a lamp around to get the proper lighting. For instance, using a task lamp at your desk is the right thing to do. The task lamp enables you to light the area at hand. You may however need to work at your dining or conference table. If you do not have task lighting at that spot, move the task tamp from your desk to achieve the proper light levels. You may think that an occasional visit to the dining table without the proper lighting is nothing to be concerned about but the truth is repeated visits can strain the eyes.
Ambient lighting is used to fill a room with a light level that allows free movement and circulation and to control the contrast in the room. Remember you are looking for a balanced light level. If you are working in a room with access to outside light, the proper fixture will need to be accompanied by the ability to adjust the outdoor light coming into the room. The combination of the two can add to the balance in the room. Ambient light is usually an overhead fixture.
Accent lighting is used to highlight points of interest in the room, such as art or display cases. Accent lighting is not important to the overall balanced lighting plan but is optional. It does add a level of visual interest for the eye. Review any accent lighting to ensure it is not causing glare.
Light your task first. The light should be the brightest on the task at hand. Make sure your illumination is not too bright. If it is then you are creating a sharp contrast between it and the ambient lighting and this will cause eyestrain.
Layer lighting with the layers of the workspace task, peripheral work area (the rest of your desk), and surroundings (the rest of the room).
Do not place your computer/desk directly in front of a window or with the window directly at your back unless you can adjust the contrast. This is a tough requirement to follow for some of us. Many at-home workers have little contact with the outside world and to have the ability to view the outdoors while we are working keeps us from the stir crazies.
The reason you do not want a window at your front or back is because of glare and contrast. Both are causes of eyestrain and headache and can lead to focusing issues. The eye has difficulty knowing what to focus on, the bright background, or the monitor. If the window is behind you the eye fights glare coming off the computer monitor and leads the eye to be confused and unable to focus properly. This is the same issue the eye has when attempting to focus on bright white paper and dark type in a poorly lighted room. It cannot focus properly.
In the interest of keeping contrast levels balanced, adjust the window treatment as the day passes. A bright day means filtering the light with a screen or an adjustable blind. As the day progresses you may be able to open that screen or blind and adjust the light.
TIPS FOR BETTER BALANCE
1. Eliminate glare. From the objects in your surroundings to the monitor of your choice, eliminate glare completely.
2. Choose the optimal location for your desk and your computer. The best place for the desk and computer places the windows to the side. It also means no direct overhead lighting. Task lighting should be aimed at your hands.
3. Control daylight. You may have chosen the optimal position for your desk and in doing so you believe that your windows do not need a control mechanism. Regardless of where the windows are, you should still have a way of controlling the light level. Use shutters, blinds, screens or solar films to achieve your needs.
4. Light the room. Do not work in a dark room with just a monitor on or task lighting alone. Remember contrast needs to be balanced.