Have you ever noticed how a sunny morning can help you tackle your to-do list with utmost energy and enthusiasm? Or how a dark, dreary sky makes you feel more lethargic?
It happens to us all. And whilst weather does have a direct effect on our emotions, there’s another thing at play here: light.
Not only can light boost, or hinder, our mood, it also helps us concentrate and get more done. That’s why, whether you’re working from home or in a dedicated workspace, it’s important to get your indoor lighting right.
After all, the more productive we can be during office hours, the greater sense of satisfaction we will feel. This, in turn, encourages us to work more efficiently. It’s truly a virtuous cycle — and a much-needed one today!
In this guide, we’ll outline everything you need to know about indoor lighting and the changes you may need to make to send your productivity levels through the roof.
Indoor lighting: the basics
You don’t need an advanced knowledge of lighting to understand how it affects your mood.
If we boil it down to the very basics, there are two concepts to get familiar with: light color and light temperature. And the two go hand in hand, the higher the color rating, the cooler the temperature, and vice versa.
It’s likely you’ve seen a Kelvin measurement on a light bulb, or its packaging, even if you’ve never noticed it before. Typically seen in a range representing 2300K to 6000K, this numerical stamp is the fastest way to identify how white and cool, or orange and warm, the light emitted from a bulb will be.
That’s all you need to know about lighting terminology, but we’ll continue with the technicalities for a little while longer — as this helps us shed light on how bulb color and temperature impacts our productivity.
How indoor lighting affects productivity (and other moods)
We all have internal body clocks — otherwise known as circadian rhythms. It’s thanks to this that we tend to wake up at the same time each day (normally with the sun) and end up getting sleepier as dusk creeps in. Indoor lighting can manipulate our circadian rhythm, by tricking us into thinking it’s a different time in the day than our body knows it to be.
For example, imagine waking up in a hotel room with blackout blinds. If you turn on the light and its emitting a warm, orange glow, how are you going to feel? Chances are you’ll struggle to wake up properly, as your body will interpret the lighting to mean it’s still time to rest.
What happens, though, if you turn on the light and it illuminates the room with a bright, white light? Sure, at first you might be a little shell-shocked, but you’ll soon find your body adjusting to its new surroundings — the brain switches on, neurons are firing, and you’re ready for the day.
This, essentially, is what indoor lighting does to you every day.
Whilst sometimes it’s good to have warm lighting that cues comfort and relaxation — in the bedroom or living room, for example — when it comes to productivity, you’ll want bright illumination.
Scientists and researchers have found evidence of this time and time again. One study, published in the Journal of Circadian Rhythms, found that when cool, bright lighting is utilized in an office space, workers are 27% less fatigued and 28% more alert — and performance is up 19% to boot.
Increased exposure to bright light also suppresses production of melatonin (the sleepy hormone) — bolstering a positive, productive mood and, perhaps more surprisingly, also reducing our desire to snack. So, if you tend to get pulled away from your work by cravings for sugar and carbs, your workplace lighting may be to blame!
How to boost your productivity in 3 easy steps
It’s not always possible to totally overhaul your indoor lighting set-up, for example if you work in a shared office or live in a rental property. But, if you can make steps to shift the color and temperature of the lights around you, you should see a marked difference in your productivity day by day.
If you’ve got the scope to assess and amend your indoor lighting, here’s what you’ll need to do:
1. Check the Kelvin measurement of the lights you currently have
As mentioned previously, it should be quite straightforward to work out what color temperature you’re currently using today. Simply check your light bulb packaging if you still have it, or switch off the light and unscrew the bulb to check if it’s marked directly on there.
If you can’t find the Kelvin measurement anywhere, don’t worry. It’s possible to deduce a rough idea of color and temperature by simply observing the light throughout the day.
Of course, it’s harder during daylight hours to get a good read, but if you wait until nightfall it should be pretty clear:
- If your room is washed in warm orange/red tones, you’ve got a low Kelvin measurement (likely around 2000-4000K)
- If the room is still bright and cool, you’ve probably got a mid-to-high Kelvin bulb (circa 4000-5500K)
- If the light appears blue-ish, you’ve got the highest Kelvin available, at around 5500-7000K.
Now that you’ve got at least a rough idea of your current light bulb color and temperature, you can decide if that works for you — and if not, what you’ll need to change to.
2. Decide what bulb color and temperature works best for you
There’s no exact science to suggest where the productivity cut-off point is in the Kelvin scale. But it’s a pretty safe bet to assume that anything below 4000K won’t be that useful in a working environment — the warmness of the light will simply make you too relaxed to get stuff done!
Anything above this rating though is up for grabs: which one you choose will largely depend on personal preference. Here’s a short overview of the Kelvin measurements and how they’ll make a space feel:
|4000K (Daylight Glow)||Similar to natural daylight and gives an energetic feel — this is a great choice for home offices, or people who work from their kitchens, as it works for both professional productivity, as well as everyday life.|
|5000K (Crystal White Glow):||Crisp and illuminating, with a blue-white temperature. If you’re still feeling sluggish with a 4000K light bulb, then consider trying this color temperature out.|
|6000K (Super Bright White)||This light is ultra-bright with a futuristic blue hue and, therefore, is arguably a little too much for most home-based workers — it’s probably fine in a dedicated office environment, however.|
When you’ve made your decision, simply decide on the bulb shape of your preference and make the switch.
If you are unsure of what temperature works for you, consider an adjustable CCT bulb which allows you to change the CCT to your preference. If you are looking for more flexibility, look into a LED smart bulb which allows you to change color, dimming and CCT!
Remember to always buy your LED lights from a trusted LED lighting supplier. The last thing you want is to have put all this thought and energy into getting your indoor lighting right, only to have the bulb break on you right away!
3. Monitor your mood and productivity levels, adjusting as needed
Now that you’ve made changes to your indoor lighting, all you can do is wait for the result.
Remember to check in with your energy levels throughout the day — are you still on course to get everything done, or has your enthusiasm and focus ground to a halt? Of course, it’s perfectly normal for productivity to ebb and flow (the circadian rhythm is a natural thing, after all) but if you’re still dragging your heels at 11am, it may be worth reconsidering your indoor lighting once again.
If you are at work in an office space, with limited scope to change the lighting, a simple addition like a desk lamp with a higher Kelvin bulb might just do the trick.
And once you land on the ideal color temperature for your workplace, there’ll be no stopping you.