Thursday, October 12, 2006

The uncanny effect of office lights

“The uncanny effect of office lights” was the title of an article I’ve recently read in The Cape Times.

Scientists are investigating the biological rhythms that affect people’s levels of alertness at work. They look into phenomena like “the post-lunch dip” - and they are surprised to discover it may occur whether or not you eat lunch! Well, they clearly haven’t heard of our Working Styles model, which pays attention to which time of day the individual finds productive, and which are counter-productive.

The same scientists also they believe these biological rhythms can be influenced by a
hitherto neglected office feature - the lighting. Again, our Working Styles model takes lighting into account when determining the most optimal area of work. It’s important to realise that an area deemed the most optimal for one person (who performs well under bright lights, in a separate quiet office) may be quite unsuitable for another (who might prefer the hustle and bustle of a crowded office which is only dimply lit).

(If you would like to discover your own Working Style, please visit us on

The article goes on to offer a warning about fluorescent tubes (again, something that we’ve been warning about in our assessment reports). The good news is, researchers are now experimenting with lamps that emit a different spectrum of light - of a cooler, bluish hue, which looks almost like daylight. Our receptors respond well to this light, by sending signals to the hypothalamus in the brain, which regulates circadian rhythms and the production of the hormone melatonin.

The year-long experiment discovered that the staff exposed to this light during office hours “felt more alert” and were doing their work “to a higher standard”, as opposed to the staff on other floors."

The hope is that manipulating lighting may improve health, and tackle problems such as depression, insomnia and variation in levels of on-the-job alertness.

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