The Importance of Smart Lighting in the Workplace

As many workers gradually make their return to the office environment, what has become clear is that employers have had to reimagine the role of the office in the lives of their employees. This change in attitude encompasses both how often the employee is expected to be in the office, but also how the office is designed and configured to create a safe and productive working environment. A crucial, and sensitive part, of reintegrating employees into the office environments is to safeguard their mental health and office design and layout is an integral part of this process. Anthony Parkinson, Technical Manager at Ansell Lighting, looks at the importance of lighting and the positive impact smart lighting can have on health and wellbeing.

 

Unless budgets are endless, after an extremely testing trading period for many businesses, full office re-fits are unlikely, so for many employers the strategy will be focusing on smaller, tactical solutions that can have a positive impact. Step forward Smart lighting, a ‘tactical’ and affordable solution that has a hugely important role to play in the workplace, especially in this post-pandemic era where flexible working patterns and reduced capacities within workspaces are likely to remain prevalent. 

The commercial office landscape has potentially changed forever, with more employers embracing flexible working patterns and combinations of working from home and the office.  The result? Not every office space will be occupied all the time and, if it is, it is unlikely to be at full capacity. Enabling lighting systems to be automated and well planned, the functionality offered by smart lighting is in tune with those changing needs. The technology offers businesses optimum control over energy use and with that, can offer huge cost saving benefits.

Ideal for use in public and commercial buildings, industrial spaces, hospitals and schools as well as in outdoor areas such as pedestrian underpasses and car parks – the benefits of smart lighting will be felt anywhere where lighting requirements change with the time of day and according to the movement of its users. 

One of the key benefits of automated systems such as OCTO is that it eliminates reliance on human intervention and offer facilities managers complete control over lighting settings at the touch of a button. The time lighting is in operation, the output level the luminaires are set to, the colour temperature and the different ‘scenes’ or combinations of lamps in use can all be fixed according to specific requirements. Whilst the installation of intuitive motion sensors as well as presence and absence detection lighting can also be of benefit where the requirement is for lights to be responsive and simply either on or off.

Cost and energy savings aside, when used properly, another major benefit of smart lighting is the huge positive impact it can have on the health and wellbeing of employees in the workplace.  

Light is one of the biggest influences on circadian rhythm – the natural 24-hour cycle of sleep, wake, hunger, alertness, hormone release and body temperature – experienced by humans.  In nature, daylight changes from a warm colour in the morning, to blue during the day and then back to a warmer hue in the evening which prompts the body into knowing when it should feel awake and energised or more relaxed and ready to sleep.  Exposure to the wrong lights at the wrong time of day can play havoc with this natural rhythm. For example, too much blue light in the evening can result in poor sleep, which in turn can cause low and irritable mood, whilst exposure to too much warm light during the day can leave staff feeling lethargic, unproductive and tired.

Traditionally, lighting systems have been limited to perform at one level but thanks to the development of smart lighting and LED technology, it is now possible to mimic the pattern of natural lighting inside, enhancing health and wellbeing.

RGB and tunable white LED lights offer millions of different colour settings and used in conjunction with smart lighting systems such as OCTO, luminaires can be set to emit changing colour temperatures at different times of day. By imitating natural lighting patterns, employees can benefit from feeling more focussed and energised, resulting in happier, healthier staff with improved productivity.

Smart lighting also makes it easier to change the desired ambience in the workplace. Whilst most commonly the preference will be for a cooler lighting temperature to help employees feel alert, productive and focussed, there will be occasions when warmer lighting is required during the day as it can help promote creativity. This may be during project meetings or client pitches and during times of problem solving as people think through complex challenges.

Crucially, what smart lighting delivers is an alternative to the ‘one size fits all’ glaring strip lighting often associated with British workplaces.  Daylight harvesting systems can allow buildings to maximise the availability of natural lighting, thereby reducing the need for electric lighting during periods of high-level daylight and ensuring adequate and uniform illuminance across the space. For example, in a space with significant levels of natural daylight, the need for electric lighting will be less, compared to areas deeper into the space where the natural lighting is either reduced or non-existent. Careful consideration of this ever-changing scenario as the natural component of the combined lighting increases and reduces can also maximise the energy-saving benefits of the artificial lighting installation.

It would be realistic to assume that to implement such a revolutionary lighting system, expensive upgrades or building work would be required, but one of the most impressive things about smart lighting solutions, is that the system is very easy to install and commission retrospectively. Many smart lighting systems are controlled and hosted on the cloud, so there is no hub or wiring to install, and many of the units are simply installed like a normal light bulb or switch – making it very easy to retrofit into existing buildings. So, for the employer looking to create a positive transition from home working back to the commercial office space, smart lighting presents an affordable and easy tactical solution which can have a real impact on the mood, productivity and wellbeing of its workforce.

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