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Why spending money on fancy lights is a harbinger of failure…

lightbulb and cash

It’s tempting to stay in our cosy bubble with other ‘good’ people who are sold on the value of good-quality lighting and even perhaps, ‘Human Centred Lighting’ – by which I mean Kevin Houser’s simple and balanced definition as lighting that ‘considers the visual and non-visual effects of light in support of positive human outcomes’… – Human-Centric Lighting: Foundational Considerations and a Five-Step Design Process (i.e. not necessarily ‘tunable’ / cool to warm).

 
This article is a valuable reminder of the real world out there and the arguments we all still need make so that ‘cheap ceiling panel’ is not a badge of honour for a savvy entrepreneur with a keen eye for the bottom line, but one who is missing a trick – Why spending money on fancy lights is a harbinger of failure
 
Perhaps the clue is in the use of the word ‘fancy’ in the headline. There is growing evidence that well-designed good-quality lighting – starting with daylight – can help office workers to concentrate, reduce headaches and even to be more creative. When you add controls and sensors, the budget-conscious business can cut the electricity bill and carbon footprint too.
 
The GSK research I shared last week is one of many – here are a couple more… Cundall – Cundall Office, One Carter Lane, CBRE – Right Lighting, and an interview with Erik Askensjöe of industrial giant Schaeffler – a ferociously competitive and successful business not known for splashing out on unnecessary fripperies.

Even if you don’t buy the productivity and well-being argument – and it’s not a one size fits all and even gold-plated lighting won’t up for an unhealthy culture – just building a reputation as an organisation that cares for its people can cut recruitment costs in half – 7 Ways Employer Branding Impacts Business ROI and Reduces Recruitment Costs by Jody Ordioni. And according to Deloitte, every £1 spent on employee well-being reaps a £5 return to the bottom line – Mental health and employers. In fairness the article was written in 2018 before the pandemic and the current interest among business leaders in physical and mental health.

I’d love to know what you would say to Eric- and the millions of businessmen and women like him for whom investing in ‘fancy’ lighting is a sign of hubris, a company gone hopelessly soft and sliding rapidly – albeit stylishly – down the slippery slope of distraction from the things that really count.

 
Bad lighting is a pain in the neck…

We talk a lot about the mood-boosting, sleep-enhancing power of light, so it’s easy to forget the basic need for good-quality lighting where we sit to work – at home or in the office. One recent paper found that, compared to previous work at the office, 39.1 % reported stronger pain in the lower back, 45.7 % in the upper back/neck, and 63 (27.2 %) in their hands, conditions directly linked to light and lighting.

That comes at a cost. According to NV legal, back pain alone accounts for 40% of sickness absence in the NHS and overall costs the UK economy £10 billion – Eight million people in the UK suffer with back pain – are you one of them?
 
This recent survey of over 200 offices by Hillevi Hemphälä’s Lab in Lund makes uncomfortable reading . To quote from the abstract: The risk for daylight was assessed to be yellow (moderate risk) or red (high risk) at 53% of the workplaces and the risk for glare was yellow or red at 66%. The assessment of the lighting design showed a yellow or red risk at 44% of the workplaces and the illuminance was assessed to be insufficient at 49% of the workplaces. Flicker or TLM (temporal light modulation) was assessed to be a problem among 33% – Risks In the Visual Environment Such as Glare, Illuminance and Luminance Ratio – Risk Assessments Made with Visual Ergonomics Risk Assessment Method, Veram – A Descriptive Paper The authors concludes in a wonderfully understated way
‘These results show that the design of the visual environment is in most cases not performed in a satisfying way. The visual environment is essential to increase wellbeing, health and performance.’
So what can you do about it? First be honest about whether you need glasses or not – one of the key reasons for poor reading posture among teens – cited in this paper among many others – Abnormal head posture associated with high hyperopia – Sort that one out first.
 Then I invite you to take a look at the lights where you’re reading this. 
 
Are there reflections on the screen? if so, add a screen cover, sheer curtains. I’ve put my monitor on an arm so I can move it around. 
Is there enough contrast – or too much – between the screen and the rest of the room? technically it should be 50% brighter – that simply means brighter but the rest of the room should be balanced too. I’ve got lights on either side and a linear one on the shelf behind – helps with zoom too. 

And use the 20-20-20 rule – I set my phone to beep every 20 minutes – lean back, take a breath, look up and blink – and smile.

A sight for sore eyes… 

Do your eyes feel a bit dry and itchy by the end of the week? If so you’re not alone. Computer vision syndrome and dry eyes affect nearly half of all U.S. adults and up to 33% of patients in eye care clinics present with complaints about dry eye – Understanding prevalence, demographics of dry eye disease

People experiencing these conditions struggle to concentrate and work on screen. The market for dry eye treatments is expected to top $6 billion in 2023 – so it’s good for some businesses at least. A combination of glare-free lighting, screen resolution and screen contrast can make a big difference. But it’s Friday – time to switch off! Effect of Ambient Illumination, Screen Resolution and Zoom Level on Performance of Typing on Computers

Death and taxes…

I’ve been sorting out Lasting Power of Attorney and writing my will this week. Partly because I’m planning a trip (more on that net week). But also because, like taxes, it’s always the thing that gets bumped off the to do list. Like taxes, death is the only thing we can be absolutely certain of.   It may seem unconnected but I’ve also been doing up my little home and making a gazillion small choices about the materials and, yes, the lights. This is a grade two listed building. It has been here for a couple of centuries before I came on the scene and for several more after that Will gets triggered. A third strand, again, from a different zone is that I have had the privilege of spending a little time with my beloved nieces – the inspiration for the Luna campaign and for my work now. Pondering what I will leave them – after all the only truly lasting legacy is the example that you set.

 
So what’s that got to do with lights?  Well.  Every choice you make about the quality of light and lighting in your home or your client’s space will leave a legacy, however small – in a bank account, a supply chain, a landfill site – and in the lived experience of all those who will spent time there. 
 
Best wishes

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