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The results from more and more experiments are building an undeniable case for the productivity boosting abilities of human-centric office lighting. A number of studies in recent months have backed up scientific theories with real productivity data to show the significant role lighting can play in the functioning of an organization.

A seven month study by scientists from the Twente University, The Free University Amsterdam, at the office of the property company CBRE, has shown that the installation of human-centric lighting boosted productivity by 18%. The survey included questionnaires, experiments, biological data, daily movement evaluations and interviews – creating more than 100,000 data records for the 124 employees involved.

What came to be known as ‘The Healthy Offices project’ involved time-controlled OSRAM lighting system featuring a ‘circadian-friendly’ illumination sequence, which mimics the sun by varying colour temperature and intensity over the course of the day. Just as we have evolved to do in response to the sun, occupants are stimulated by the system’s bluer and whiter light in the morning, then comforted by warmer tones in the afternoon.

Over the course of weeks and months, not only did the human-centric lighting improve the employee’s’ alertness and ability to focus, it also improved sleep, appetite and mood. Results showed that participants working in the office with the human-centric lighting found their total work performance to be 18% better, 71% found they had more energy, 76% thought they were happier and 50% healthier. Furthermore, in an objective experiment, researchers recorded an accuracy improvement of 12%.

Last month, a comprehensive report by Memoori included a study of hundreds of office workers across the US on the perceived impact of lighting on productivity. Breaking the results down into lighting types, the study found the respondents with halogen / fluorescent lighting, for example, only 9.7% claim it increases their ability to concentrate. Whereas, of those who describe their office as flooded with natural light, as many as 40.2% say such lighting increases their ability to concentrate.

By all accounts, abundant natural sunlight emerged as the most productive form of workplace illumination, “it benefits health and wellbeing through improved sleep and vitality – boosts teamwork and collaboration through enhanced mood and workplace relationships – it makes workers more comfortable and creative through reduction in stress levels,” explains the report: The Future Workplace: Smart Office Design in the IoT Era.

New levels of productivity, from lighting and other workplace elements discussed in the report, have come about by a shift from trying to shape the workers to fit their environment, to one where we shape the environment to fit the workers. Human sciences, office design and technology are coming together on unprecedented levels to develop ideas that are of benefit the worker and the enterprise.

“We have made a huge leap in understanding how light affects biology. So the future office will seek to mimic and even manipulate natural light conditions with artificial light sources in order to keep workers at their most productive for longer than ever before,” the report warns. However, “making workers healthier, happier, and more comfortable is to the benefit of the enterprise, the economy and the employees themselves.”

Despite the growing body of evidence, the market has still not truely reacted to the potential benefits of circadian lighting systems. In the Memoori study, 53% of respondents said their workplace still uses halogen and fluorescent tube lighting, for example, while only 16.6% say their office has begun introducing LEDs.

“Changing our working environment could lead to a brighter future for people at work, and it also represents a smart business investment. The costs associated with sickness and burn-outs as well as employee turnover are significant expenses that could be drastically reduced or eliminated by introducing healthier offices,” concluded the OSRAM team led by Huib Koppert, Lighting Solutions Business Development Manager for the project.

Offices like the CBRE headquarters in Amsterdam will no doubt expand their trials and deploy human-centric lighting technology across their facility. There is also little doubt that these opportunities will be seized on by the lighting industry as long-awaited hard evidence that investment in dynamic lighting gives a tangible return. And if the evidence continues to grow, there is no doubt that human-centric lighting will become common in the workplace.

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