What is task lighting, and why is task lighting important in home offices?

Winter is coming. Daylight savings time ends this weekend. But it’s safe to say remote working isn’t going anywhere.

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, governments across the world are encouraging people to work from home where possible. On top of that, there’s increasing evidence that remote working will outlive the pandemic. 87% of remote managers think that working from home is the future of work (Remote Managers 2020 Report) and over 20 multinationals have now announced a shift towards more permanent remote work beyond the coronavirus crisis.

When the UK first announced a national lockdown, which saw just under half (46.6%) of its total adult workforce working from home, daylight savings time was just beginning. The quality of your employees’ home office lighting was probably not at the forefront of your mind when the sun began setting at 8 or 9pm and the entire working day was spent in daylight.

But when the clocks go back on Saturday, it will have to be. Days shorten - working days don’t.  

By mid-November, the sun will be setting at 4pm. By December, even earlier. That’s 1-3 hours of most people’s working day with no access to natural light. If your employees aren’t set up with appropriate lighting in their remote offices, their productivity, wellbeing and health may suffer.    

Here’s why you should care about home office lighting, and why a task light is an integral part of any home office.

Why is lighting important in home offices?

For starters, workers need good lighting.

Lighting that is too bright, too dim, or too sharp (i.e. coming from a single, harsh source like an exposed light bulb) can lead to eyestrain and headaches. Productivity takes a hit in poor lighting as drowsiness, lack of focus etc. are common.

Lighting that is too cold (bluish in appearance rather than yellowish, warm lighting) can mess with our circadian rhythm - the 24-hour internal cycle that regulates sleep, metabolism and other functions - in addition to inducing headaches and eye strain.

Employees notice the impact of lighting. Over 90% of respondents in the 2019 European Work Place Light Survey said that workstation lighting affects their mood and vigilance, while 87% said it influences performance.

But workers also want good lighting.

In 2018, UK office supplier Staples surveyed 7,000 employees and found that 80% deemed good workstation lighting important.And workers see investment in lighting as evidence of their employer caring. Just under 70% of these respondents said they’d feel more valued by their employer if they took their health and wellbeing into account and invested in good quality lighting.

The bottom line: investing in appropriate lighting for your employees’ home offices will show them they’re valued, improve their productivity and mood and prevent ongoing discomfort and potential health issues.

How does home lighting compare to office lighting?

It doesn’t. Offices in Europe have to meet a minimum luminance of 500 lux (a measure of brightness) to enable employees to work for hours without discomfort. Home lighting isn’t regulated, and as the Illuminating Engineering Society only recommends 30-200 lux for the kinds of rooms your employees might now be working in - bedrooms, kitchens, dining rooms etc. - they’re unlikely to be working in environments optimised for their productivity and health.

How can you improve lighting in home offices?

Ideally, every home office abounds in natural light and has dimmable overhead lighting as well as controllable desk lighting. But that’s unlikely to be the reality for most remote workers.

Let’s be pragmatic. You can’t change your employees windows. You can advise them to work in the room that receives the most natural light, and to position themselves facing or next to windows instead of having their backs to the light source (this will create glare from screens).

But that’s assuming it’s easy and practical for them to move furniture around. Which it may not be.

You probably can’t change their overhead lighting either. If you can, dimmer switches are best for adjusting light levels throughout the day. At the very least, advise your employees not to work directly under the glare of the ceiling light.

But you can invest in a good quality task light.

So, what is task lighting?

A task light is a desk lamp designed to illuminate a working area in a way that makes it easy for you to carry out tasks, like reading print reports, making written notes or even typing, as the majority of keyboards are unlit.

Is my desk lamp a task light? What makes a good task light?

Standard desk lamps tend to use incandescent or fluorescent light bulbs, which emit light in all directions. Cue glare. Task lights generally use LEDs to create directed beams so you can focus on an activity, free from glare.  

The extent of control you have with a basic desk lamp - turning it on and off. No further adjustments.
In contrast, a proper task light will emit a diffused light at a warmth specifically designed to minimise eye strain. The brightness level can be adjusted in most high-quality task lights and in some, the warmth of the light can be adjusted depending on the time of the day.

Finally, most desk lamps are fixed. Most high quality task lights, on the other hand, feature adjustable arms and heads so that light can be precisely positioned to suit the task at hand and the user’s ergonomic needs.

Given the amount of additional engineering that goes into a task light vs a basic desk lamp, it’s no surprise they come at a premium. Entry-level task lights that are fit for the purpose start at £35, with premium ones costing up to an eye-watering £500.

The investment pays off. Because most task lights use LEDs, they last a long time - 10+ years - and are extremely power efficient. There’s no need to change the bulbs, either.

The investment pays off for your health, too. In a 2014 study on the benefits of adjustable task lighting, users saw improvements in posture, discomfort and eye fatigue.  

At Hofy, we’ve tested dozens of task lights to land on a list of around 10 models we recommend. Here are a few of our favourites.

Get tasklights to teams. In a few clicks.

Demo Hofy today to see how quickly and easily you can get your teams the the ergonomic equipment they need, for safe and productive work at home.