Lighting Ergonomics

Individuals need different amounts of light throughout the day depending on what task they are focused on.

Jump to > Ergonomic Lighting Tips

The Pitfalls of Overhead Lighting

The first pitfall is that the level of light is not adjustable at an individual level. This can become a series issue when you have multiple people in the same space whose eyes requires different amounts of light. The plain and simple truth is that everyone's eyes are unique and require different lighting for optimal sight. 

Task Lighting

Contrasting Light Requirements: Your Desk vs. Your Monitor

As mentioned earlier, multi-tasking is one contemporary feature of the workplace and the home that only reinforces the need for more ergonomic lighting. You might find yourself frequently changing your line of sight from your computer monitor to the documents, papers, and books on your desk.

Task Lighting

This creates a regular strain on your eyes since they are constantly switching back and forth from the brightness of your screen to the relative darkness of your desk. Monitors generate light, while paper reflects light; in fact, reading paper documents requires 4-5 times more light than reading a computer monitor. As you might imagine, this frequent back and forth adjustment on the eyes is not very desirable.

The solution is not hard to guess- increase the amount of light delivered to your desk surface so that your paper documents are better illuminated. An ergonomic light should always be adjustable and let you decide where its light falls across your desk. This also saves energy and reduces the strain on your eyes.

Ergonomic Lighting Tips

Keep lighting levels as even as possible. To determine problem areas, shield right sources form your view with your hand or a file. If you feel relief, eliminate the bright source. To improve lighting:

  • Use indirect lighting sources and task lights.
  • Use low-glare bulbs or cover bright bulbs with filters.
  • Adjust light levels by turning off light banks or using adjustable light switches.
  • Avoid sitting so that overhead lights are within your visual field.
  • Wear a visor to shield your eyes from bright overhead lights.
  • Reduce light from windows with window coverings or room partitions.
  • Sit at least 3 feet away from and at right angles to windows.
  • Avoid glossy, reflective wall paint or reflective light work surfaces.
  • Use a monitor visor to reduce glare from overhead lighting sources.
  • Consider using a good quality glare guard. Use a polarized filter if you sit near a window.
  • When tilting the monitor, avoid reflections from windows and ceiling fixtures.
  • Adjust screen/character background. Use dark characters on a light background.
  • White characters on a blue background can provide positive contrast while limiting glare often seen on a white background.
  • Select a monitor large enough for the work you complete. The size of the text should be three times the size of the smallest text you can read. IF you work with spreadsheets, you will need a larger screen to view your work.
  • If you don’t need a color monitor, consider a monochrome monitor with higher screen resolution.
  • Adjust contrast level to maximize character definition.
  • Select a color monitor with dot pitch less than .28mm.
  • Use refresh rates above the standard 60 Hz default setting to reduce flicker.
  • Adjust the screen brightness to match the general brightness of the room.
  • Position the center of the screen 10-30 degrees below your straight-ahead gaze. You should be able to look at your screen without tilting your lead.
  • Eyes are strained more by close viewing than distant viewing. Place the screen as far away as possible, provided you can read it easily.
  • Keep the screen and source documents at about the same distance away from you to avoid constant re-focusing while working.
  • Eyestrain can result from dry eyes. Blinking helps lubricate your eyes. Post a “Blink” post-it note on your monitor to remind you to blink while working.
  • Follow the “20-20-20 rule”. Every 20 minutes, look twenty feet away for twenty seconds to rest your eyes.

Vision as a Function of Age

Not surprisingly, there is a negative correlation between age and the ability to see clearly. This means that more contrast, between objects is needed over time in order to differentiate them. In order to achieve more contrast, more light is needed. This means that the need for ergonomic lighting increases exponentially after the age of 40; while most of us can get away with overhead lighting in our youth, the need for better lighting only increases with age.

Finding an Ergonomic Desk Lamp

What should you look for in your ergonomic light? Good question- but a few of the features you should be looking for include a flexible design, adjustable light intensity, and easily adjustable positioning. Note that the qualities of an ergonomic light revolve around the idea of versatility/flexibility.