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How to strike a balance between office furniture and lighting

Posted by Trevor
February 27, 2014 in Features

When planning how to lay out an office and integrating lighting with furniture, it is important to put the comfort of employees first, so that they can work as efficiently and productively as possible. Another consideration will be the overall aesthetic effect of both elements when in place. Getting this right will result in an attractive office environment that will impress clients and visitors and also improve the morale of workers. Finally, environmental and health and safety aspects will come into play that will affect decisions about the type of lighting chosen and the amount of energy being used. This will have to be balanced against the need for particular lighting levels in relation to items of office furniture.

Arrange furniture and lighting around office tasks

While it used to be the trend in offices to blast the entire space with as much light as possible, regardless of how the furniture was arranged, office design has moved on in recent years. General office lighting is still used, providing ambient light, and is typically mounted in the ceiling, but localised lighting is then added to illuminate areas where tasks are carried out. These tasks tend to be related to items of furniture, because workers usually carry out activities based at a desk or computer work station. To make each task easier to perform lighting needs to be directed towards the desk or work station in such a way that enough brightness is provided without causing glare. The relative positions of furniture and lights also need to work together to eliminate unhelpful shadows that could prevent a worker from seeing what he or she is doing.

Furniture choices can affect lighting in an office

Some office furniture, such as tall cabinets and storage shelves, and also partitions, can cast strong shadows that obscure areas where tasks are being performed. The more vertical surfaces there are in a room the more the distribution of light will be altered, and darker coloured or more heavily textured surfaces will absorb more light, further reducing the illumination of work stations. Using furniture with light-coloured finishes, as well as having lighter ceilings and walls, can help to reflect more light through the office space, brightening the room. Natural light can add useful brightness but not if it enters the office at an angle that causes glare on a worker’s desk or computer screen.

Positioning is key when arranging office furniture and lighting. Monitors are better placed away from windows and at the side of a light source, rather than directly underneath it. This means positioning desks between rows of lights, and if lighting consists of fluorescent strips, ensuring the sides of the desks run parallel to the lights. When planning lighting around tasks, it is important to remember that computer tasks have different light requirements from paper tasks. Using a combination of fixed and movable lights, either mounted on the work station or on walls or ceilings nearby, allows workers to finely tune lighting to suit these different tasks. Giving workers their own individual lighting controls can be psychologically beneficial, as can using as much daylight in the office space as possible.

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