Lighting your home office: 10 tips from the lighting designer

By: Jessica Merkens

People have been increasingly working from home ever since the world is plagued by the Covid-19 pandemic.Many people will probably remain working from home, even when the Corona virus is long gone. But how can you make sure that you’re working from home in a healthy and comfortable way? Not only is it important to be properly seated in an area without distractions. Light is essential too. Too little or the wrong light can negatively impact your wellbeing and focus. How to properly light your home office? Architectural lighting designer Rienk Visser wrote guidelines for the Dutch Association of Lighting (NSVV) and gives 10 tips.


Make sure light is evenly distributed throughout your work surface

1. Make sure to have plenty of light on your work space

Firstly: use as much daylight at your desk as you possibly can. Also make sure to go outside and expose yourself to daylight during breaks. This will benefit your circadian rhythm. Make use of artificial light to supplement daylight in your office. The minimum light intensity should be 500 lux for desk work. Legislation gives this as a norm. It’s possible you’ll prefer stronger or weaker illumination for different tasks. “People hardly notice whether they have sufficient light. Most living rooms only have 80 to 100 lux” Visser says. “You can’t trust your eyes when it comes to this.” Therefore, Visser recommends to check the information of your lights’ light fixture with the dealer. The distance from the bulb to your work space strongly determines the light intensity you need to work with. As a rule of thumb, Vissers says that “a desk lamp with a 5-Watt LED light often does the job.” Also, make sure this light is evenly distributed throughout your work surface.


Rather than a room with dark walls and furniture, a room with light walls and floors that reflect light is more beneficial for long-term working

2. Make sure brightness proportions are balanced

Light is not automatically evenly distributed on walls and furniture. Nor do the surfaces reflect light in the same way. When there is too big a difference in brightness proportions in a room, problems can occur. “This may be very exhausting and can cause physical ailments, such as headaches.” Visser says. This may be caused by incoming sunlight or a vast contrast in the brightness of colors in a room. Rather than a room with dark walls and furniture, a room with light walls and floors that reflect light is more beneficial for long-term working. “You benefit more from the light, because it reflects more throughout your room”, Visser explains. Good lighting design in your work space, in addition to the general light in a room, adds to a nice proportion in brightness.

3. Prevent direct and indirect blinding

Light nuisance, or worse: blinding, should be avoided as much as possible. This can be achieved by investing in shading devices, such as curtains or blinds. Choose light fixtures that give pleasant lighting in your line of sight. Also, take note of light nuisance on your computer screen. For example, the reflection of light from your walls onto your monitor.


Make sure daylight doesn’t create sharp shadows in your work area

4. Take the direction of light and shadow play into consideration

Prevent shading on your work space by placing your desk in the right part of the room and add lamps in the right places with regards to your desk. Make sure daylight doesn’t create sharp shadows in your work area. Indirect light from light fixtures that diffuse light, cause less shadow prevention than direct, targeted lighting.

5. Make sure you have lamps with good color rendering

Daylight contains all colors in the spectrum, but not all artificial light does. Sometimes this is indicated on the package with the color rendering index (Ra or CRI). Not all manufacturers do this, but you can request it through their website. Not all (LED) lights have good color rendering. It’s wise to choose a color rendering index of Ra=80, minimum. A color rendering of 90 Ra or bigger is even better. In comparison: daylight has a color rendering index of 100.


The way light fixtures emit light and where they are placed influence how light reaches your work space

6. Choose a pleasant light color

The color of light influences the atmosphere of a room. Is the light color a warm white or a cool white? This is indicated in Kelvin (K). If it’s dark outside, a warm white light color will do just fine (2700 K). Do you prefer more light? Choose a brighter white light color (3000 K). In the afternoon, daylight has a color temperature of 5000 K or higher. If you combine daylight and artificial light, lamps with a color temperature of 4000 K are experienced as pleasant, but this is a matter of taste.

In the Spotlight: Lighting designer Erik de Wildt 'Light is so powerful'

7. Be mindful of where your lamps are placed and how they emit light

The way light fixtures emit light and where in the room they are placed influence how light reaches your work space. Light fixtures can beam light all around, upward, downward, both up- and downward, but there are also fixtures that strongly bundle light in one direction. If you’re working in a small space, often general lighting from the ceiling will suffice. If your home office is situated in a larger room, it’s wise to have additional lighting at your desk.

Custommade Bicult fixture by TRILUX


Sometimes you won’t notice a light is flickering. But prolonged exposure can cause ailments

8. Choose the right place for your work area

The position of your work area in relation to a window, strongly determines how much daylight falls on your desk. In most cases, it is best to place your desk in a perpendicular position to your window. This way, you avoid direct sunlight. With a north-facing window, you will not have to cope with direct sunlight. “This is easier,” Visser tells. “You only have to do with the clarity of the sky.” If you have a south-facing window, direct bright sunlight can shine inside, which can be bothersome. You’ve got a bigger chance of unpleasant shadowing if the daylight sets in from behind your work space. If daylight comes in in front of your desk, use shading devices to prevent direct light from being a nuisance. Do you have a lot of video chat meetings? Then daylight from the front can be pleasant, because it shines directly on your face. Tip: make sure to regularly look away from your computer screen and into a space with depth (eg. outside). This prevents you from developing astigmatism like myopia.

9. Dimmable lamps can be useful

Dimmable lamps are useful, because you can adjust the illumination to different situations and preferences. It is indicated on a lamp’s packaging whether it’s dimmable. Please note: LED lights may flicker when dimmed below their limit. Visser: “Sometimes you won’t notice a light is flickering. But prolonged exposure can cause ailments”.

10. (Smart) options for remote lights

You can consider installing smart remote light control, with which you can adjust the color and brightness of your lamps to each activity you undertake in your work area. In this way, you’ll always have the best light for every occasion.

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