Should ageing workforce demands dictate personalized office lighting?

Should ageing workforce demands dictate personalized office lighting?

Business news |
By eeNews Europe

The Dutch lighting giant points out that in Europe, the minimum lighting requirements for writing, typing, reading and data-processing in offices is 500 lux2.  But Philips has gathered research to show that this is not considered sufficient3 by almost a third of today’s global workforce.  Today 30-50% of people in work are over 45 years old1.

The company says that everyone experience physiological changes to their eyes as we get older4. Over the age of 45, people begin to experience a deterioration of their near-sight vision.  Philips says that research5 shows, a 60-year-old person needs between two and five times as much light as a 20-year-old to see the same visual detail, let alone to concentrate.

“People often call off sick due to headaches and fatigue. These symptoms may have many underlying causes but perhaps one of these could be the result of prolonged
eye-strain due to poor lighting conditions in their working lives,” explained Dr Bianca van der Zande, Principle Scientist at Philips Lighting. “Inadequate lighting can lead to visual discomfort6, neck pain, headaches, fatigue7 and perhaps eventually sick leave.”

But concentration and performance are not the only factors to consider. The same lighting that boosts concentration for one employee, could damage the creativity of
another. A laboratory study8 from 2011 demonstrates that while 1000 lux is required to support concentration, it is dimmer lighting that enhances creative thinking.

In 2013, Philips conducted a survey amongst people who tested a desk lamp that allowed them to adjust its light intensity and color temperature according to personal
preference. Some 90% reported sharper vision, optimum eye comfort, the ability to see smaller details and improved contrast. The ability to adjust individual workplace
lighting conditions according to personal preferences has been associated with better mood, improved lighting quality ratings and environmental satisfaction9. Because
individual preferences vary widely, individual control is the only practical means to ensure that people have a good chance to obtain light that is best suited to

“Regulatory bodies should take these findings into account for the well-being and productivity of today’s workforce,” suggested Dr Bianca van der Zande, Principle Scientist at Philips Lighting. “People spend 80-90% of their time indoors from which around 20% is spent at work so the indoor environment determines to a large extent the comfort and wellbeing of the office employee, influencing their performance. It is important that human-centric lighting becomes a part of the regulatory standards, allowing architects and building designers to advise for the best solutions – not only for offices, but for all building environments.”

In a world where employers are under pressure to increase productivity and consider employee well-being – while at the same time cut costs and reduce their carbon
footprint – investing in personalized lighting can be seen as an expensive indulgence. Meanwhile, providing desk lamps for over-45s are not only discriminatory but also

A solution proposed by Philips is the company’s Power-over-Ethernet connected office lighting which provides personalized lighting, without increasing employers’ costs and carbon footprint. The solution is a connected lighting system that uses the same cabling as computers. The lighting becomes a device on the network, enabling office workers to control and set their personal lighting preferences in their personal space using their smartphone.

“Imagine being able to adjust the lighting directly above you with just a tap of an app on your smartphone,” said Adrie de Vries, Senior Lighting Consultant at Philips. “Philips’ connected lighting system for offices allows you change your light settings depending on your own preference. You can select a high light level to boost your energy, or a lower light level to promote creative work. What’s more, the system can remember your personal preferences.”

The interaction between smartphones and ceiling lighting is made possible via wireless communications access points integrated into each lighting fixture, using
technology Philips has developed and patented.  Each light point has its own IP address.

“This is an extension of the Internet of Things in the office. As the world leader in lighting, we have developed tools – like software-based dashboards – providing an
intuitive way to set-up and operate the system. The result is highly energy-efficient, personalized lighting for employees and useful real-time data for building managers,” explained Jeff Cassis Head of Global Systems at Philips Lighting. “So we can be a key partner in enabling connected lighting systems that deliver value for our customers, over and above illumination.”

Philips research findings suggest that working environments would benefit from advanced lighting solutions that accommodate both task needs and different age groups.  

The technology exists, but the regulatory standards for lighting still have some catching up to do. The European standards for lighting were drafted in 2011 and need
to be updated to take account of an ageing workforce and the Internet of Things.

1 Rea and Quellette, 1991: A 65 year old need 5x more light; and, Sagawa 2003:  A 70-year old need 10x more light; and, Zumtobel 2014
2 EN12464-1:2011: “Light and lighting – Lighting of work places – Part 1: Indoor work places
3 Zumtobel, 2014: Lighting quality perceived in offices
4 Sagawa, Ujike & Sasaki 2003
5 Sagawa, Ujike & Sasaki 2003; and, Rea and Quellette, 1991: A 65 year old need 5x more light
6 Boyce, 2003
7 Hemphälä, 2013
8 Steidle, 2011
9 Veitch, 2010

Related articles and links:

Research findings on the impact of lighting on ageing workforce

News articles:

Dutch experts warn about LED light health risks

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute launches Light and Health Alliance

Philips sharpens strategic focus on lighting and healthtech solutions

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