Philips calls for a rethink of office lighting to meet the needs of an ageing workforce

The one-light-for-all principle is outdated at a time when we are all living and working longer. Today 30-50% of people in work are over 45 years old  and Philips, the global leader in lighting, says office lighting needs a serious rethink at a policy level.  In Europe, the minimum lighting requirements for writing, typing, reading and data-processing in offices is 500 lux, but Philips has gathered research to show that this is not considered sufficient  by almost a third of today’s global workforce.

We all experience physiological changes to our eyes as we get older . Over the age of 45, people begin to experience a deterioration of their near-sight vision. Research  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,” says Dr Bianca van der Zande, Principle Scientist at Philips Lighting. “Inadequate lighting can lead to visual discomfort , neck pain, headaches, fatigue  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 study  from 2011 demonstrates that while 1000 lux is required to support concentration, it is dimmer lighting that enhances creative thinking.

The solution: personalized lighting in your workplace

In 2013, Philips conducted a survey amongst people who tested a desk lamp that allowed them to adjust its light intensity and colour 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 satisfaction . 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 them.

“Regulatory bodies should take these findings into account for the well-being and productivity of today’s workforce,” says 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 personalised lighting can be seen as an expensive indulgence. Meanwhile, providing desk lamps for over-45s are not only discriminatory but also expensive.

Philips Power-over-Ethernet for offices

Philips Power-over-Ethernet connected office lighting provides personalised lighting, without increasing employers’ costs and carbon footprint. This 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,” says 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, personalised lighting for employees and useful real-time data for building managers,” says 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.

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