Home Office Lighting

By Craig DiLouie, LC

What you need to know:

  • Home offices are becoming increasingly common
  • Ambient lighting should be soft, diffuse, and emphasize light on walls
  • Task lighting should be direct and provide enough light for working effectively
  • Avoid glossy finishes, excessive brightness contrasts, direct views of windows
  • Incorporate daylight and dimming into the design
Home Office with Two Desks

A two-person home office has ambient downlighting and daylighting. Both desks are located perpendicular to the windows, which have shading material to minimize glare.

Thirty-four million workers telecommuted in the United States in 2009, according to global research firm Forrester, a number projected to increase to 63 million in 2016, or 43% of the workforce. Many of these people either commute from home offices or operate solely from home-based businesses.

The lighting of home office spaces should address visual comfort and task visibility. One way to achieve both is through having several layers of lighting providing ambient (general) and task illumination.

The ambient lighting should be uniform, soft, and diffuse without shadows.  Indirect lighting fixtures work well to achieve this first layer of light. The ambient layer should provide light throughout the space especially the wall area behind where personal computers are places to avoid excessive contrast between the bright screen and its surround.

Task lighting may consist of a luminaire (light fixture) placed close to the work surface for direct lighting of tasks on the desktop. A variety of desktop task luminaires is available, including products with articulated arms enabling light to be aimed directly at the task. Additional supplemental lighting may be advisable for bookcases, tables, files and built-in storage.

Brightness contrast between the task and its surround, such as bright white paper tasks on a black desktop, may result in causing visual fatigue over time. Similarly, avoid glossy finishes, as these can produce glare.

The age of the occupant is a key consideration. As the eye ages, it requires more light while being more sensitive to glare. Installing dimming controls for both ambient and task lighting can promote optimal visual comfort.

If the home office has windows, daylighting can contribute to both ambient and task light levels, but should be properly controlled with flexible window treatments such as blinds, tinted shades and shutters, particularly on east-/west- and south-facing windows. The desk should be placed perpendicular to the room window(s)—in other words, not face the window directly. If this is not possible make sure you have flexible window treatmentsto prevent direct discomfort glare.

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