FES View: Making Smart Energy Easy

Gabriela Anez-Lobon
By Gabriela Anez-Lobon on November 05, 2020

Are Your Lights Making People Sick? Causes and Solutions

Flickering lights and the adverse effects of fluorescent bulbs are just two of the many ways lighting can impact workplace health. 

We tend to think of lighting as a way to showcase businesses, improve the performance of workplace tasks, and keep shoppers and employees secure. But lighting can also play a significant role in human mental and physical health, which plays a direct role in job performance and consumer behavior.

More than ever, employers are concerned about their teams’ health and wellness in and outside of the workplace. Healthier workplaces have less turnover and greater employee/customer satisfaction. That ultimately leads to improved business performance.

Start by looking around your workplace, restaurant, retail locations, school, or other building and think about the role lighting plays in the well-being of the people who spend time in it.

How Lighting Affects Health

Scientific studies show that lighting can have an impact on cortisol production. Cortisol is a chemical that affects stress levels. Cortisol increases heart rate and blood pressure. When out-of-balance, it can lead to:

  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Intestinal problems
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Poor sleep

In other words, long-term exposure to the wrong types or amount of lighting can result in sluggish, irritable, or absent employees.

Fluorescent lights are especially dangerous for health and well-being. According to Psychology Today, they can “trigger nervous system events like migraines, tics, or seizures in sensitive individuals.” One of the scariest facts about fluorescent lights is that the human eye cannot always detect flickering. Flickering lights can lead to headaches, eye strain, and general discomfort, so every employee -- and not just highly-sensitive people -- can be at risk.

Blue light, which is emitted by electronic equipment, directly affects circadian rhythm and sleep quality. 

Inadequate or misdirected lighting in workplaces can have a direct effect on performance. For example:

  • Employees who don’t have proper task lighting are likely to make more mistakes. This not only applies to office environments but to warehouses and other types of facilities that require accuracy and speed.
  • Shoppers and diners who can’t see outdoor lighting are less likely to frequent your place of business. Indoor lighting also has an impact on ambiance and mood. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when brick-and-mortar businesses are struggling, having the right lighting at your restaurant or retail business can directly impact survival and profitability. Hotels are also very dependent on lighting to create a great guest experience. 
  • People need to feel secure when visiting your place of business. Having adequate lighting systems in parking structures and less-trafficked areas is key to helping visitors and employees remain calm and safe.

Natural light has a positive impact on people’s health and mood. It results in greater production of Vitamin D (also known as the “sunshine vitamin”). Although people cannot get enough sunshine sitting indoors, LED bulbs may be an excellent way to prompt Vitamin D production. More about the benefits of LED lighting follows below.

26 Bright Savings Ideas for SMBs

How to Choose Lighting to Create a Healthier Workplace

The first step towards business health is looking at all your business areas that contribute to employee and customer well-being. Conduct a simple audit of your current practices and consider taking a survey within your team to understand whether people feel safe and well in your workplace.

As noted above, LED lighting is a great way to eliminate the negative impact of fluorescent lighting. LED lights:

  1. Mimic natural light and regulate circadian rhythm
  2. Reduce/eliminate the harmful effects of flickering lights
  3. Are less prone to breakage than fluorescent lights, which contain mercury and can create health hazards when they shatter
  4. Need to be changed less frequently, reducing the possibility of injury

Your health as a business owner or decision-maker is also critically important to your company’s success. You can reduce your stress level by finding a lighting solution that saves you a significant amount of money, improves employee morale and productivity, and even helps you sell more (by showcasing your business and products/services).

Corporations, retailers, restaurants, schools, warehouses, and even prisons have seen significant benefits by converting to healthier lighting systems. Not only do they save thousands of dollars annually and reduce energy waste, but they also create environments where people feel secure, calmer, and more focused.

Make sure your employees and customers stay healthy. Get your free lighting audit today.

26 Bright Savings Ideas for SMBs

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Published by Gabriela Anez-Lobon November 5, 2020
Gabriela Anez-Lobon

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