Office Lighting Levels Design Solutions

Office Lighting & Lights

For an area which many people think is quite straight forward, there are a surprising number of factors to be considered when planning office lighting. We have tried to touch on a few of the main ones here to help you.

Firstly, let’s consider the requirements of an office lighting project:

  • To enable people to work quickly, efficiently, accurately and comfortably.
  • To provide a safe environment.
  • To provide a nice environment for those who are working in it.

To achieve these, different approaches are required for different areas. Offices can consist of open-plan offices with cubicles, shared offices, private offices, meeting rooms, circulation areas (walkways), rest facilities and receptions.

Many of the factors discussed below can be simulated using CAD software, and we would recommend that you have a design done using those tools to help you get it right.

You can simulate different approaches using direct lighting, indirect lighting and desk lighting to get the right performance at the best cost.

Getting the lighting wrong can lead to poor productivity, accuracy, and low morale.


It is always healthy to utilise daylight where possible.

If the office will have a lot of daylight, you should consider using control devices which will dim the artificial lights when there is plenty of daylight, saving energy.

You should also consider the positions of windows in relation to computer screens to avoid reflections on the screens, and also positioning screens with bright windows directly behind them, which can make them difficult to see.


You might not think that there are many shadows in an office, but there are plenty of obstructions to light, such as partitions and cabinets.

The higher the partition walls, the greater the privacy, but more light is obstructed.

Often, lighting designers provide a design to suit 2m partitions, and then the office can be laid out in almost any way.

Colours & Surfaces

A lot of light is reflected, and both colour and surface type impact on this.

Dark colours absorb light, and matt surfaces don’t reflect much light. But white gloss walls and desks would look way too clinical and can be uncomfortable on the eye.

How Much Light Do We Need?

As ever, it depends on the task to be undertaken in a specific area. The more intricate the work, the more light you need. Typically offices require an average illuminance of 300 to 500 lux on the desk.

300 lux is OK for mainly screen based work. 500 lux is needed for mainly paper based work.

There are many other areas to consider, with different lighting needs, such as archives, break-rooms, canteens, stairs, lifts, lobbies, etc.

It is also important not have the light evenly distributed across the office when achieving these average illuminance levels. Having a single, very bright, light would make a very comfortable work space. A workspace should have a luminance uniformity of at least 0.7 (minimum illuminance / average illuminance).

Discomfort Glare

This occurs when one part of our field of view has something much brighter than the average brightness of our field of view.

In offices this can occur when people can see the sun, or directly at lights, whilst working. This should be avoided.

Colour Rendering

Different types of light can make some colours stand out more, and others less. If recognising and matching colours are part of the work being done, then this must also be considered.

A colour rendering index (CRI) of at least 80% should be used.

Emergency Lighting

Don’t forget this! This can be incorporated in to lights used every day, or can they be completely separate.

Maintenance of Office Lights

If the lights are easy to get at, and it’s just changing a lamp or a starter, then it’s fine. If the lights are high up and require expensive access equipment, or electricians to change them, then these costs should be considered in the ‘life cycle’ costs of the lighting system. Good quality LED lights offer low maintenance, but have a higher capital cost.

Control of Office Lights

Studies have shown that giving workers in open plan offices local control of lighting can increase job satisfaction (and decrease the experience of stress).

If you walk around any city centre at night, you will see plenty of office lights left on for the night. We know some people end up doing ‘all-nighters’ to complete work, but it isn’t every office every night. At the least, you should have a sign reminding the last person out to switch off the lights.

Control systems can help with energy savings from automatically putting on the toilet and kitchen lights on for 3 minutes when someone walks in to enabling people to just turn on the lights in their area (rather than the whole office). With the rocketing prices of electricity, these can be very cost-effective.

Low Energy Lighting in Offices

LED office lights are quite effective with a reasonable colour rendering (80%+). If the offices are lit 24hrs, 7 days a week, then they are going to be cost effective. If the offices are only lit 10hrs a day, 5 days a week, then you will need other factors to justify switching to LED lighting. T5 tubes could be a good alternative.


We hope that you have found the above information helpful, and you are able to avoid some of the common mistakes people make.

How Lighting Projects Can Help

We can incorporate all of the above, and more, it into a design, supply and installation project. Some clients just need just the design service, or design and supply.

With the performance of a business driven by the performance of it’s staff, this is part of an office project that needs to be right.

We have completed successful office lighting refurbishments and have testimonials from pleased customers. We would love to talk to you about yours.