The lighting industry is of late highly focused on energy efficiency and cost of ownership. However, some long-standing research and some recent work point to a much greater savings in worker efficiency if the type of light and color of light are taken into account along with efficiency. Research shows that Light Color and Surface colors are significant in affecting our moods and productivity (mood augmentation), so why would we not work to make everyone happy?
In the ’70s, fast food chains performed market research to investigate how customers responded to various colors in restaurant interiors and logo with interesting results. Some of their research found the following effects; in general, Yellow, Red, and Orange are “exciting” and promote detail but also a feeling of anxiousness. Green inspires innovation, shades of Purple are “calming” colors, and specifically Blue promotes confidence, energy, and productivity. Greys are depressing and should be avoided as well as overly bright lighting. Even the military got into the game with its own research, and soon after made paint color changes in ship common spaces, and light color most notably changing “Battle Lamps” from red to a shade of blue.
This chart shows Kelvin Color Temperatures and their effects in residential settings.
The Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center (NSRDEC) concluded in a recent study that LED lighting fostered a positive mood, increased alertness, and resulted in faster performance on visual perceptual and cognitive tasks. Soldiers working under fluorescent lights typically felt less alert, more fatigued and more depressed over time. They also demonstrated slower response times on cognitive tasks.
Researchers have studied the question of how lighting conditions affect mental stability for decades. In the 1940s, Luckiesh and Moss studied how fifth- and sixth-graders in well-lit and poorly lit classrooms performed on the New Stanford Achievement Test. Those in well-lit classrooms scored significantly higher than those in poorly lit classrooms. Since then, numerous researchers have studied the effects of fluorescent lighting. In a 2002 Guardian News article, Michaele Wynn-Jones investigated fluorescent lighting in prisons. Wynn-Jones concluded that fluorescent lighting is a likely cause of the headaches, depression and sleep disorders that prisoners frequently experience, and when changed to LED had a significant calming effect on them.
Wall and Lighting colors are also being used much more often now in hospitals and other healing institutes and a lot of studies are now focused in this area. The low cost of Color Variable LED lamps and DMX Lighting Controls are helping to drive this movement.
According to researchers at the H.E.S.E project, the most common symptoms of having been exposed to too much fluorescent lighting and too little natural lighting are headaches, mood swings, irritability, insomnia, and inappropriate behavior. John Ott further notes that continuous exposure to fluorescent lighting can lead to a depletion of the brain chemical serotonin. Known as a mood stabilizer, serotonin helps to keep mood disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder and depression at bay. Depleting the natural resources of serotonin in the brain can thus have serious and lasting consequences for emotional stability… more.
In conclusion, light color makes a significant difference in the moods, behavior and work efficiency of all those present. Additionally, surveys showed that people liked working in rooms with blues and greens because they felt better and more productive.
So, the next time you are looking at a simple lighting refresh or new paint, consider that this is a perfect time to use these easy methods of increasing office efficiency by painting with Greens and Blues, and replacing fluorescent with white and or color variable Blue LED lighting your space.
Update; My company is currently in the final stages of automating a new hospital that has been in the works for several years. Recently I was visiting the job site to review systems, but because of tours we were only allowed in after 9 pm so it was late when I was finishing up.
I stopped at a Nurses Station to rest my feet, and feeling tired and sleepy I decided to use some of the technology and turned on the late night work lamps which have a high Blue content. It only took about fifteen minutes before I was feeling much more alert and energized. Honestly, I was surprised at how effective the lamps were.
All of the building core spaces (non-patient), hallways and nurse stations have indirect blue lighting that comes on after visiting hours are complete, with the expectation it will energize and reduce mistakes of late night staff. Well, it works! The same technology is used in patient rooms to calm them and help to heal. No office space should be without color lighting for energy, focus and creativity.