When you’re working from home you’ll often notice that the light isn’t quite right. That’s because we generally choose our home lighting for non-work things: lounging in the lounge, chatting over the dinner table and so on. That isn’t always helpful when you need to study small print or if the corner where you’ve put a desk is so dark you can’t find the mouse.
Good lighting is really important for working from home, because without it you’re more likely to experience eye strain, tiredness and even headaches. The trick is to find lighting that not only works for work, but that works the rest of the time too. The good news is that there are lots of options for every kind of work and every kind of home.
Keep it indirect
Avoid working under the direct glare of overhead lights. Instead, look for ways to diffuse the ambient light that will illuminate your office space. Lampshades soften and scatter otherwise harsh light, while an upward-shining floor lamp bounces the light off of walls and ceilings. The goal is to illuminate the entire space without creating undue glare and contrast while avoiding casting shadows.
Taken to Task
For computer work, filing and other focus-intensive tasks, choose a well-defined light source dedicated to what you are doing. An adjustable or articulated desk lamp can put light exactly where you need it and support a variety of tasks. If your home office has multiple workstations—for example, a desk for computer and phone work, a filing area, and a table for reviewing photos and layouts—set up dedicated task lighting for each station.
Always consider where your light is coming from. A light source set behind you as you work on your computer will almost certainly create annoying glare on your monitor. Likewise, look out for unintended shadows cast by lamps set up for task lighting. For instance, if you write with your right hand, your hand and arm may cast shadows if the task light is also set off on the right. Also, consider the location of windows when setting up your workspace.
Don’t overlook the unique benefit of natural light coming from a window, skylight or another portal. Sunlight can produce warm lighting that improves the work environment. On the other hand, you may need to account for direct sunlight that creates overwhelming glare during certain times of the day.
In general, it’s best to have natural light in front of or next to work surfaces and computer screens to avoid glare and maximize your outside views. You can also position your workstation facing north or south so that the sunlight doesn’t throw a shadow at any point in the day. To accommodate varying levels of brightness during the day, solar shades to soften and reduce the heat without compromising the light and view. You can also try a simple blind or even a standing screen which will do a nice job of diffusing sunlight shining through a window.
Accent and decorative lighting
As mentioned, most home offices will feature ambient lighting that is diffused throughout the space and task lighting that is focused on specific workstations. Beyond these two functional lighting types, you may want to add decorative and accent lighting to help improve the visual character of your home office. Accent lighting like mantel or picture lights draws attention to objects or other elements in the room, while decorative lights—such as wall sconces—provide direct visual appeal.