A groundbreaking seven month research conducted by the University of Twente, VU Amsterdam and CBRE Netherlands in 2016 confirmed the relationship between people’s working environment and their health, well-being and ability to perform. The „Healthy Offices Research” took place in CBRE’s headquarters in Amsterdam, involving 124 participants and evaluating more than 100.000 data points. Five influencing factors were verified as being crucial to support and promote people working in office surroundings. One of these factors is the right lighting, especially circadian lighting. OSRAM being a proven expert for ”Human Centric Lighting” concepts, the research team commissioned OSRAM Lighting Solutions with the installment of adequate cutting edge LED lighting and light management solutions required for the research project.
With more than 75,000 employees and 450 offices worldwide, CBRE is the world’s largest integrated commercial real estate services and investment firm. In 2016, the University of Twente, VU Amsterdam and CBRE Netherlands joined forces for a unique study on employee health. This multidisciplinary research focused on the effects of the working environment on employee potential and involved the departments of neurocognitive psychology, biomedical engineering and business. The „Healthy Offices Research” project measured the effect of changes in the working environment and health over a period of seven months at CBRE’s Amsterdam office, using surveys, experiments, biological data, movement daily ratings, and interviews.
The research team specified five changes in the working environment that would, in theory, have the greatest impact on employee health and potential. These five changes can be divided into environmental adjustments – Natural Space and Right Lighting – and healthy choices – Healthy Nutrition, Mental Balance, and Physical Exercise.
Research excerpt: The right lighting – circadian lighting
Decades of research have shown that light can substantially influence our mood and ability to focus, and the most important aspect of good lighting is timing. Our brains regulate the body’s circadian rhythm based on light cues from our environment. This circadian rhythm controls energy levels, mood and sense of wakefulness/sleepiness. When these schedules get out of sync, it can make us euphoric or manic, slowing our responses down. We become less alert and find it harder to focus. This can sometimes affect our perception, memory, and other executive functions. Interrupting or disturbing the circadian rhythms not only affects employees at the office, but it can disrupt the balance of chemicals in the brain. These changes can cause people to stay longer at the office but throws off their circadian rhythm during the night and days that follow.
Even though the lighting environment at the CBRE office met the norms for most workspaces, a drastic change was needed. In order to help promote healthy sleep patterns and energy levels, OSRAM Lighting Solutions installed a lighting system with a timer on a circadian-friendly schedule. Warm light in the morning, strong bright light in the afternoon and dimmed light in the evening. Light sources were directed to the walls to stimulate the sensation of light coming in through a window and avoid glare. The lights were almost doubled in brightness and, in the open office area, lowered from the ceiling to allow the indirect part of the light to shine on the right part of the face and avoid glare. All the lights changed from a yellow tint in the morning to a blue tint in the afternoon, returning to a softer yellow towards the end of the day.
Research results concerning the factor “Right Lighting”
The participants who were working in the “Healthy Spot”, the part of the CBRE office with the new modern light setting, perceived their work performance as 18 % better,
71 % of them felt more energized, 78 % felt happier, and 78 % felt healthier. Above all, the outcome of the study shows 12 % increase in accuracy and 10 % difference in productivity. On the first day of the research period, the participants struggled with the new lighting. But they soon got used to it and reported that they were very happy working in that area.
The positive effect of the new lighting was also evident when the office light was switched back to the old setting. In the afternoon, employees believed for a minute that the lights were not just dimmed but actually off entirely. It took quite some time for the participants to get used to the old lighting again and it was also one of the first things they asked to bring back after the study.
Cutting edge LED lighting and light management solutions from OSRAM
Huib Koppert from OSRAM Benelux, the responsible OSRAM Lighting Solutions Business Development Manager for this project, and his expert team specified some of OSRAM’s latest state-of-the-art LED luminaires and lighting control solutions to realize the adequate “Human Centric Lighting” in the “Healthy Spot”. Arktika® Biolux, an ultra-flat and extremely efficient pendulum design luminaire with two different controls, was used for the office’s main general lighting. The LED luminaire can supply direct (4000 K) and indirect (6500 K) monochrome light, which is separately switchable and controllable.
Lunis® LED is a new range of stylish square and round LED downlights for demanding requirements, with modular design and many versions, and a high design factor thanks to a shadow gap. Lunis® LED luminaires shine with outstanding quality of light and high visual comfort, and simple mounting with clip system. Lunis® Wallwasher were used all over the “Healthy Spot” for high vertical illuminance, and additional Lunis® downlights, which are individually controllable per room, in the managers’ offices. The recessed RGBW spotlights in the ceiling of the conference rooms can be controlled wirelessly by LIGHTIFY® PRO and allow to choose any white or colored light for different working and communication tasks. Decorative round Lightify® Surface Tunable White LED luminaires, surface-mounted on the ceiling, provide for uniform illumination with different presets for morning (6500K), afternoon (4000K) and evening (2700K). The luminaires can be manually controlled by pushbuttons and also wirelessly by a LIGHTIFY® PRO control system.
Conclusions of the „Healthy Offices Research”
This research, like previous studies, shows that offices are ecosystems involving hundreds or even thousands of different components that involve choosing between a healthy or an unhealthy approach, many of which we are unaware of. Changing our working environment could lead to a brighter future for people at work, and it also represents a smart business investment. The costs associated with sickness and burn-outs as well as employee turnover are significant expenses that could be drastically reduced or eliminated by introducing healthier offices.
In addition, the healthy office can cause a ripple effect, helping to generate wider benefits. Improving the 8+ hours that employees spend at work can greatly improve their overall physical and mental health and encourage them to take those healthier habits home with them, too.