Advice for Freelancers

The Importance of Good Lighting in Your Home Office

Entering the final month of summer here in Cornwall has been cloudy this year but certainly not cold. We have higher than average humidity which is why when you travel about this gorgeous county, you’ll see a wealth of happy tropical plants. Cloud reduces light and that can mean the light levels get too low in your north or south-facing home office (as mine is). When working in a regular work environment, the employer is obliged to make sure that the office space has sufficient comfortable light levels – that means it may not be too dark nor too light but what the light should be depends on the nature of the work.

Of all the things freelancers consider when building a home office, light is perhaps not one of them. My north-facing office gets enough light and for the most part, I’m able to regulate it without blinds and using LED lights. But this summer has proven difficult. I’ve found my eyes have been, at times, hurting a lot during the day. Yes, the 43-year-old body can expect to need glasses at some point but it’s been more noticeable this late summer because of the cloud cover creating unseasonable prolonged dimness. My current LED has been insufficient – it is static and squat thing with only a limited range of manoeuvrability that  I bought cheap in Lidl about two autumns ago. It has an arm that moves slightly up and down and twists slightly to the left and right. However, it is far too bright. So I invested in this baby:

The new lamp is the one with the lengthy arm attached to the front of the desk. The old lamp is the small black thing at the back. It’s a powerful light but sadly, too powerful with no ability to adjust.

Doctor Number 4 approved, as you can see!

The long and thin arm is fully manoeuvrable. It will move in any direction, straight up, straight across and I can tilt it to any angle I need. Secondly, it has two light settings – one bright and the other dimmer, ideal for those days of heavy cloud cover and miserable winter days too. I can suffer from quite bad SAD, so I’m hoping that will help there too.

Light is a Health and Safety Issue

Never underestimate your need for the correct levels of light. As the strain on my eyes have proven, I’ve simply not had enough light. The research is clear enough that the Health & Safety Executive has produced a guide to lighting at work. It’s a long document so I’m going to summarise some key points here. Low light:

  • Leads to eye strain, headaches, and even migraines
  • Causes fatigue and lost productivity
  • Increases the risk of accidents and injuries where accidents are expected more frequently due to the nature of the work

What You Need to Do

Copyright MG Mason 2018

Firstly, it’s important to make the best use of the light available. You need to harness natural light not one where you will experience glare on your computer screen. This is the ultimate conundrum. Sunlight can create a naturally bright environment, but glare has the risks as too little light – eye strain and potential migraine. You also run the risk of retinal burn and even sunburn in direct sunlight, even through a window. So, keep your desk in a place where you benefit from the window but not in direct line of sight. That means not having a window right behind you (the sun will reflect on the screen), nor in front of you (retinal burn when looking at near-direct sunlight).

Ensure you have a decent light set up such as as lamp or a light dimming system for the room. The problem with light that has two choices – on and off, will not always be the right level of lighting. That’s why I recommend and adjustable lamp with dimming capability or multiple settings.

The HSE document recommends a minimum rating of 100LUX for office space with an average of 200. You can buy machines to detect this, but you don’t really need to do so. Use your head and eyes as a guide. If it’s too bright or too dark, you’ll struggle to read, concentrate, or get a headache. So long as you follow the guidelines and take steps to reduce glare and the like, there really should not be an issue.

This lamp also makes a great reading light!

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