I’m a pretty big fan of haunted houses in theory.
I like the idea of a space with just the right level of lighting to make you question what’s hiding in the corner, and the suggestive sounds of a tragic ex-resident doomed to wander a gothic manor for eternity.
But have you been to a haunted house lately? Let me clue you in on the reality.
What passes for spooky these days is people jumping out at you from various poorly lit areas. These actors are doing a fine job at what they’re hired to do (scare the ever-loving bejeezus out of me, apparently), but their surrounds are either way too dark for me to notice the finer details the attraction, consumed by strobe lights (#seizureinducing), or marred by bad fluorescent lighting.
Going through one again, I paused to consider the poor teens jumping out at me from makeshift coffins or wagging rubber knives in front of my face. These are people who work here, for 4-6 hours a night, in what is possibly the worst-lit workplace imaginable.
How much better would their experience be, I wonder, if their boss instead built one of those spooky haunted houses of old, where the lighting is eerie, yes, but also warmer, brighter, and yet somehow more suggestive?
Believe it or not, the same principles that guide a good haunted house are applicable to any old workplace (you knew I’d get here eventually): The right light for the right task for the right people. Our partners at Haworth wrote a great article about this some years ago, where they posit that the right lighting strategies can improve the physical, cognitive, and emotional needs of employees.
I’m not suggesting that you need to go out and buy $100,000 worth of new great lighting (call me if you do, though). Instead, here are three easy-to-implement suggestions for upping your office lighting game as the days get shorter:
More Natural Light. Natural light exposure has been shown to improve mental health and productivity. Consider knocking down some cubicle walls to create better sight lines to your office’s windows. For private offices, demountable glass walls are a great way to allow light in without sacrificing privacy.
Pick the Right Temperature. Color temperature, that is. Warmer (yellower) lighting for lounge, cafe and restroom areas will help employees relax and recover, amping up their productivity. Colder (bluer) lighting helps them focus in task areas. And for the love of Jason Voorhees, get rid of those ghastly fluorescent lights.
Let the People Decide. Good ambient lighting sets the mood for your workplace (see above), but some employees may need a little more brightness to focus. Investing in some quality desk lamps (link) allows employees to have more control over their workspace without becoming obtrusive.
And if you happen to know of a haunted house in the Pittsburgh area that’s lighter on the jump scares and heavier on the spooky ambience, drop me a line. I’d love to love them again.
President + CEO