This article is concerned with the adverse effects of fluorescent lighting in the office. It is replete with the stories of various individuals who have found unique ways to disconnect the fixtures, hide the on switches, and generally abolish the ghastly pallor of this brand of lighting.
Fluorescents do have their good side. They run on a quarter of the electricity that incandescent bulbs require and they last roughly ten times as long. The problem is, “people apply efficient light stupidly.” Most office workers get a lot more of it than they need, canceling out much of the efficiency.
Too much light, especially with computers, can cause glare and eyestrain. Add to that the fact that older fluorescents flicker at a rate of 60 cycles per second, inducing headache, eyestrain and seasonal affective disorder. Workers under the lights were also found to have higher levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenocorticotrophin in their blood.
Newer fluorescents have an increased cycle time that eliminates flicker and alleviates many of these old problems, presenting a more natural balance of colors. Unfortunately, many of the older systems remain in use, constituting half of the operating systems in offices today.
Natural light can improve on even the newest fluorescent systems. Research has shown that workers perform better when exposed to natural light. In one study, “office workers were found to perform 10-25 percent better on tests of mental function and memory recall,” when having a window with a view of vegetation. If they can’t give out windows with a view, the author implores companies to get their old systems replaced with the newer models and watch morale rise as absenteeism falls.
Source: Jared Sandberg, Wall Street Journal; June 9, 2004