The Ultimate Guide to Office Lighting

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Lighting is a key part of any office design; different types of lighting can have a huge impact on everything from our mood to our productivity.

In a study by the University of Toronto and Northwestern University, participants' emotions, both positive and negative, were felt with more intensity under brighter lighting, with light levels even effecting decision making.

Cleveland Clinic's Nursing Institute’s research revealed that poor lighting in hospitals can make patients feel worse emotionally and physically. The low levels of lighting meant their bodies couldn't adapt to their normal sleep-wake cycle, so they felt constantly tired.

The same effects from lighting can also be felt in the workplace.

Lighting Design Throughout Your Building

Specific lighting configurations can help your team make the most of every area in the office. Below we take a walk through the office and look at what lighting works best for each area.

First impressions – Reception

The reception area sets the tone for the rest of your office and is the perfect place to use lighting to make the best first impression with clients. The lighting in the reception area can also help portray your corporate message. You can use simple and smart lighting to create a highly corporate feel, or take a more dynamic approach and use lighting to create a calm, playful or creative ambience; different colours or quirky lamp shades can help to reflect your company brand. You can also use lighting to highlight important areas, such as the reception desk and walkways, to help guide visitors to their destination.

Up lights and downlights can direct attention to branding and corporate messages, and features such as pendant lighting can help create zones for waiting or refreshment areas. 

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There are numerous bulbs suitable for use in up light fittings including halogen bulbs, PL-C bulbs in CFL form, LED candles, LED GLSs, LED capsules (such as G9, G4 etc.) and so on. The up light bulb you need will depends what type of up lighter it’s for - for general use in most offices a halogen G9 capsule or a GU10 would be the best choice. Talk to the team on 08436 343 891 if you need more advice.

A downlight would typically use a compact fluorescent bulb, such as a PL-T or PL-C, however at LampShopOnline we usually recommend using an LED downlight such as our all in one downlight for better energy savings and light quality. Less expensive alternatives include the Brightsource 8w LED downlight, which gives you the option to choose exactly what finish you want. Bear in mind that a downlight can vary in style and size but a typical downlight is usually a fitting with a GU10 lamp in it that is around 100mm in diameter.

If the downlight fittings in your office use a PL-C type lamp or similar, replacements for these are available that replace the whole fitting and slot into the existing cut out.

Time to relax – Communal and creative areas

Many offices have a space where employees can chat, relax and share ideas. We already know that lighting can affect people's mood, so getting the ambiance right in these areas is vital. If you think of locations such as spas, hotel lobbies and even bars, the lighting is designed to stimulate relaxation and calm. Although the lighting in these spaces is a little dark for the workplace, the principles of creating a bespoke ambience still apply.

For the communal and creative areas in your office, use dimmer switches and table top lighting so the lighting is flexible enough for people to relax or work. Breakout areas are the ideal place to experiment with lighting style. Consider introducing quirky lighting that can create a centre point for the whole area or for smaller areas within the space.

Natural light is particularly important in creative areas as sunlight has been proven to increase creativity. It can also improve mood and reduce stress – two vital elements for relaxation areas.

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The most appropriate dimmable LEDs for communal and creative areas depends on what style of fitting is required. If you require a bulb for a pendant lamp or a free standing lamp, like in the image above, then you will likely need a GLS bulb. A stylish choice for GLS bulbs is the Osram dimmable frosted 13w LED, available in various popular cap types.

If you’re unsure which bulb is right for your creative or communal areas then call us on 08437 758 191 as CFLs, incandescent bulbs and PL-Cs can present problems if you want them to be dimmable. For example, CFLs require a dimmable feature if they run off 240v (these types of fittings are being faded out of production); incandescent bulbs are no longer in production and PL-Cs or similar require specific control gear to be able to be dimmed. In most cases the best option for a dimmable bulb is the Osram GLS.

Nice to meet you – Meeting rooms

Flexibility and ease of use are vital for meeting rooms as different groups will be using the space in very different ways, from presentations and training to one-on-one meetings. Lighting should provide minimal glare for individuals using laptops and be easily adjusted to provide ideal light levels for specific tasks, for example, presentations with a projector.

Video conferencing adds a new consideration to meeting room lighting. According to visual communication specialists AuDeo, “Typical problems you tend to see are: people silhouetted against windows, long shadows over their faces or everything just looks dull.”

You can avoid these problems by using as much light as possible and diffusing this light, as well as avoiding things such as filming in front of a window or against a white background.

As with the rest of the office, try to incorporate as much natural light as possible into a meeting room. Bright artificial lighting can make people react more intensely, which could be a problem for meeting rooms in which regular discussions take place.

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Meeting rooms would benefit from 600x600 LED panels in 4000k as it is simple and sleek to complement any modern room.

Down to business – The office

Where possible, the ideal light for an office environment is natural light, so opt for lighting that works with natural light, rather than drowning it out. LEDs provide a brighter, clearer light than fluorescent tubes so can be a better option for offices; however, they are more expensive than fluorescents. Office lighting needs to consider the combination of background lighting and task lighting, such as desktop lamps.

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40 LED Panel 6000K – This easy-to-fit 600mm x 600mm LED panel can be installed in any recessed light fitting, making it ideal for suspended ceilings in offices.

Office Lighting Options

Background lighting

In an office, background lighting (also known as general or uniform lighting) refers to any lighting designed to light a large area.

Working in the direct glare of overhead or desk lighting can be dazzling and can actually make health issues such as headaches worse. Most offices use fluorescent tubes as their main light source and these tubes can create glare. To avoid this, you can fit light dispersers, which are often mirrored, to distribute the light more evenly. Fitting filters or dispersers to lights can also help to control the amount of glare on monitor screens.

The lighting should be positioned so that it doesn't cast shadows on work areas or cause glare on computer screens.

For many companies, fluorescents are the ideal choice as they are inexpensive and can last a long time. However, companies looking to save money on their energy bills in the long terms should consider investing in LED lighting, as even in a small office these can help save around £80 a year in energy costs.

LEDs also offer creative design options for background lighting; products such as LED panels from LampShopOnline can be a unique alternative to fluorescent tube lighting.

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40w LED Panel 6000K –  LampShopOnline’s 600mm x 600mm LED panel is easy to fit and offers an energy saving of 37.5% when compared with traditional bulbs.

Task lighting


Task lighting (also known as local lighting) allows employees to personalise their light levels and increase the light in the areas they are working.

Providing staff with control of their own lighting can decrease stress and increase job satisfaction. Fully adjustable desk lights are ideal as these can be angled to shine on the right place depending on individual needs. Clip-on spotlights are also a great way to bring extra light to a specific area, adding a stylish touch to the space too. Clip-on lights can also free-up space used by desktop lights. Clip-on spotlights work well for ad hoc workstations, such as in breakout areas, and the myriad of designs means they can blend in or contrast with lots of different styles.

Ensure the task light you choose is set up at the opposite side to where you write, otherwise you could experience annoying shadows cast over your paper by your own hand. Any lamps that are used locally, such as task lamps for desks, should have a lampshade and be positioned so they are above the user's eye-line, rather than directly in front.

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Swing arm desk lamp - Easily shine a light on the area you are working with this adjustable swing arm desk lamp.

Other areas

Free standing floor lamps are an alternate type of task lighting. These need to be positioned correctly to ensure they don't cast a shadow across the work area. The ideal floor lamps for desk work should be adjustable and cast a pool of light over the area in which someone is working, rather than the light being dispersed by a lamp shade.

Don’t forget that there may be spaces in your office that are not in everyday use but that also require lighting. Underneath desks is a useful storage space; adding some strip lights may make it easier to see what’s there.

Dimmer lights are a good way of controlling the amount of light to suit changing needs. For example, in the middle of the day it may not be necessary to have the lights on full brightness; whereas, in the evenings it is likely you will need more to see properly.

Products from LampShopOnline

10w dimmable LED downlights – LampShopOnline’s downlights come with 4 fascia finishes and 3 colour temperature settings. They are a superb option if you are thinking of upgrading your lighting to LED spotlights.


Insufficient lighting outside a building can be hazardous, especially during winter. Motion sensor lighting outside is a great way to ensure areas are lit, without wasting money on lighting areas that aren't constantly in use. For car parks and entrances, LED floodlights are a cost effective way to keep areas lit so people can enter, exit and park in the premises safely.

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50w IP65 Ultra Slim LED Floodlight - Daylight – LED replacement for 150w metal halide/son.

Lighting control systems

Lighting uses around 20% of the electricity generated in the UK and will certainly impact on your company's electricity bill. Encouraging employees to switch off lights when rooms aren't in use is one way to reduce the energy used, but often the best approach is to install a lighting control system.

Lighting control systems can include daylight sensor systems – these take into account the levels of natural light in an area and adjust the balance of artificial light accordingly. Manufacturers also include features such as ‘presence control' so that the lights in specific areas are only set to turn on when movement is detected, which is particularly useful for corridors or storerooms. Lighting control systems can give business owners much greater control over how lighting is used in the office. As well as saving money, lighting systems can also provide a better balance of light between natural daylight and artificial light.

Installing a lighting control system doesn't necessarily mean a complete re-wiring of your office, as this can be an expensive and disruptive job. Look for a lighting system that offers wireless technology as a practical alternative. Lighting control systems are a simple way for companies to slash energy bills and to reduce their electricity use.

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There are a number of different lighting control systems available. These include PIR sensors, which detect movement and switch the linked lighting on, and dusk-till-dawn sensors for outdoor use that turn on when it gets dark and turn off when it’s light. Speak to LampShopOnline on 08436 343 891 about the most suitable lighting control system for your workplace.

The Carbon Trust has an excellent guide to implementing lighting control systems that provides further information.

Office lighting design in action

Dale Office

Sheffield based office interiors experts Dale Office Interiors shares its experience of upgrading Stanley Tools' office canteen with ambient lighting.

Stanley Tools wanted to refurbish its workplace canteen with three key goals in mind – improve the health of its employees, reduce the company's carbon footprint and provide a bright and versatile space for employees to work, eat and socialise.

The canteen area was completely refurbished and refreshed so the space could be used as a breakout area for employees to meet up and discuss ideas away from the office.

Using the correct lighting was very important to the design, and both Dale Office and Stanley Tools wanted to ensure that the area had a relaxed feel to it, with a view to encouraging creativity and collaboration. LED lighting was chosen as the ideal solution to brighten the area and create a modern feel which complemented the new, versatile layout of the space. LEDs were also chosen as they can dramatically reduce carbon consumption and reduce energy bills. They can also save further money as they need changing much less frequently than CLFs and can last around 50,000 hours.


Lighting control system manufacturer CMD Ltd utilised lighting control systems to make the Sherwood Energy Village as eco-friendly as possible.

The Sherwood Energy Village in Nottinghamshire is a sustainable development in which the lighting in particular was a key design factor to ensure sustainability. The complex includes integrated housing, industrial and commercial developments as well as convention and educational facilities. CMD worked closely with Sherwood Electrical Solutions LLP to supply a full standalone system that enables the energy efficient use of the buildings' lighting.

CMD installed lighting control systems, which minimise the use of lighting when certain areas of the building are unoccupied, with presence and absence detection control. As well as the motion sensors, CMD also installed daylight-linked dimming to make the most of natural daylight and assist with energy control.

The lighting control system helped Sherwood Energy Village to reach its goal of becoming a sustainable and environmentally friendly development.

Whitespace Consultants

Working closely with the Estates and Facilities Manager, office design specialists Whitespace Consultants were tasked with redesigning the reception area at Priestley College in Warrington into a welcoming, ambient area.

In recent years, Priestley has invested some £10 million in new facilities for its ever increasing student population, so it was only fitting that they brought their main reception area in line with the rest of the facilities.

Whitespace were briefed to make the reception area more inviting and user friendly for students, staff and visitors.

With clever interior design, space planning and furniture, the company was able to transform the existing reception area and offices to provide a more flexible and spacious working environment.

A key element to any interior design scheme is the lighting. Lighting schemes within a reception area vary from client to client depending on the overall ambience the client wishes to create. As this reception area was also the gateway to the media and performance arts centre, functional lighting for the work areas was not the only consideration for the college; they also wanted an impressive entrance for students and visitors when events were taking place. Introducing a feature ceiling with a drop bulk head detail allowed Whitespace to introduce modern LED multi-coloured ribbon lighting. This detail with its spectacular colour changes has proven to be a huge success with staff and visitors.

Flooring, along with additional colourful soft seating were added to the reception area, giving the finishing touch to this remarkable and welcoming space.

What next?

Read Your Guide to Office Lighting Best Practice to help you implement the changes above correctly.

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Published 2016/09/12

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