Lighting Ergonomics

Lighting or illuminance levels are more often than not higher than they need to be, especially for computer work. Many older offices do not have ideal lighting design which of course affects our eyes and the tasks we perform. At 40 years of age, eye sight begins to deteriorate more drastically and the amount of light needed for a given task may increase.

Overhead lighting should ideally be reduced in the computer environment because too much light is unnecessary and can be detrimental. The lighting design should ideally allow for the amount of light to be adjustable (i.e. dimmer switch).

When paperwork is performed, this leaves lighting levels too low which then increases the need for more light. However, the light should ideally be directed towards the paperwork, not the computer monitor.

If computer-based tasks are performed for longer durations than paper-based tasks, consider minimizing overhead lighting and adding adjustable task lighting.

Ideal lighting levels

  • Lighting levels for computer work should be approximately 20-50 foot-candles
  • Lighting for non-computer work (i.e. writing and paperwork) should be approximately 50-200+ foot-candles

Additional tips are as follows:

  • Use blinds, curtains to block out glare from the sun or to minimize lighting levels.
  • Use a light background with dark text or black background with light text. (Over colors that clash)
  • Adjust the screen brightness, contrast, resolution, etc.
  • Position the screen at about an arm’s length away from the body. Further away is better as long as the content on the screen can be read without using an awkward posture such as leaning forward.
  • Position the monitor at or slightly below eye level.
  • Angle the monitor away from you (~15 degrees)
  • Use a document holder.
  • Remember to blink, use eye drops, and take eye breaks.
  • Follow the “20-20-20 rule”. Every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
  • Increase your “zoom” and font size. The default of 100% is often too small and may cause difficulty seeing text on the computer screen. Review the below video for additional information.
See Better Video

Contact an ergonomics program specialist
or schedule an ergonomic evaluation for measurements of lighting in your work environment by filling out the below questionnaire.

Eyestrain in the Office Environment
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Contact CSU’s Ergonomics Manager