The Very Best Task Lighting For Your Home Office
Home offices are becoming an essential part of the flexible work revolution. Melinda Williams looks at how to light them well
If you don’t already work part of your week at home, it may not be long before you do.
Flexible working or “telecommuting” (a term that already sounds as if it belongs to the early 2000s) has undergone incredible growth over the past two decades. Between 2005 and 2015, the number of workers in the United States who spent more time working from home than they did in the office more than doubled. And New Zealand is particularly progressive on the flexible front, with a MYOB survey showing that a surprising 46 per cent of workers spend at least part of their work week working from home.
Flexible working appeals to a wide range of people, from millennials unwilling to tie themselves to full-time office work, to parents and senior employees with substantial experience under their belts, who want a better work-life balance. But the revolution has a flip side — working from home means you have to design your own workspace. And although the importance of a proper office chair and computer set-ups might have been drilled into you by an ergonomics consultant at some stage, creating an effective lighting set-up probably wasn’t.
Good task lighting is essential in a home office to prevent eyestrain and tiredness, particularly if you work long hours at a computer or on paper. On the bright side (pun intended), setting up your own space allows you to customise the lighting to your own personal level of sensitivity in a way that the large-scale lighting in a workplace doesn’t. You’re also more likely to be able to work near natural light, which helps keep your circadian rhythm regular (making it easier to fall asleep at night and wake up in the morning).
There are three types of light to think about when you’re setting up your home office — natural light, ambient light and task lights, all of which perform different functions.
Light from the sun has many benefits in a workspace — studies have shown that it improves mood, alertness and performance, as well as adding warmth to a room, and decreasing power costs. However, you can have too much of a good thing — at peak hours, too much natural light can overheat a space and cause glare. If you’re setting up your home office, look for a room that has moderately sized windows where a desk can be placed in front of the windows or at a right angles to it. Placing a desk facing directly away from a window can cause glare on computer screens, although it may work well for someone who spends most of their time working on paper or producing physical objects. Adjustable sunshade blinds are the easiest way to reduce over-lighting from windows during the middle of the day.
Overhead artificial light sources are usually the hardest part of a lighting set-up to get right, so it’s best to treat them as a secondary source, rather than your main source of light. If overhead lights are your only lighting option, try to position your desk so the light is overhead at a slightly offset angle, so it’s not creating glare on your screen or casting shadows across your work surface. If the only place for a desk has a light source directly overhead, adding a lightshade can help diffuse the light.
The colour of the walls in your home office can also change the level of ambient light in the room. If your walls are a light colour, they’ll be more reflective, increasing the overall level of light. Darker walls absorb light, meaning you’ll need to increase the wattage of the bulbs. LED bulbs create a much more natural quality of light than compact florescent bulbs.
A good task light is the most important aspect of home-office lighting, offering focused lighting for up-close work and balancing the light from other sources to reduce glare and contrast. The ideal task light has an articulated or adjustable base and a dimmer switch to increase or decrease the level of light as needed. Although functionality is the key aspect of this lamp, you’ll have no trouble finding something that suits your tastes when it comes to form — the first Anglepoise task light was designed in 1932 by George Carwardine and since then it has become a staple of the product designer’s portfolio, with a near-endless variety of iterations. We like the industrial simplicity of the Tolomeo Standard Table Light, the bird-like elegance of the Nemo Dove Table Light, and the natural element of kauri wood in the Riva 1920 K Blade Light.
ALL IN ONE
New from King Living is a desk that comes with the task lighting already built right in. The Eto Desk is designed by Tom Fereday, one of Australia’s most celebrated young designers, and manages to solve a host of home-office design dilemmas in an elegantly minimal way.
The secret is in the integrated power technology, which allows the adjustable desk lamp or any other accessory to be plugged directly into the top of one of the legs of the desk, minimising trailing cords. And if you don’t need it for a particular task, you can unplug it, pull it apart (it uses low-voltage LEDs so there’s no risk of electrocution) and stash it away in the slimline drawer under the desk.
“The idea was to design a desk that is for real, modern-day people that considers how people really use desks today and not just offer a surface to work on,” says Tom. “I sit at a desk every day, and there are so many different cables and products associated with it that create unnecessary clutter that for me, it just makes work unenjoyable. The idea was to remove as many products as possible and have as clean a table as possible.” A wireless charging platform is another detachable accessory for the desk, which Tom says is likely to be the first in a product series for King Living.