For several months I’ve been struggling with a general sense of unease while working in my home office. I knew that I preferred working in a place with a nice view or with some movement or people around me, but I had never been this uncomfortable in an office.
As an aside, when I talk about places with a view or with movement, some examples of idyllic locations for me would be:
- a high floor office with glass windows overlooking a busy city (E.g. New York, Bangkok etc)
- an office with a view overlooking a beach
- a comfy and plush cafeteria or hotel lobby with background noise of people chatting but no extreme loud noises
I already had all the ergonomics covered, so that wasn’t the problem. I kept trying new things until I finally figured out it was a light issue.
The Color Temperature Solution
I found the best working light temperature for my productivity and comfort to be anywhere between 4500K and 5600K, depending on other light (e.g. window) and time of day. Light really makes a big difference in my mood, so it’s important for me to get this right in my set up.
There are three basic light colors to choose from:
This type of light (typically around 2700K) creates a calm, cozy, inviting, and intimate mood and feel of the whole room. Lights that have a warm white color temperature are ideal to be used in living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens, and certain bathrooms. It’s also the best choice for restaurant ambient lighting as well as for decorative outdoor lighting. It’s the type of light I had installed in my office, and it was the main culprit of my unease and lack of productivity. Clearly it’s not a great choice for an office.
Cool White ranges between 3100 to 5500 Kelvin. Lights that belong in this temperature range produces a more balanced white light and can often include a slight blue tint.
Light bulbs or lamps with a cool white color temperature can create a bright and vibrant ambiance to a room. This type of light are best suited for basements, garages, and even for bathrooms – or most open areas in a contemporary home. Cool white lights also work well when used in task lighting and in work environments such as in reading areas.
It’s also my favorite light as it is neither too yellowish neither too bluish.
That commonly called as daylight is produced by lights and lamps which range above 5500 Kelvin. Daylight temperature can produce a blue-white light that is basically what a natural daytime looks like.
Light bulbs and lamps above 5500 Kelvin can create a crisp and invigorating mood and ambiance for a room. This type of lighting is best used for zones that need ample illumination such as in garages and display areas. This kind of light is also clear, making it ideal to be used in task lighting and security lighting.
Choosing a light at 5000 Kelvin to 6000 Kelvin can replicate the midday sunlight which is a very cool light and often creates a glare.
Finding Your Favorite Color Temperature
The easiest way I found to discover what temperature works best is to use a portable LED light such as the Aputure MC light and just vary the temperature from the iOS app until I found the range that makes me feel best.
Following that, you can buy Philips Hue lights to setup an environment that is easily controllable. The BenQ e-reading desk lamp or Phive desk lamp also have fairly customizable temperatures and can be a good candidate for a desk light, as I haven’t found any decent Philips Hue models yet.