What Makes a Good Office?

Updated at: Jan 29, 2013
What Makes a Good Office?

Factors that create an encouraging atmosphere to work in an office like Proper Lighting, Luminance disparity, Air Quality, Environmental Parameters including several dos and don'ts of a good office.

Editorial Team
Office HealthWritten by: Editorial TeamPublished at: Jan 29, 2013

Proper Lighting


Office lightening design in 20th century used to involve installing T12 fluorescent fixtures which are 8 feet apart in tiled ceilings and classic 2 foot by 4 foot three-to-four lamps. However, what one needs to understand while lightening one’s office is visual tasks which are performed by the employee.


Several factors will help in determining the need of an apt lightening, such as

  • The luminance of the background
  • The time till which the documents are viewed
  • An employee’s knack of looking and reading office documents
  • Contrast of the task with the background


Luminance disparity


An unwanted ratio of the sum of light set free on the work area to the quantity of light bordering to the area and in the wide-ranging field of view of the worker can lead to difficulties ranging from aggravation to perceptible glare. Thus, experts suggest that the luminance within the instantaneous area should uphold an utmost bright-to-dark ratio of 3:1 in the view of the task.

One way to supply appropriate bright-to-dark ratios in the view of the task is to limit the lowest illuminance to a passage area or a corridor adjoining to the area of wide-ranging illumination.


Applying controls


Now a day’s, control technology is used which aids in minimizing superfluous lighting used in a work place all the way through the day and to meet the terms with various codes and standards.


One must consider these wide-ranging provisions for both labor-intensive and mechanical controls

  • Make sure that each separate office or area must have its own control switch/switches.
  • In considerably outsized open spaces, each distinct work area must be grouped and controlled independently.
  • While making in use single- and two-lamp fluorescent luminaires, adjacent luminaires must be placed on alternating circuits.
  • While making in use three-lamp fluorescent luminaires, the indoor lamp must be associated to a detached circuit from the external lamps.


Do’s And Do Not’s For Lighting Your Office

  • The main idea must be to produce an adequate light balance. This can be achieved with a mixture of lighting fixtures which will provide eye the proper ‘que’s’ needed to adapt easily.
  • One must keep in mind to layer the lighting. It must be ideally broken down into 3 layers:
    1.    The task
    2.    Ambience
    3.    Accent
  • Task lighting: One must be able to light a specific area for a task at hand. This may mean moving a lamp around for appropriate lighting. For instance, making use of a task at hand is the right thing to do. It helps in lighting the area at hand. An occasional visit to dining table, will also need a task lamp which enables proper lighting in order to keep eyes from straining.
  • Ambient lighting: This type of lighting is used to fill a room with a light level which allows ample amount of movements and circulations and also helps in balancing the contrasts in the room. A proper fixture is needed for the outside light to come into the room, in order to add balance in the room.
  • Accent lighting: This type of lighting is used to spotlight the areas of your interest in a room. It may include areas such as display cases or art pieces. It is not an imperative part of lighting, however based on one’s needs, one can go for it.
  • Make sure you are lighting your task as a priority. Light must be bright on the task at hand. It will help in keeping eye strain at bay and will lead in effective and adequate working atmosphere.
  • Layer lighting: This type of lighting is used to layer your workplace in a way that the task, peripheral work area and the surrounding are well lit.
  • Make sure you are not placing your desktops or laptops in front of a window unless you have adjusted the contrast levels. This is because the eye will face a difficulty in knowing what to focus on- outside or bright background. It can lead the eyes to be confused, unable to focus properly on your computer screen.


Air Quality

Air makes way into the office buildings via both involuntary ventilation systems as well as through natural leaks around windows, doors and so on. Newer, bigger buildings which are exceedingly energy competent due to sealed windows and profound insulation principally depend on perfunctory ventilation. Older, small, and small-spaced office buildings can be sufficiently ventilated via natural sources which include air outflow through opened windows and doors, as well as through ruptures in the windows and walls.


Environmental Parameters


A ventilation system must involve comfortable environment in respect to temperature and humidity. Air should neither be too hot or too cold, as both can make working environment uncomfortable leading to various work related health hazards such as mold growth. On the other hand, cold temperatures can lead to problems in respiratory passages leading to infections in future.


Too cold or too hot temperatures can lead to

  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Decrease in flexibility
  • Visual impairment
  • Hearing impairment
  • And can hamper an employee’s overall productivity and performance.

There are number of factors which will define whether an individual is comfortable in a particular environment or not. These include

  • Their activity level
  • Age
  • Physical structure of a person
  • Pre-existing health condition and so on

The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) suggests the following temperature and humidity ranges for office work


Relative Humidity    Winter Temperature Range    Summer Temperature Range
30%    68.5 - 76.0 F    74.0 - 80.0 F
40%    68.5 - 75.5 F    73.5 - 79.5 F
50%    68.5 - 74.5 F    73.0 - 79.0 F
60%    68.0 - 74.0 F    72.5 - 78.0 F


Note: Relative humidity above 50% is not recommended because it can promote mold growth.


Indoor Air Pollution


An insufficiently ventilated office atmosphere or a defectively designed ventilation structure can direct to a range of indoor air pollutants. Air pollutants can instigate within the building or can be drawn from outdoors.


Examples of sources that start off externally in a building include

  • pollen, dust and fungal spores
  • Re-entrained wear out from the building itself or from neighbouring buildings
  • Odours from dumpsters
  • General vehicle fatigue


Controls to Prevent Indoor Air Pollution


The following guidelines are functional in doing away with indoor air quality problems

  • Your ventilation systems must receive sporadic cleaning and filters must be changed on a daily basis on all ventilation systems.
  • The ventilation system must make way for a sufficient supply of fresh outside air into the office.
  • Office equipments must be maneuvered in well-ventilated areas.
  • Office equipment must be spotless and well-maintained, according to the manufacturer's guidelines. Adequately maintained apparatus will not produce detrimental levels of pollutants.
  • Special attention must be given to maneuvers that may generate air pollutants (such as painting, pesticide spraying, and heavy cleaning).


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