Bright Ideas

Office Lighting Ideas: Layering Light to Balance Form and Function

When lighting an office, it’s really easy to get caught up on one facet and overlook the other vital aspects of good lighting design.

With office lighting, it’s especially important to create balance between form and function. Your goal should be to create a space that is safe and comfortable to work in—ergonomics always should take priority over aesthetics—but that doesn’t mean you need to do away with decoration and style entirely. Instead, you can use the technique of layering light to incorporate both aspects into your office lighting plan.

What is layering light?

When lighting experts discuss layering light, they typically mean incorporating and building up the three basic types of light throughout a room:

1. General/Ambient lighting

Your base layer. Ambient lighting provides a nice, even level of lighting throughout the office, providing your employees with adequate illumination for moving around freely and accomplishing simple tasks. General lighting shouldn’t be so bright that it causes harsh shadows, squinting, or headaches—aim for about 20 lumens per ft² at most. Installing LED panels is an effective way to create ambient lighting while also keeping your office’s energy consumption as low as possible.

LIGHTING TIP: Some designers recommend adding general lighting in last to “fill in” the dark areas your other layers of light might leave behind. Which way works best for you will depend on the space you’re working with and your goals, so consult with a lighting expert.

2. Task lighting

When it comes to detail or focused work, there is nothing more important than good task lighting. It should be layered in over ambient lighting via LED strips, and desk or reading lamps at workstations, cubicles, office desks, warehouse processing tables—anywhere that your workers are doing activities that require good visibility.

LIGHTING TIP: Wherever the lighting is located, make sure your employees can control their own task light source. Automating and scheduling general lighting is a great way to save money, but allowing workers to adjust their personal light source goes a long way and helps them work more effectively and efficiently.

3. Accent lighting

For a little extra atmosphere and a less sterile-feeling work environment, accent lighting can be layered in using wall sconces, track lighting, and picture lamps to emphasize architectural details, artwork, plants, wall murals, new products, important signage, and other branding elements that are important to your business.

Make lighting work for your workers

To provide your employees with the type of lighting they will need to move through their day with ease, consider what type of work is being done in a given area within your office and select lighting accordingly:

  • Is it a creative space for brainstorming ideas, writing or designing? Warm, dim lighting helps foster creativity—just make sure it’s bright enough that your team can turn up the light when they need to.
LIGHTING TIP: Putting your general lighting on dimmer switches is an excellent way to maintain flexibility with brightness levels.
  • If it’s a creative space where you’ll be doing work with colours and colour matching, select a light bulb with a high colour rendering index (CRI) for the best colour accuracy:
  • Is it a break room where employees eat lunch and talk? Install lighting that mimics natural outdoor light as closely as possible:
  • Is it a work area that requires focus? Bright white lighting, similar to daylight, helps employees stay alert and will actually help them sleep better at night by assisting their circadian rhythms to stay on schedule, enhancing their productivity even further.
  • Is it a presentation or conference room? Warm directional lighting will focus the audience’s attention at the front of the room.

Don’t forget to includedimmer switches to easily adjust lighting for slide shows and PowerPoint presentations!


Providing effective office lighting for your employees is integral to their well-being and work ethic. By creating a well-lit space that considers how the space is used and utilizes the light layering technique, you are creating a happier, safer, and more efficient work space.

Need help lighting your office space? Speak to one of our lighting experts about our lighting design services.

Don’t forget to improve the illumination in your home office as well.

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