In all of the locations I've ever worked, I've only demanded one thing that falls outside of my employers understanding of good working conditions: a lower light, non-fluorescent environment.

This isn't just some wacky quirk. In most places I've worked, my work area was quite open. Because of this, I had to convince my co-workers that getting rid of the fluorescent lights was a good idea. I would suggest a day long trial, and then at the end of the day we would vote on how the area would be lit from then on. Maybe it's just because I work with designers and programmers, but the result was always unanimous that the lights stay off. The most common comments were that screens were less fuzzy, it was much easier to discern and properly match colors, and they experienced less eye strain than usual.

We do always get comments from visitors to the office, though. "So, I see you work in the dark" is common to hear. Little do they know it would probably be a lot easier for them than working under fluorescent lights1. Even my current employer though working in low light very strange until I convinced her to try working by the light of her window alone. Now her light switch is barely ever turned on. This also pleases the owner who pays less on electricity.

Even if you don't use your computer very much each day, your lights may be hurting your eyes. Most fluorescent lights have a refresh rates of 60Hz. This means that 60 times each second the lights flicker. If your monitor is set to 60Hz as well, this means that you will see a very noticeable flicker in the screen image because the screen and the lights will flicker at roughly the same time. Because a lot of computer monitors even now display at 60Hz by default, and also because the average user probably doesn't know how to change their refresh rate, this problem may plague someone for a very long time before they realize what is going on. Surprisingly this light problem isn't limited to CRT devices. LCD screens also have a tendency to cause a great deal of discomfort to their users under fluorescent lights.2

If completely turning off the lights isn't an acceptable answer because of a lack of a natural light source, a good replacement is inverted halogen lamps. These offer indirect light, which is superior to direct light as it causes far less glare, a source eye strain for a lot of people3. They also have a much warmer light to them which I find to be very soothing.

I also found out only recently that the fluorescent lights were probably the reason I felt it hard to concentrate in school. Very bright lights, accompanied by staring at a black chalk board was not a healthy thing for me, and it often lead to me getting a headache. Of course, I was always told by the school nurses that my eyesight might be to blame. After the resulting trips to the optometrist proved my eyesight was fine, and after I found that not being in school made my headaches go away, skipping classes became may way of dealing with the pain. This leads me to wonder how many others had similar problems with school, and how much adjusting light levels might impact learning levels.

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As an electrician who professionally installs lighting I have to disagree rather profoundly with Luquid in the writeup above. What he is complaining about is older flourescent lighting systems. (see fluorescent lighting) Modern systems with electronic ballasts operate at 60,000 Hz. No one is quick enough to catch that flicker. Nor is the color balance problem inherent. All his employers need to do is choose different bulbs.

I make no objection to the suggestion of inverted halogen lighting, or other methods. But it is not necessary to change from a fluorescent. The ballasts can be changed. Bulbs are easy, and changing both is a part of routine maintenance. Electronic ballasts will save his employer's money, because they are more efficient.

Fluorescent lighting has come a long way in recent times. Today they can offer pleasant and natural lighting, at low cost. An old or bad application is the real complaint.

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