In all three of my previous office jobs, I had to be moved to a different spot in the office because I was bothered by the bright, fluorescent office lights.
(In all three instances, this put me in a location in the building far away from the rest of my department. Sometimes this was a good thing.)
Prior to being moved, there were times I wore a hat while sitting in my cubicle. Or sunglasses. And good lord, one time I even taped a piece of paper to the top of my head so it would stick out in front of me (like the bill of a hat) and block the light. (That only lasted about 5 minutes. Too embarrassing, even for me.)
I stood on my tiptoes on my desk and twisted out one of the bulbs, even after HR told me they couldn’t remove the bulbs due to some workplace law or something that said there had to be a certain amount of lighting.
I got so obsessed with the bright lights that I had a hard time focusing on anything else. I researched light monitors online and planned to buy one at Home Depot, so I could measure the light level in the office and tell HR, “SEE? I told you it’s TOO BRIGHT!”
Another time, I built a contraption using paper folders and a ruler. I taped them to the top edge of my cubicle so they would stick out and strategically block one of the lights. The ruler acted as the support for the folders, which blocked the light. It stayed on my cubicle for over a year. I was proud of it.
At my last job, the office manager (or HR or whatever) bought me a Cubeshield. It’s a nylon thing that sort of resembles half a tent that attaches to the top of your cubicle, blocking the light. When it was being installed, I could see people walking by and staring and I could hear people wondering out loud what it was. I was mortified by the attention and so embarrassed that I seemed like a whiny complainer who had to have this silly thing installed. People would walk by and make comments like, “Are you going camping? har, har.”
(I recommend this contraption from Ikea to block lights in the office.)
But a strange thing happened a few months later. Two more CubeShields popped up in my office. It was catching on–vindication! I no longer felt like the crazy whiner. 🙂
Read my blog post about all the battles I fought working in a cubicle–including noise, smells, social situations, and ergonomics.
Further reading: Check out this article from Pacific Standard about how “Dim Lighting Sparks Creativity.”
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Interesting to read your experiences. I’m in the same boat, and it seems we’re far from alone. Been fighting with my HR dept for over a year, with no luck. Eventually they told me to “deal with it”…..
I’ll have to look into the shield.
Hi Charles, thank you for sharing. I can’t believe your HR dept is being so difficult! I can’t believe they said Deal with it!! That would make me crazy!!! Definitely look into the Cubeshield or there is a product from Ikea that works, too: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/90306925/
I have the same problem with fluorescent light, as well as sunlight, flashing lights, sitting in my car behind someone with their blinker on, etc. When I asked to be moved to a darker (and less smelly area since I’m also sensitive to smells of all types like lotions, perfumes, bathroom deodorants, etc)area at work, I created too much trouble for them. It’s a pain, and it caused me my job.
This blog post was cathartic for me – NO ONE has ever understood my experiences with lights at work. Thank you, and so glad I found this blog!
I’m glad you found it, too, Mary!
Umm… thought we were going crazy at our work… We came back from summer break and all the lights had been replaced by crazy bright fluorescent ones… apparently a kick back from the government or something…
I complained after my migraines increased, my colleague complained… We were told the lights had not changed and they were always the same… then they had been changed but ages ago and we hadn’t noticed?? umm yeh i’m sure we did notice!
Eventually after many migraines, sun visors, excessive amounts of panadol and a letter from my doctor they removed one bulb above “us complainers”…. funny enough my supervisor ended up wearing sunglasses at work and experiencing migraines too.
I seem to cope ok with the bulb removed, but my other colleague still wears a sun visor…
thanks for your article.
We had the shields at work and then the fire department safety regulations told us we had to take them down.. so I’m considering wearing a wide brimmed hat at my desk. You would think it could make so many people happy to just limit the amount of lights.
I just opened a foldable umbrella and propped it on top of my cube to block the light that was shining right in my face. I would post a picture, but can’t on this site.
I thought I was the only one having this problems. My eyes hurts and look red some days more than others I feel like I have something inside my eyes. but I know are the lights
This was very ‘heart swelling’ for Me. My light sensitivity is almost as bad as my hearing sensitivity. Seeing someone start to take action is so wonderful. And I thank you for toughing out the ‘whiner’ thoughts, it made a difference to stand your ground in your own quiet way. That is just the beginning of having our needs addressed. 😊 Kudos to You! 💕
thank you! 🙂
This is such an under appreciated component of proper office design. The ergonomics can be totally destroyed with harsh bright lights. Productivity and performance are impacted as well.
I’m having the same issue at work now. I had cataract surgery a while back and my eyes are more sensitive than they were before, even though they were always sensitive to light to begin with. My company recently expanded and put in new lighting that is way too bright. I was moved recently to a different team and am sitting in a section with all of the lights on. There are sections off depending who you sit by and whether or not they want it bright or not. I’m close to buying sun glasses for the glare…not sure what else I can do at this point. The company is aware of the issue, but seems to just leave it to the employees to battle it out.
Hi Bob, I’m sorry you are having this issue and wish your company was more proactive. I recommend trying to get one of those Cubeshield things, or if you are near an Ikea, one of these from the children’s section: http://amzn.to/2cBT740
Neither are perfect solutions but hopefully they will help a bit. I have worn sunglasses inside an office before and it can help, but of course, isn’t ideal.
We moved to a new office last year, and they shrank the cubicals to half their previous size. They cited studies showing that companies now had less space per person, but the people who made the decisions all sit in offices, and the office sizes didn’t shrink. The “big” selling point on this location (for those who sit in offices) were the super low walls on the cubes (so imagine lots of noise as we are stacked on top of each other), and the natural lighting. One year later, I have constant headaches. I can’t open my eyes in the morning because they burn so bad. I can’t see the road driving home because my eyes hurt so much. My cell phone app says the light level at my desk is about 4600 lx. Yes. 4600. The recommendation for computer workers is 300-500 lx. Natural lighting is great I guess, as long as you can control it and turn down the overhead lights. And lets not talk about the rapid spread of germs in these cramped quarters. Viruses and running rampant and taking out entire departments at a time.
My doctor has run tests up and down and I’ve been to several specialists who have checked for a variety of issues. They weren’t able to find anything conclusive. I went to an ophthalmologist and he agreed that it sounded like overlighting but couldn’t think of a solution that would fix the issue where I am trapped in an overlit hell with no ability to control the light around me.
I’ve talked to HR and they said that I need a note from a doctor so they can make accommodations, and they aren’t quite sure what accommodations they need to make since everyone should love the abundance of light. OH the HR team were part of the group that picked out the fixtures. Part of the issue is that the employees with seniority were given the cubes next to the windows and are allowed to control the blinds each day. So the rest of us suffer or be labeled the office complainer.
I need something useful I can take to HR as a valid medical reason and an actual solution. Sunglasses will not help with the light directly overhead and the giant wall of windows behind me. I have searched the net up and down and can’t find any solutions. I would put up a test over my desk if I could, but that won’t work with the look of their beautiful new office. If anyone has been to the doctor and has found a HR worthy solution (I’m in California btw), can you please share what you did and what worked? I loved my job up until we moved, but I’m tired of being sick and tired all the time. I feel like they won’t take action unless they fear a workers comp case.
Thank you for your comment and I’m so sorry you are experiencing this. Your doctor won’t write a letter? I am surprised they won’t write a letter at least about your headaches! It is a known thing that overlighting can cause headaches! I am also in California and one of my jobs required I have a doctor’s note to buy me an ergonomic chair, but not to address the light problems. Two companies I worked at were both pretty responsive to my lighting complaints. One moved me to the other side of the office and allowed me to put a Cubeshield on my cube, even though it didn’t fit with the “look” of the office, they allowed it. I just can’t believe that HR departments wouldn’t want you to be comfortable!! Would they allow you to put up a Cubeshield or one of these Ikea canopies? http://amzn.to/2c6HzKd
look up cubeshield.com. they are great! i am trying a new design myself, but until then this will work for you. looks great and easy to put up.
Thanks for sharing this with all of us. I find it hard to fully focus when the lights are too bright especially early on in the morning and later in the evening during the Winter months.. I understand light can be beneficial but sometimes it’s just too bright! (and no I’m not a vampire!)
Yet another brilliant post! Lighting affects me so much..my friends would tease me at uni for commenting on lighting all the time..never been a fan of main lights. My house is full of lamps & fairy lights-maybe I’m a vampire!!
Thanks for posting..makes me feel a lot less alien to know others feel the same 🙂
Thanks for sharing your experience! It’s nice to know there are people out there who understand. We moved in to a new office and I’ve been struggling with the lighting. Everyone looks at me like I’m crazy because I’ve been wearing a wide brim sun hat in the office for the overhead lighting but seriously considering getting prescription sunglasses as well…
Found your blog while looking for a solution to the same issue! Glad I’m not alone at least, but it’s frustrating that SO many are sensitive to sound and light and aren’t taken seriously! Used to have an office where I left the lights off and brought my own lamps, but this flourscent light in a cubicle directly over me is so distracting and exhausting!
I have the same problem I have always been sensitive to light and when I had my own office all lights were disconnected and I worked with a table lamp no issues. Got moved into a large office last year and have had nothing but problems with my eyes. My employer doesn’t care even when the consultant report was given to them explaining the problems with my eyes. They have recently installed an led light above all desks. It is torture for me even wearing sunglasses but all I get told is that they are following the law with lux levels. Never had problems like this until I got moved but like most places the hr and management don’t show any duty of care and then wonder why work doesn’t get done. Short of leaving the job I don’t know what else to do
I currently work as a safety professional and have some lighting issues we are trying to manage for our employees however I am finding it difficult to find real solutions.
We have conducted a lighting survey in the area and with all the lights on we are getting a fairly even light spread of between 370lx to 500lx. these readings are within the guidelines of the building regulations and local standard recommendations. The solutions they have come up with on their own which has caused some grief in the office it to turn off one of light circuits (half the lights) which then drops the lighting levels down to about 100lx in some places which is well below the recommended lighting levels of the building codes. With all the research I am doing, it appears we have quite a good environment as far as lighting levels go but there is still some obvious problems we have to address for our workers.
I am now looking for the affected people to consult their treating specialist (which I believe they have already but not provided evidence of) and gain some information on what is causing their problems and some possible alternative solutions.
I am open to all possible solutions for the affected people while keeping in mind we don’t cause issues then for the other people in the office.
Hi Craig B
Thanks for your comment, it’s hugely appreciated that you’re engaging with this and not dismissing it as “too difficult”, even when it is difficult as you say.
I’m another one of these people that struggles to function/keep my eyes open in these office lights. At home, I specifically have the yellow-tinted bulbs and mostly use lamps. Cannot the workplace change the tint as a start and still meet those guidelines?
Something else that I wonder about is who sets those standards and how have they determined what is “best” as a standard? If the majority of people don’t have a problem with light, then you’d think that they wouldn’t mind if we made a few changes. And if we use a mixture of natural light and yellow tinted globes then surely we could meet halfway? The PC screens themselves are so bright too…
Big fan of the old school lamp! Like in the old libraries… And I’m not super old either. 🙂
I have issues with lights, i work by myself, and for over 10 years i would keep half of them off. Never been a problem, but the new supervisor is not having it (why? It doesnt effect anyone, im the only 1 in the room). They did switch half of them to leds but that doesnt help at all. For me its a combination of it being overhead beating down on you, and because im under it for 8 hours a day, its torture. It wouldnt be so bad if it was only a couple hours of the day, but 8 hours of it non stop is torture.
I am really concerned about my future in the workplace. I am concerned that once LED light are installed I will become sick from the migraine they cause, then pushed unfairly out of a job.
I dont think u are highly sensitive… i consider my self, yourself normal….its just that 70% of population are now half blind and totally nose blind.
So they need super bright lights and super strong smells to see or smell anything.
Sometimes I wish I was one of those 70 or something %… The lights, the smells are damaging my both physical and mental health. The worst part – I love the job. It’s gonna be so difficult and heartbreaking to leave it…
I’m in the same boat. Amazing how the workplace gets all up in arms about turning off, diming, or adjusting lighting! Even with a doctor’s note it is like pulling teeth, uggghhhh!!
I am sitting here at our front desk now with a hat on, but the bright light all around me is still bothersome so the hat isn’t much use. Eventually (I work for a government office, it takes multiple departments and multiple meetings for them to decide how they are going to proceed, yada-yada — and how much tax payer money just to dim the lights???!!!)they plan to install a dimmer switch (we think!). Meanwhile, they have said they won’t accommodate me, I have to find ways of my own to block the light while at our front desk (which is just part of the time which is a relief, the lighting overhead in my cubicle has been turned off). They even go so far as to say “take sick/leave time” which would be more disruptive to the department than if they just had someone else sit at the desk until the lights are able to be dimmed or turned off. Geezzzzz…… so I loved finding your post! I like the ruler and file contraption over your cubie!! I’ll have to think of SOMETHING for this reception desk area! Or, maybe I’ll get a doctors note to be off work until they fix it! Good grief, today’s workplaces are insanely wasteful and inefficient.
About six months ago our office was fitted with all LED lights to replace the fluorescent lights. This sounds good, except additional fixtures were actually ADDED and now it’s brighter than a QuikTrip and I have developed worse headaches then before. I feel as if my vision is actually being damaged. Since I am the only full time office employee I have no power to change this situation. In my reception area where I work there are three large rectangular LED fixtures yet only 150 square feet. There’s nowhere to hang CubicleShields nor would they be allowed. I also have a large glass door and a large window next to me. Those are coated with reflective film so they’re not much of an issue. Advice?
Your eyes are being damaged
whether it is fluorescent or LED there is too much light in offices. I had my own office until recent job. fricking lights are obnoxious. sad thing is no one needs this much light especially to work on computer all day.
Does anyone have link to research on too much light?
I am also experiencing this issue which is complicated with work place harassment for turning off a couple lights during my work time and at my work place. Some one from another shift even removed the light switch. It has gone beyond migraines and i now experience cramping in my eye muscles which causes double vision. Since working from home where I can adjust my lighting and computer screens intensity, it has stopped. I went to work for one day and it happened within hours. I was working with a team of doctors to eliminate other health issues before the covid 19 happened. Since my issue is not an emergency, I have to wait to start up my appointments again. Thank you for this place to read and share. We are not alone.
Bright lights are awful! I wear a ball cap in my living room in the mornings (or just avoid that room) because it is too bright. Mostly, I prefer natural light to artificial light but that room during that time of day is unbearable. Florescent lights are offensive anytime, anywhere.
My husband has slowly been converting most of our lights to dimmers (bless him) and for my birthday got me soft-white, dimming string lights for our stair banister to use as soft back lighting for our living room (no more blaring big lights at night while cozy on the couch)!
I also suffer from chronic migraines, so that adds to my issues with lights. I never liked bright lights though. My father used to call me “Vampiress” growing up because I used to have my bedroom lit only by a bunch of candles, oil lamps and twinkle lights. I used to get mad at him when he’d come in and switch on the big overhead light. Rude!
I was looking for some way to jamb the light switch so my coworkers cannot move the dimmer, and I found this site about people not wanting the lights to be bright. I don’t think there is a good answer especially if you work with people who need the lights to be bright.