Working from home: How to light your workspace

Working from home? Find out the best way to light your workspace – whatever room it may be – with our expert tips...

It’s the new normal… But whether homeworking was always part of the plan, or recent global events have turned your kitchen table into an impromptu office desk, having the right lighting can make all the difference to your workspace — and your well-being.

Why you need the right lighting for a home workspace

First, a note on why it's so important to get the lighting right in your home working space. Working with a lack of light, or the wrong kind of light, can cause problems with eyestrain and headaches. Lighting can also have a huge effect on your mood and energy levels: poor lighting can make you feel tired, low and lethargic. The good news is, getting the balance right with your lighting can really help to reduce the strain. Whether you have a dedicated study in your home, or are working from the dining room table, the landing or hallway, or a makeshift desk in an awkward corner of the bedroom, the right lighting can help you feel more inspired and productive, and can make a real difference to your home working experience. Here's how...

Study by Carlos Garcia Interiors - featuring Pooky's Henrietta pendant light

Layering lighting in a home workspace

Most homes are not designed with working from home in mind, and all too often a home workspace is reliant on the light coming from existing sources, such as an overhead ceiling light, or a solitary table lamp. However, these are unlikely to provide sufficient light on their own. The best way to light a home workspace is to have a combination of different kinds of lighting working together — known as layering your lighting. There are three main types of lighting: ambient lighting, which is the overall light in a room (including the main light, and any available natural light); task lighting, which is targeted lighting for carrying out specific tasks (eg a desk lamp); and accent lighting, which is used to highlight certain features or objects within a room (such as those well-earned certificates!) In a home workspace, you need to ensure that you have plenty of effective ambient lighting, combined with some quality targeted task lighting. (See Pooky's guide to layering light in the home here.)

If your desk happens to double as the dining table, it might as well be as stunning as this one by Geek Vintique, featuring Pooky's Priscilla pendant

Creating good background lighting in a home workspace

You should start by looking at the existing sources of ambient light, and how that light is distributed across the space.

Make the most of natural light

Natural light has a number of benefits, and ideally you should position your desk or table in front of or next to a window, or as close as possible to an alternative source of natural light, such as under a skylight or by a glass door. If your access to natural light is limited, consider using a mirror to help reflect the available light around the space and add a sense of depth. It’s also important to think about how levels of sunlight might vary throughout the day — an adjustable blind, nets or a light pair of curtains will help to reduce glare from any direct sunlight, while still allowing some natural light through.

Avoid contrast and shadows

Overhead lighting offers essential ambient light, but it's best to avoid light fixtures which cast a more harsh, direct light as this can reflect on your computer screen, causing glare. Ceiling lights can also cast shadows onto your workspace, especially if the light source is behind you. The trick is to aim for a good even spread of ambient light across your work space, which you can then supplement with some targeted task lighting. If you can, position your workspace so it's facing the main light source to help minimise contrast and shadows. A position facing the light is also best for video calls and conferences. The right lampshade can also make a big difference — if possible opt for a lampshade that softens and diffuses the light down and across the space. In a kitchen or dining room, a retractable pendant light over the table can also offer some additional flexibility. We have a whole lot of beautiful lampshades, in all sorts of shapes, sizes and materials. View our lampshades here.

Install a dimmer switch

Dimmer switches will allow you to adjust the light to your needs as you work. Having control over your lighting is also important if you're working in a multipurpose space such as a kitchen, where you need to perform a range of different tasks at different times of the day. Meanwhile, in a bedroom or dining room you will want good quality light for working during the day, but may then want to dial things down in the evening when it’s time to close the ‘office’ and relax and unwind.

Drax desk light in white

Getting the right task lighting in a home workspace

Once you have sorted your ambient lighting, it’s time to turn your attention to task lighting. You should start by thinking about the main tasks you will need to accomplish during your working day such as reading, writing, completing paperwork, using a computer or making video calls.

Use a desk lamp or table lamp for targeted light

A good quality desk lamp or table lamp can provide plenty of bright light for illuminating your immediate workspace. (They can also easily be moved at the end of the day, when you want to use the space for other things.) Desk lamps are perfect for focused task lighting, and an articulated or adjustable desk light will help you to pinpoint the light exactly where you need it while minimising glare and contrast. (See our stylish desk lamps here.) Meanwhile, table lamps are a chance to make a bit of a style statement — why not create a fun focal point, with an unusual lamp base or an eye-catching lampshade (or both!) If your work includes writing or drawing, make sure your lamp is placed on the opposite side to your writing arm, to avoid shadows. Meanwhile for computer-based work, situate your lamp so that it illuminates your keyboard and working area but without causing screen glare.

Save on desk space with a floor lamp or wall-mounted light

Floor lamps are a great alternative for lighting your working area, especially if desk space is limited. An upward lighting floor lamp will help to diffuse light up and around to illuminate the space, while a reading floor lamp will look fabulous suspended over a table, desk or reading chair and will provide excellent task lighting. This is another great opportunity to introduce some style and personality to your workspace. View our affordable designer floor lamps. And if your working area is in an awkward corner or floor space is at a premium, a wall-mounted swing arm lamp can provide effective task lighting while also saving precious square footage.

Ned standing lamp; Lacey wall light fitting

Creating atmosphere in a home workspace

As we have seen, the right balance of ambient and task lighting plays an essential role in successfully lighting your home workspace, wherever it may be, while your choice of light fitting can add character and interest. Finally, for a bit of extra warmth and personality, you might want to add in some decorative or accent lighting. This could be a string of LEDs or some picture lights to add interest and highlight a favourite picture, piece of art, or even those ancient certificates. Or why not go the whole hog and work underneath a chandelier?...

How's this for a workspace? A stunning office by Interior Designed, featuring Pooky's Orb chandelier

Browse our full range of affordable designer lighting.

See also: How to choose the right desk lamp for your study