Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Why is there so much light in the offices?

Joel, something really struck me as I was reading the description of your new offices. I've read in ergonomics materials that the monitor must be brighter than the light level in the room, to prevent eye strain. If the monitor is darker, it's harder to see (imagine being outside in the sun and trying to look through a doorway into a building). This is consistent with my personal experience - I get bad headaches if I'm using a monitor in a bright room for more than about half an hour.
So what struck me is that, with all those light sources in the offices (2 windows, 1 translucent wall) it's like the complete opposite of the recommended practice. If I were in an office like that, I'd be covering up the wall with posters and pulling down the window shades.
So how do you and the others in the office feel? Hopefully there hasn't been a sudden rash of headaches. ;)

Mike Dunn
Friday, March 19, 2004

Well, it's either headaches from the light, or depression from the dark. Take yer pick ;)

In my years at Microsoft there were about 50% windowed offices, and senior developers got to pick first. There were senior developers who chose internal offices because they liked a dark room, but it was exceedingly rare.

From the limited ergonomics I know, the headaches of which you speak are caused because bright/moving objects which try to attract your eyes away from the screen, and you have to use eye muscles all day long to pull your eyes back to the screen.

I actually think having moving things in your field of vision is worse than having bright things, so private offices help because you don't have other people walking around in your field of vision, which is REALLY distracting.

We put (lower case w) windows to the right of the monitors specifically so that you can rest your eyes at a different focal length than the monitor, because ergonomics experts recommended that.

And finally we are on the north half of a building so it's bright but not super bright. New York is rather northerly you know...

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Saturday, March 20, 2004

"I actually think having moving things in your field of vision is worse than having bright things,"

"We put (lower case w) windows to the right of the monitors"

Nothing moving outside, I hope. :-)

Philo

Philo
Saturday, March 20, 2004

> you can rest your eyes at a different focal length than the monitor, because ergonomics experts recommended that

How deep are your desks? I have my monitor 44 inches from my eyes.

Also the photo at http://www.fogcreek.com/About.html shows a keyboard sitting on the desk; whereas mine comes out from under my desk: http://www.humanscale.com/products/keyboard_systems.cfm (no disclaimer required: I'm just a satisfied customer ... my only quibble with it being that there's barely room on their mouse tray for my mouse pad, which has a gel-filled thing on which I rest the heel of my hand).

Christopher Wells
Saturday, March 20, 2004

I've seen that keyboard holder in action, its about as nice a under-desk keyboard holder as you'll find, if you like such a thing.  I however prefer my keyboard on my desk, set back about 14-16 inches from the edge, with room to rest my complete forearms on the desk, and my mouse directly in front of me between me and the keyboard (operating it 90 degrees counter-clockwise of the normal position).

Ken Klose
Saturday, March 20, 2004

what's a mouse?

.
Saturday, March 20, 2004

My headache experience is limited to flourescent lighting.  Because the lights resonate at 60Hz (the frequency of the alternating current in the US), they tend to cause headaches, especially with a monitor reflecting that light at your face.  Even worse if your monitor is also set to a 60Hz refresh rate.

I think plenty of natural light is just fine, so long as it isn't causing glare to make the monitor unreadable.  Monitors are quite bright, even the new LCDs.

Mike
Monday, March 22, 2004

The best office I ever had was a north facing office, so the sun never shone directly through the window.  I almost always kept my overhead light off, but had plenty of ambient light from the window to not be in the dark.

Being able to look up from my screen, turn my head and gaze and the shifting leaves was certainly therapeutic.  A couple minutes of that and my head would clear and I could get back into the code with better focus.

Chris Kessel
Monday, March 22, 2004

Modern fluorescent lights don't flash with a 60 (or 50) Hz frequency.

I used to get headaches when working for hours under 50 Hz flashing fluorescent lights.

Nowadays I use, at my house, a mix of fluorescent and incandescent lighting. I find that this is the best for the eye.

However, I would have no objection to working on modern fluorescent lighting, because the 50/60 Hz "light flashing" is a thing of the past.

MX
Monday, March 22, 2004

Mike, "Quality" Flourescent bulbs do not strobe at a 60 Hz rate.  That, and the poor color rendition of old flourescent bulbs, are the two things that the flourescent companies have spent a lot of time working on.

Turns out that they were able to just steal from CRT research -- they just toss in measured amounts of red, green, and blue phosphors, a few magic potions here and there, emit a smidge of UV light to match the UV light that sunlight puts out, and bob's your uncle.

The really good stuff is available at your local neon sign shop.  It lasts longer than standard flourescent, comes with transformers that let you dim the lights about as well as you can dim incandescents (standard flourescents only go down to 50% if you are lucky, and most of them are not dimmable at all), and strobes in the range of 20 kHz.  The only problem is that it's covered by a different part of the electrical code than normal lights because it's high voltage.

I'm too big to use an under-desk keyboard tray without putting my entire desk into an un-egronomic state.

The big thing, I think, is that the lighting for an individual office needs to be customizable by the resident of the office.  Because, after all, they know best what works for them.

Flamebait Sr.
Monday, March 22, 2004

+++I'm too big to use an under-desk keyboard tray without putting my entire desk into an un-egronomic state.
+++

eh?

Unless you're also seriously disproportioned, I don't see how this makes sense.  Can't you raise the desk?  Even if you have to stand it on blocks?

muppet from electric-chipmunk
Monday, March 22, 2004

My desk is a cube desk (one of the few things that makes my employer not perfect)

On the other hand, it's good that I'm properly proportioned to have my wrists in the right position at standard office desk height because it saves on keyboard trays. ;)

Flamebait Sr.
Monday, March 22, 2004

I use a Butterfly Board from http://www.metamorphosis.com/ and I can't recommend it highly enough.

martha
Monday, March 22, 2004

So how do you convince your employer to install this new fangled lighting in the huge cube farm that is your home?  My overhead lighting is dozens of circa 1970 panels of fluorescent lights...  Painful.

Mike
Monday, March 22, 2004

Well, once they go in and replace the flourescents, they use up less power to boot.

Flamebait Sr.
Monday, March 22, 2004

"Hey boss - what's that number for OSHA again? I want to ask about the standards for office lighting..."

Philo

Philo
Monday, March 22, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home