An Illuminating Subject

An Illuminating Subject


In software development, attention is often paid to high-powered computers, ergonomic chairs, and the latest coding tools. However, an aspect that’s frequently overlooked is the lighting in the workspace. This blog post delves into why proper lighting is crucial for software developers and how it can significantly impact productivity and health.

I am not a doctor, I don’t have any particular expertise in this field, so please take this post with a pinch of salt. However, I have been sat in front of computer screens virtually my whole life; I started developing code at the age of 10. So, this is my experience for what it is worth.

The Role of Lighting in a Developer’s Life

Software development is an intellectually intensive job that involves long hours in front of computer screens. The right lighting not only reduces eye strain but also influences mood, energy levels, and overall health. Poor lighting conditions can lead to headaches, fatigue, and decreased productivity, impacting both the quality of work and the well-being of the developer.

Types of Lighting

  1. Ambient Lighting: The general lighting of your workspace. Ideally, it should be bright enough to illuminate the room without causing glare.
  2. Task Lighting: Focused lighting that illuminates the specific area where you’re working. Desk lamps are a perfect example.
  3. Natural Light: Whenever possible, utilize natural light. It’s the most balanced source of white light available and has been shown to improve mood and productivity. I have found that I am more engaged during the brighter months of the year – typically spring, summer in the UK. I find it much more difficult to concentrate in the darker months.

In my home office, I have all of the above. During the day, I have some natural light coming in through my windows and a full length glass panel in my door. However, I have two problems with natural light; the first problem is that my windows and door are north facing and, in the UK, the sun is coming in from the south; the second is that I installed security film to keep prying eyes from seeing into my office.

So, I simply do not get enough natural light in order to give me a nice, comfortable environment. Instead, I have a lot of light fittings in the ceiling. These provide a great amount of ambient light without it being too bright. The large number of lights in a relatively small space means that I don’t have a lot of shadows or glare.

However, particularly when working on electronics projects, the light levels are simply not enough for my now slowly (hopefully) failing eye sight as I grow older. For this, I have Task Lighting.

On each desk, I have a telescopic light that has multiple brightness settings. They clamp onto the desk, can be moved around as needed, and can be twisted / turned to illuminate what I need. I even have a light with a large magnifying glass built into it for really close up work.

By utilising the right lights in the right places, I can feel comfortable all day long.

Balancing Brightness and Contrast

  • Screen Brightness: The brightness of your screen should be balanced with the brightness of your workspace. Too much contrast between the two can cause eye strain.
  • Adjustable Lighting: Consider using lights with adjustable brightness. This allows you to change the light intensity based on the time of day and the nature of your task.

Reducing Glare and Blue Light Exposure

  • Positioning of Lights: Ensure that lights are positioned to minimize glare on your screen. This can be achieved by using indirect lighting or positioning task lights to the side.
  • Blue Light Filters: The blue light emitted by screens can be harmful over long periods. Use blue light filters on your screens or glasses with blue light filtering capabilities. This is particularly important if you are working into the night and blue light can effect your sleep considerably.

The Importance of Taking Breaks

  • Eye Exercises: Regularly practice eye exercises to rest your eyes from continuous screen exposure.
  • 20-20-20 Rule: Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds to reduce eye strain.

Ergonomics and Lighting

  • The positioning of your lighting sources should also consider your workspace’s ergonomic setup. The goal is to have a well-lit workspace without any shadows or reflections that can cause discomfort.

Personalizing Your Lighting

  • Personal Preference: Lighting preferences can vary widely. Some developers may prefer a brightly lit room, while others may find softer lighting more conducive to concentration.
  • Experiment: Don’t hesitate to experiment with different types of lighting and intensities to find what works best for you.


Proper lighting in a software developer’s workspace is not a luxury; it’s a necessity. It plays a vital role in ensuring comfort, reducing the risk of eye strain, and maintaining overall health. By thoughtfully setting up the lighting in your workspace, you can create an environment that not only illuminates your space but also enhances your productivity and well-being.

Remember to focus on more than your screen and follow the 20-20-20 rule!


Hi, my name is Stephen Finchett. I have been a software engineer for over 30 years and worked on complex, business critical, multi-user systems for all of my career. For the last 15 years, I have been concentrating on web based solutions using the Microsoft Stack including ASP.Net, C#, TypeScript, SQL Server and running everything at scale within Kubernetes.