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Glare is hard on the eyes. And productivity.

July 28, 2023

Glare is a productivity thief often disguised as a minor annoyance. And it can be just about anywhere, affecting the wellness of staff and caregivers, preventing them from feeling and doing their best. Let’s take a look at how glare affects people and what to do about it.

Glare occurs when there’s excessive brightness or light contrast. Inside healthcare facilities, glare is typically direct or reflected. Either the light shines directly from the source, (such as too much sunlight streaming through a window or shining on the subject from a bright light fixture) or the light is diffused or reflected off a surface (light bouncing off a light-colored wall or reflecting off a shiny tabletop).

The results of temporary glare are relatively short, lasting just seconds or minutes, and range from discomfort to a brief altering of visual acuity that makes it harder to discern details.

Prolonged exposure to glare is cause for concern.

Prolonged exposure to glare throughout the day is more serious and can cause eye strain, fatigue,1 headaches, and reduced productivity.2 There are ways everyday glare can take a toll on the staff and caregivers at a healthcare facility -- and the organization’s bottom line.

Glare can create:

  •  a negative effect on visual function that can affect the safety and well-being of patients and residents, especially seniors whose eyesight is already diminished by age3
  • decreased employee satisfaction and motivation, and an increase in absenteeism4
  • inefficiency, fatigue, and mistakes among employees5
  • an increase in distraction and lapses in concentration, too6

WELL v2 acknowledges the importance of glare control in supporting well-being.

The most recent version of the well-respected and internationally recognized Well Building Standard, or WELL V2, includes in its science-backed criteria for certification the optimization of lighting – including minimizing glare – to protect the visual acuity and comfort of building occupants.

By supporting the implementation of control strategies, such as proper fixture placement, shielding, and diffusing techniques, WELL V2 certification standards aim to minimize direct and reflected glare that could disrupt occupants' visual comfort and well-being.

Using UGR as a luminaire-level glare metric.

UGR, or Unified Glare Rating, is a glare metric that predicts the amount of discomfort-causing glare created by luminaires for a fixed set of conditions. The UGR scale ranges from 5 to 40, with 5 being the lowest discomfort-causing glare rating possible.

The UGR rating system is commonly used in the lighting industry. For example, Discreet Linear low-glare lighting from Cooper Lighting Solutions can help interior spaces achieve a UGR of less than 6 using black baffle and less than 13 using white baffle – even lower than the recommended low UGR levels for office environments.

Remember, UGR is based on a fixed set of conditions. As a result, the metric is used more as a reference than an accurate measure.

Designing to minimize the discomfort of glare.

Even if you’re not yet seeking WELL V2 certification, there are steps you can take to minimize the negative effects of glare in your healthcare facility.

Understand staff, caregiver, even patient needs: Begin by understanding the specific requirements and tasks of the healthcare facility’s occupants. Also, consider the preferences of the occupants.

Select appropriate light fixtures: Choose lighting that has good glare control properties. Look for fixtures with shielding or diffusing elements that help minimize glare by directing light where it’s needed and reducing light spillage.

Optimize fixture placement: Pay attention to the placement of light fixtures to avoid direct glare. Position them strategically to minimize direct line-of-sight between the light source and people's eyes. Consider the angles at which light is emitted to ensure it doesn't cause discomfort.

Incorporate dimming and lighting controls: These provide flexibility in adjusting lighting levels based on user preferences and specific task requirements. This allows individuals to personalize the lighting to their desired comfort level and helps avoid discomfort glare from excessively bright lighting.

Control daylight: Although daylighting provides a connection to the outdoors and reduces the need for artificial lighting during the day, it can also be a major source of discomfort glare. Effective daylighting strategies, such as using interior blinds, sunshades, and light shelves, can mitigate the potential for glare in a space.

Get more information about our Discreet line of low-glare surface and suspended lighting.


1What Is Glare and How to Reduce Its Impact, VisionEnhancers, 2021

2Windows and Offices: A Study of Office Worker Performance and the Indoor Environment, California Energy Commission, 2003

3Daylight Glare: How Does It Affect Health, Well-Being and Performance, E. Sok-Paupardin, 2021

4Physical Hazards Indoor Workplace Lighting, International Labour Organization, OSH Brief No. 3c

5Daylight Glare: How Does It Affect Health, Well-Being and Performance, E. Sok-Paupardin, 2021