We recently moved to a new office and it was almost unanimously, decided to keep the lights off unless it's literally night. Unfortunately, If i turn on my lights, it will turn on the lights for another 12 people so It's tough to reason with everyone.

With the lights off and the blinds almost entirely closed, it's like working in a dungeon/dark basement and it is affecting my eye strain. My eyes experience discomfort almost every day now and I have not had such issues for the past 7 years working in different offices (all with a reasonable light level).

Things I've tried:

  • Night mode is constantly on, set to a nice yellow.
  • My monitor brightness is down.
  • I try to use dark themes for everything I can.

Things I'm considering:

  • Getting a desk light.
  • Getting a better monitor.
  • Asking to move to another floor or spot with more lighting options (last resort).

The layout:

The layout is with big long desks with multiple people sitting on them, so I have people on each side, so light pollution is to be avoided.

All advice is welcome, as It's becoming increasingly difficult to deal with this and I'm not sure what's a good option.

Update #1

I just want to clarify some things as this question has risen in popularity.

  1. Yes, everybody working in their optimal conditions is great, but lets be real - there will be always someone unhappy, and there's no need to be self-centered about it :)
  2. I am asking for solutions that do not involve the obvious - better office, better lighting, better location and etc. because I have deemed those options not feasible at this time.
  3. I have little experience with this issue so lamp suggestions and other general suggestions are great, because they are things I can buy / start doing immediately and regardless of where I am at positioned.
  4. Due to English not being my mother-tongue, I might have sounded like it's unbearable, but It's still at the medium inconvenience stage and I'm trying to keep take measures to keep it from escalating.

Thanks for all the answers! :)

  • @StephanBranczyk it's not a cubicle.
    – jaskij
    Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 6:45
  • Why is asking to move to a different location a last resort?
    – Ben Barden
    Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 14:56
  • Does your work entirely consist of staring at a screen? I'm fairly good at touch-typing but not being able to see the keyboard would make it hard to make corrections when I slip up. What about taking notes on paper or checking paper documentation? All of that requires light.
    – Llewellyn
    Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 17:22

6 Answers 6


Get a desk lamp. Get one with a swing arm/adjustable that can direct the light toward your desk surface, rather than spread the light over others' work surfaces.

Something like this might work: https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B0744984HF/

(Personally, unless you are a mushroom, I don't understand the attraction of dark office spaces. I like lots of light - preferably natural light. I always brought my own lamp to use on my desk/work surface.)

  • 2
    Hi Joe, this is my main idea right now, but I'm concerned if it will provide enough lighting. Do I have to point it at the desk, myself or both? Does white or warm light work better?
    – hilchev
    Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 21:40
  • 3
    You could also splurge on a daylight lamp, they are a bit more expensive but simulate the spectrum of sunlight.
    – Borgh
    Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 7:16
  • 1
    I agree, get a desk lamp. That's probably your best option.
    – Hans1984
    Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 9:26
  • 1
    Get a "Natural light" bulb for that lamp, too. A lot of what people believe are low-light issues are actually neurotransmitter levels that are screwed up because you're not getting daylight. I grew up on a farm, and am seriously dependent on natural light. If I go too many days without natural light, I get (even more) irritable and my productivity is shot. Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 16:36

You need to ask that the lights be turned on. It's affecting your health. People will grumble, but this is a work environment, and people work with the lights on.

Not saying people won't grumble. You should bring it up with your management and ask that 'reasonable accommodations' be made.

  • 1
    Hi Bill, this is obviously the best solution, but company-wide changes are difficult when 97% of the people do not have this issue. I am searching for an alternative whilst trying to win this battle :)
    – hilchev
    Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 21:39
  • 2
    "...*and people work with the lights on*." -- This obviously is not universally true. I don't think there's any real basis for saying that either having the lights on or having them off is inherently correct. Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 0:56
  • 4
    "97% of the people do not have this issue" Do you know that for a fact? Maybe it's just one or two loudmouthed people who want it dark, and most people don't care so they're just going along with it. After all, dark offices are not normal. If 97% of people wanted dark offices, I'd expect them to be much more common.
    – dwizum
    Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 13:13
  • 2
    @KeithThompson I think there's a lot of basis for saying looking at screens under bad lighting conditions is bad for your eyes. A number of people may also prefer it to be a lot darker than what's optimal for their eye health. Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 17:20
  • 1
    If you're unsure about this, you could try to talk to some coworkers to find out if others also feel uncomfortable with the dark environment.
    – Llewellyn
    Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 17:20

I have a medical condition - your situation would cause me headaches. We have a bright office but it's enough if it starts to rain outside for it to be an issue for me.

Lighting up just the desk surface does not help much. What's important is that whatever is behind your screen is bright since the difference in brightness between the screen and the background is what is actually causing the issue.

My go to solution is to either:

  • light up the whole office (does not work for you)
  • have a desk such that I'm facing a wall and have a desktop lamp pointing at it (this causes a fair amount of light pollution for others but nothing can be done here)

it is severely affecting my eye strain

At this point, it's a medical issue, so HR are required to make any reasonable adjustments to sort it out - escalate it to them and let them deal with it. They may give you a desk lamp, move you somewhere else with more light, or just decide to turn the lights on. If it's the latter that they decide needs to happen, it's on their head and not yours.


If you are willing to spend a bit of money I would recommend checking out some kind of "computer glasses". These are glasses designed to reduce eye strain by filtering blue light out. I personally use them and this allows me to stare at screens for much longer without my eyes feeling tired.

This should allow you to reduce your eye strain without bothering your coworkers in any way. It would also prevent glare if you were to get a desk lamp.

  • This answer received a few downvotes, but no explanation of why the answer is inadequate. No, it does not provide the frame challenge that some answers do, and the sentence about 'bothering coworkers' is problematically non-confrontational, but the computer glasses are a legitimately good solution. I have started wearing computer glasses (well-fitting ones, with an anti-reflective coating, after consulting with an ophthalmologist) to reduce eye strain and find them to be remarkably effective.
    – MvZ
    Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 12:42
  • I believe the down votes are due to me previously referencing a specific companies' glasses rather than suggesting "computer glasses" in general. Mefitico Has done a great job in editing my post in that regard. @SambalMinion Could you further elaborate on what you meant by: "No, it does not provide the frame challenge that some answers do, and the sentence about 'bothering coworkers' is problematically non-confrontational" Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 15:05
  • In hindsight, I have worded that a little strongly. Computer glasses only contribute to a solution, although effective under many lighting conditions, they are no panacea. I feel that OP's reticence in involving his coworkers or manager may be the underlying problem. Small inconveniences become major issues when they are not addressed proactively. OP's reticence may be central to the issue and in that case, a frame challenge is appropriate. Only Bill Leeper remarks on this directly, but both Bill and Jan Dorniak indicate that a solution that does not impact coworkers may not be an option.
    – MvZ
    Commented Jun 16, 2019 at 12:04

I can see this question already has an accepted answer, but I've got another suggestion that could help, specifically with eye strain. I've seen people use a screen shield like this to help prevent eye strain. I assume there are cheaper options, this was just the first I found. The blue light is really what you want to reduce and you can only do so much with color settings on the monitor. This, paired with your accepted answer may just help you avoid unnecessary eye strain.

Please check out this study and its sources for more on how tinted glasses and screen shields prevent eye strain. Or this one. Or this one.

  • No I have eye strain like the OP. What he wantsd is to increase the amount of light not reduce any
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Jun 13, 2019 at 22:39
  • @Mark OP specifically mentions that brightness on his monitor is low and he's using dark themes. Does this not address those same things? I suggested he combine this with a desk lamp for back lighting. Lower screen brightness, better back lighting is likely the optimal solution.
    – Steve-o169
    Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 1:44
  • I would ask for a medical reference that shows that dark screens actually protect your eyes as far as I know all studies show that black letters on white screens are better
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 10:24
  • @Mark I added a link to such a study -- complete with sources. Admittedly, the study is more for tinted glasses in relation to migraines, but one could argue the migraines are caused by eye strain and blue light.
    – Steve-o169
    Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 12:37
  • 1
    Hi gentlemen, just to add to this thread - Night light (changing the color of my monitor to a yellower one and reducing blue light) does the same as glasses with yellow tint. Unless the glasses have some optical changes as well, they will do close to nothing as we are not working on CRTs anymore. The light that you are staring at all day is just a LED light. Nobody said anything about white text on black either - that is just as bad for eyes as the opposite. Polarization also is a non-factor, since working in the dark removes any chance of light reflections.
    – hilchev
    Commented Jun 14, 2019 at 12:54

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