Our office is primarily lit by very intense, very annoying fluorescent lights, and I find that they give me a headache if I sit under them for too long. My resolution for this is to get a lamp with a soft light lightbulb. Problem solved?

Not really... because the fluorescent light is up on the ceiling, and also lights my co-worker's desk. She doesn't seem bothered by the light, but would be in total darkness if I implement my 'soft light' plan.

How can I resolve the problem of annoyingly bright fluorescent lighting, without denying my nearby co-worker her light source?

  • At the side of a fluorescent fitting there is a little round thing called a starter. A simple twist will remove it light no longer works
    – Ed Heal
    Jan 19, 2017 at 19:24
  • Why not talk to your co-worker? Jan 20, 2017 at 14:18

8 Answers 8


I had this problem at my last job -- banks of lights meant that you couldn't just turn off your overhead light (and we weren't allowed to remove individual tubes). Your decision affects other people, so you have to work with them to find a solution that makes everybody happy.

If your coworker's problem is only that she would be left in the dark, then get her a lamp! Or get a lamp that provides light for both of you, like a pole lamp (what we did in my case). Note that your employer might not be willing to pay for this; from their perspective they gave you light and you rejected it. But ask; there might be others with this issue and they may see getting a few lamps as a small cost to keep people productive. If not, buying a lamp or two for you and your coworker should be a small cost to you, given what's at stake.

If she actively likes the fluorescent light then you have a bigger problem; you are at odds with respect to your shared environment, whether it's light, the window blinds, heating, or something else. If you can't compromise then you should ask if you can move to another desk. Make it easy for your manager (or office manager, or whomever decides these things at your workplace): scout out a location that would work better for you, e.g. with somebody who also doesn't like the fluorescent lights or doesn't mind replacing them with a lamp. It's best if your proposed location is not seen as "better" than your current one; you're not trying to move up, just out.

Finally, if there is a documentable health issue like severe headaches, this can give you more leverage with your employer in some countries. But don't use that unless you have to. Start by assuming that everybody involved is a reasonable person; naturally they don't want you to get headaches at work, and naturally you don't want to inconvenience your coworkers or gain special privileges like that desirable window seat. Look for the smallest change that fixes the problem and you'll be seen as a team player.

  • 10
    For how annoying flourescent lighting is, I'd be willing to pay for two desk lamps just to turn the damn thing off.
    – Zibbobz
    Mar 21, 2014 at 14:15
  • Indeed. I've bought my own lamps; I've even bought my own chair once. You're going to be spending 8ish hours a day there (maybe a lot more); making it not hurt is worth a little up-front outlay. Mar 21, 2014 at 14:18
  • I once worked at a place where renovations left the bank of lights over my desk on the circuit for the conference room next door... All day that stupid light would turn on and off at random. It didn't give me headaches, but it was maddening since I get in a groove then get ripped out of it as the whole room was blasted by light or plunged into darkness with no warning. :/ Dec 17, 2014 at 17:30

I put up an umbrella on the top of my cube where it would block that bright light. Works great!

umbrella over cubicle

  • 4
    This is exactly what we did at our office, except we used these Ikea green leaf canopy things. You could see rows of people with green leaves atop their cubicles and it was actually kind of neat to look at. ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/90306925
    – Brian R
    Jun 1, 2016 at 20:34
  • I was going to suggest that the old accountant's-visor idea might be worth trying...
    – keshlam
    Jun 1, 2016 at 23:04
  • 1
    They make "professional" versions of these that are made of a similar material, often solid black, that can get attached to a cube to block light. So that might be an option to look for. Great idea though, love the creativity! Jun 4, 2016 at 22:14
  • 1
    Do note that not every employer will accept these customized solutions. I used to block bright window-light with propped up cardboard on my desk (no cubicle walls) and I got in trouble for it.
    – leokhorn
    Aug 19, 2016 at 13:41
  • I have a sheet of paper wedged under the diffuser on the light above my desk. That works quite well and isn't particularly obvious. It's less likely to interfere with the light than putting it on top of the diffuser.
    – Móż
    Jan 19, 2017 at 21:14

I had this problem. Overhead glare, and facility management that refused to have overhead lights be turned off during work hours. The solution that ended up working was to wear a hat with a brim or an eyeshade. That cut the glare from overhead to where it was tolerable.

When I later moved cubes in the same office, I discovered it wasn't the brightness that was the problem, it was the exact location of the overhead light in relation to my monitor. If you have some flexibility in where you place your equipment, moving it a bit one direction or another may help.

  • I have issues with overhead light myself and have been wearing tennis caps at work for years now. I do take the time to explain "why" to colleagues, though, to avoid misguided "guesses".
    – leokhorn
    Aug 19, 2016 at 13:42

One solution that worked for me was to change the bulb! As well as the standard fluorescent tubes, you can get ones that put out light similar to natural light (seemed slightly blue until I got used to it), didn't think it would do much, but it was actually a huge positive change. I seem to remember they were a bit more expensive, but definitely worth it.

Link to the kind of thing I mean (not an endorsement and UK based, but shows what I mean):


  • Fluorescent tubes do wear out, and they flicker more as they wear. New ones are better designed than older ones. You could ask for them to be replaced. If that doesn't work, you could replace them yourself. They aren't very expensive.
    – O. Jones
    Mar 21, 2014 at 22:17
  • +1 for bringing a solution completely unrelated to a social solution: you said how to solve the problem at its root instead of having it solved by talking to other individuals, not that interactions are bad. Mar 24, 2014 at 9:34

One popular solution to overly bright lighting for computer work is to reduce the percent of the fixtures that are switched on. In some offices, this may be as simple as wall switch that allows half of the fixtures to be turned off, while leaving the other half on. In others it might actually require having maintenance unscrew one of two bulbs from the ballast nearest your desk. If many of your co-workers are bothered by the intensity of the light, it may be easy to get them to agree. Don't automatically assume "it's not an option" without actually asking your boss or maintenance whether it would be an option to solve the problems of eyestrain (often the cause of headaches) from excess lighting while doing computer work. At my husband's work, enough people on his team were bothered by the brightness of the light that they successfully petitioned to have the lights over their desks turned off.

Finding other ways to block the light from your computer screen or eyes, such as building a monitor hood to block light from glaring on your screen, or wearing a billed hat may help as well.

The angle of your monitor to the bulbs can make a difference as well, especially if there are diffusers on the bulbs overhead. Try turning your whole desk 90 degrees or move the screen a foot to the left or right to see if the lighting is less bothersome that way.


I get chronic migraine and am a programmer. This means I'm unable to work around fluorescent lighting so I found someone who would let me work at home. Since this isn't an option for you there is a product called Theraspecs which will help. I've had to take classes where there are fluorescent lights and the Theraspecs glasses have greatly helped preventing my headaches when around them. I'm sensitive to screens that use pulse width modulation to control brightness and the Theraspecs will help with that issue also. I'll be going to a programming conference on Saturday and will be wearing them all day because it's at a university. I'll look kinda like a freak but at least I won't get a migraine.

If you go to a job interview where there are fluorescent lights don't wear the Theraspecs. You can out yourself that you might have a disability and companies in general don't seem to want to pay good money for a disabled programmer.


Another possibility, these days, might be to convince your employer to move to LED retrofit tubes for those lights. LEDs have much less flicker.

  • Alas they are far too bright, at the same time. Halogen bulbs are the best I've seen so far.
    – drabsv
    Dec 19, 2016 at 14:19

You should request a reasonable accommodation. You will need a doctor note stating that fluorescent lights make it uncomfortable to do your job (cause eye strain, migraines, etc). The reasonable accommodation could be any of the suggestions that others have made here; attaching a filter over the fluorescent light, using desk lamps for everyone in the area, or moving your desk. My work will turn off the overhead light and anyone can request a desk lamp. I find it's usually best to work with your supervisor to find the simplest solution. You will probably find others that haven't spoken up--so many of us hate fluorescents above our desk. Maybe you can all sit in the same area.


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