I have light sensitivity issues, and unfortunately it took me several years to figure out this little fun fact about myself. Early on in my life I stumped several optometrists, who all agreed there was something “wrong” with my eyesight, but none of them could figure out exactly what it was. As an adult I realized that my eyesight is one of my most important tools and in fact there is nothing “wrong” with them; my eyes are just extremely precise, and like most precision tools, very sensitive.
There is actually bit of controversy surrounding the legitimacy of issues involving Compact Florescent Tubes, as most of the underlying causes of them have been reduced to the point of being completely undetectable by the human eye. The problem I have with completely dismissing them is that recently we have discovered that there is still unnoticeable affect on people. Under long term conditions poor quality lighting can actually affect a wide range of physical and mental health problems. In my scenario, headaches, eye strain, and even slight depression, all of which get progressively worse over time.
Unless you are able to somehow convince your company to spend the money to install sky lights in their building and then use only halogen bulbs, there is no way to completely eliminate these problems. There are always ways to improve them; you can find florescent lighting options that will decrease the risk of these problems.
Keep a look out for Full Spectrum Bulbs, although this has become a bit of a marketing term and many bulbs that are labeled as Full Spectrum are not. The bulb’s Color Temperature should be less than 5000K and more than 3000K, with a little over 4000K being optimal. The higher the Color Rendering Index the better, but I would aim for a rating of 80 or more. Last but certainly not least is the flickering effect, and unfortunately this is the hardest to figure out because nobody really advertises it. You want something in the higher ranges, preferably 60 kHz or more.
The best that I have been able to find on the market is the Philips TL 950 Compact Florescent Tube. Although the Color Temperature of 5000K is a little cooler than I would like, I haven’t been able to find a better florescent bulb on the market. Philips seems to me to be leading the market right now in quality lighting.
At the end of the day, Halogen is going to be produce the best quality light, and you can also get a small halogen lamp and place it at your desk.