Brighten up your day19/05/2015
The impact of colour in the office environment.
Seeing red? Feeling blue? Green with envy?
There’s no denying that colour and mood are inextricably linked. Apparently the scientific reason is colour stimulates the pituitary and pineal glands that regulate hormones and other physiological systems in the body. (Science lesson over.)
It then follows that the use of colour in the work environment can play an important role in employee attitude and behaviour, which in turn affects productivity and staff retention. And there is now a growing bank of scientific evidence to back this up.
80% of UK office staff believe the colour of their surroundings has a significant impact on both their emotions and performance. (Study by Dr David Lewis on behalf of Canon)
So when you’re sat at your desk what colours will inspire and motivate you? To answer this let’s look at some colours and the emotions they invoke in us.
This fiery colour is most often associated with danger or anger, probably something you don’t want to cultivate in the office. Conversely its power can discourage certain activity so painting lounges, lunch rooms and corridors red can reduce the desire to linger.
Orange combines the energy of red and happiness of yellow and is often associated with sunshine and joy. It’s proven to increase oxygen supply to the brain, producing an invigorating effect, stimulating mental activity and keeping the brain alert. As such it’s an ideal colour to be used as part of office décor.
Yellow is generally popular given its association with sunshine, warmth, joy, happiness and excitement. This feeling of positivity makes it great for areas such as breakout rooms and main offices. However too much of this colour can trigger anger and frustration so its use requires careful thought and balance.
Green is everywhere in nature. It’s the colour of life and the most restful on the eye. It symbolises growth, harmony, freshness and fertility. Green also has great healing power and there is evidence to suggest its use in an office environment can reduce absenteeism through illness.
Blue is often associated with relaxation and can help lower blood pressure and heart rate leaving you feeling calmer. It can also inspire creativity as emphasized by the phrase “blue sky thinking”.
When over 1,000 office workers were asked, they picked blue as their favourite colour.
However, not all blues are ideal. Dark blue can encourage depression, while cool blue tones can make rooms feel chilly and sterile.
Purple is not a natural colour. It combines the stability of blue and energy of red and is often associated with royalty, luxury, power and ambition. It can also stir up romantic feelings that, depending on your line of business, may not be appropriate to the working environment.
White is associated with light, goodness, innocence, purity and cleanliness. However, as many office workers can attest to, it creates a drab, unemotional and uninspiring environment. Despite this it seems to be the default option for many work spaces.
Black is associated with power and formality and has a sense of fear and the unknown. It usually has negative connotations as phrases such as “blacklist”, “black humour” and “black death” demonstrate. As such it’s not a great colour for the office.
So it appears orange, yellow, green and blue are the colours we should consider when designing the office environment. Ultimately, however, it depends on the individual business, its objectives and values. Whilst yellow and orange may be best for more creative businesses, green or blue may be more appropriate for professional services that seek a calmer environment.
Either way it’s clear that colour can demonstrably affect employees and their behaviour. As proof of this, people when tested working under their favourite colour performed 10% better at problem solving. And once again blue was shown to be the preferred colour. So maybe “feeling blue” is not such a bad thing after all.