What Colors Work Best In An Office Environment?

There are tons of articles out there on color in the workplace, but the proof is in the application. For me as a designer, color sets the tone of a space. If you walk into an office that is sterile gray with no pops of color anywhere to be seen you will notice that the people have a somber tone about them. You most likely could hear a pin drop in there! I recently came from such a work environment….and it was just as I described!

Bringing color into an office redesign with signage and art often meets with stoic indifference. As you try to improve the culture of the company you must also address the colors you choose to present to your outward appearance. Otherwise, its not going to work because the work environment will not reflect any vibrancy or outward sign of change.

Color sets a tone. Colors that are useful in the office are: orange – stimulates creativity; yellow – intensifies the intellect and heightens motivation; red – energizes; blue – calming, fights physical and mental tension; green – fights irritability and has a healing effect on the body. For the office, use colors that you are drawn to as these are the colors that will benefit your health.

Color is a game changer. It can elevate or placate, but I will wager that most people feel more productive around happy vibrant colors. There has even been a color shift trend in the past few years in corporate logo design that mirrors this perfectly. Instead of the burgundy and gray of years ago we are seeing saturated complimentary colors like blue and orange. They wake up the eye and therefore the thinking. They look progressive. The same methodology can be applied to the office. Accent walls, furnishings, cubicles and meeting spaces can all be proving grounds for this change. How productive do you find your boardroom meetings?

Translating this into a workplace environment, studies conducted by institutions like the University of Hawaii at Hilo have identified the way these colors affect a work environment. These would be most suitable for office environments:

  • Green and Blue – Walls painted with these colors can create feelings of calm and relaxation in employees. Green gives eyes some rest and helps reduce anxiety. This is especially helpful where lighting is not at an optimal level, or employees spend the day staring at computer screens. Blue helps reduce stress by lowering the blood pressure and heart rates. Some studies state that people are more productive in blue rooms. However, the darker tones of these colors can evoke feelings of sadness. These two colors together make teal….this is one of the edgy new blues. A bluer tone of gray will also work, but careful with putting it everywhere because it will subdue.
  • Yellow and Orange – These colors, associated with the sun, make a person feel warm and happy. However, when they’re too bright, they can be associated with hunger, anger and frustration. Yellow, the color of caution, in a workplace can cause eye strain by over-stimulating the eyes. This can annoy and irritate employees. And yellow tends to be affected greatly by lighting. It often changes hue throughout the day based exposure to daylight and overhead lighting conditions. I would use these two sparingly as accent colors, not wall colors. Or look for more grayed down tones like gold or coral.
  • Red – This color can stimulate and excite employees. It can increase respiration, heart rate and brain activity. But it can get a person really worked up. Red like orange would be best used as an accent and not as a main color. Red can stimulate feelings of love, passion and danger, and has very strong attention-getting characteristics. Deeper shades like burgundy can fit a corporate space, but not too dark! Or you could take that burgundy up a notch to aubergine, yes, purple….but a significantly toned down purple. The 2015 Pantone color of the year is Marsala, a brown-toned shade of burgundy.
  • White – Another highly-reflective color, white can be a cause of eye strain. However, it conveys feelings of sterility and cleanliness although it is not a very stimulating color. It would however be suitable for ceilings as a diffuser for light. Downward facing lighting in a computer centric workspace is the eyestrain culprit, but if the lighting is diffused upward and reflected back down more evenly distributed it can be much easier on the eyes. So white then becomes more functional rather than sterile.

Pantone has long been the universal color pallet of graphic designers, and it now keeps it’s pulse on the fashion industry. Where do the current interior design colors come from? You guessed it, fashion. So the lines have blurred these days. What does 2016 have coming? It’s going to be brighter, with a hint of calm. Our Pinterest board offers some colorful solutions. Please like our updated Facebook page!

DSC02233-462666-edited.jpgMEET JANICE COONS: Janice assists clients seeking furniture for offices, health care, and higher education. Armed with her extensive knowledge she dilligently fits the right style into any budget. Connect with her via email or by calling 888-910-3769 x113.