Is Coloring the Workplace Really Worth It?


Effectively decorating the workplace with colors that encourage creativity, productivity and positive morale has been the subject of recent research, but the concept of influencing attitudes and work habits by creating the most conducive environments is not a new one. As researchers more clearly identify how certain colors provoke predictable psychological and physiological responses, interior color design has become important to the corporate boardroom and the production manufacturing workroom. The appropriate use of color can not only maximize productivity levels and minimize fatigue, but it can also stimulate collaboration, creativity and cooperation.

Visual ergonomics, the science of developing a color scheme that is most suited for the task at hand in the office, employee lounge or factory workroom, is based on matching color responses to expected behaviors and attitudes in any given environment.

Yellow, the most noticed of all colors, especially the bright lemon version, is extremely reflective. Excessive exposure to this color over-stimulates the eyes, causing both eye strain and annoyance. Studies have shown that babies tend to cry more in yellow bedrooms, more arguments occur in yellow kitchens and more professional entertainers have melt-downs in yellow dressing rooms (Hence the "green" room). While we love the color for its cheerful reminder of the sun, like the power of the sun, small doses are best. Yellow can very effectively be used on safety or warning signs and in advertising or for giving directions. However, it is the hardest color to read on the work computer and should never be a screen background. Yellow legal pads should probably be replaced as well, especially if they are used extensively.

Strong, contrasting colors can also be a problem in the work area. The more the eye has to learn to tune out all the bright colors bombarding it from the walls, the more tired and strained it becomes. Complex color patterns that make a room seem "busy" actually make employees feel as if the tasks are actually more complex and demanding as well. For introverts and those generally grumpier employees, strong primary colors and contrasts can be negatively impacting.

Bright white is also reflective and eye-straining. Its sterile feeling might be great for a hospital where cleanliness is valued, but it will do nothing to inspire a patient in a psychologist's office. Where calmness, openness and trust are issues, blue, purple and green combinations seem to be both welcoming and non-distracting. Even in production areas, the blue/green mixture seems to communicate tranquility, spaciousness and focus. Another application of this color theory is that red rooms are less emotionally comfortable than blue rooms. Employers may want to paint lounges, lunch rooms and corridors red to discourage lingering while keeping the productive work areas light blue with soft red energizing accents.

While the cool colors work best in places such as law offices, public areas and counseling services because everyone seems to stay calmer when surrounded by colors that evoke thoughts of the ocean and the sky, warm colors such as red/orange combinations can really wake up a tired, boring room. For attention to detail, these colors keep the mind alert and stimulated. Olive colors seem to promote concentration, especially studying or reading activities.

Thoughtful use of colors in the workplace can make a cramped hallway or office seem larger, a darkly lit area lighter, a cool room feel warmer and a warm area seem cooler. Contrasting colors can draw attention to safety hazards. Light colors give a psychological lift and earth tones speak of sophistication and stability. Determining the function of a workspace and the desired employee behavior will help in analyzing the best color scheme. A new paint job, regardless the amount of color change will almost always, at least temporarily, improve morale and inspire neater behavior. All things considered, coloring the workplace can be a very good business decision.




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