The Impact Of Colour In The Workspace

Colours are everywhere, influence most people but are often not noticed. Sherlock Holmes reckoned that the trouble with people is that they look but don't see, they see but don't observe. Can you enter a room, an office perhaps and later recall the colours in that space? What colour were the walls, the ceiling, the carpet and the furniture? If not then Sherlock picked you in one.

But seriously, behavioural scientists and other whizzbang people like designers and decorators can explain how a person's mood, even their level of happiness can be influenced by the colours in their place. In short, the workplace colour scheme can impact your workers.

The experts are not all in agreement about what colours do to our thinking and feelings but they agree that colours do influence us. They reckon colours can affect us subconsciously. And if we behave a certain way, it may be because of the impact the colours around us have. Interesting.

Now if true, you as a manager would want any impact to be favourable. If the colours prominent in your workplace are helping and not hindering your staff, then that's good. But again if true, how do you discover the right colours for your workplace?

Bone up on colour

It will certainly help if you know some of the basics about colour. This is a mini Wikipedia tour of the topic.

We have the Beatles of colour, the fab four. They are green, yellow, red and blue. They are also known as the primary colours. Some of the main impacts colour can have on us include temperature and size. We can think of colours as being warm or cold and of making things larger or smaller.

We label warm colours those which are red, yellow and orange, and we label the cool or cold colours as blue, green and lilac. To test these claims, check out some ads on TV. You could have a debate on the topic that yellow is a happy colour.

The experts further suggest that a cold colour or colours in an interior gives the impression of increasing the size of the area whereas a warm colour suggests to our brain that the room is less spacious. And if you want your space to appear welcoming, go for the warm colours. Not that you want to make people feel uncomfortable in your workspace but cold colours are said to generate a cool atmosphere. And that's cool as in not warm.

What do colours represent?

Yellow is the sun and sunshine and sunny days are way better than rainy ones, or so the song lyrics go. The sun gives us life and energy and happiness. Experts reckon yellow grabs our attention and helps people in meetings to be inspired. Apparently, it's a colour that stimulates conversation and perhaps that's why blondes have more fun!

Green is nature. Greenery is peaceful and offers harmony. A garden can be an oasis, a restful and refreshing place. Greenery goes well almost everywhere and certainly within workplaces.

Red is blood, that vital ingredient within us all. Spill blood and we notice it quickly and in a vivid and forceful manner. Red is about passion - it gets the blood pumping. But red is also associated with anger. His face turned bright red. So used in workspaces, red will capture the eye but avoiding too much red is important. Don't give the hot heads any extra incentive. And if it's true that red increases one's appetite, for food that is, perhaps your dining room could try another colour.

Blue is meant to help us relax. We find it easier to breathe in a room with blue. We don't blink as much. We avoid distractions better with blue around us. So if you want your meeting rooms to be productive venues, a splash of blue (and remember it has many shades), could be the way to paint. Apparently blue is linked to faithfulness and honesty and most Swedish companies have at least some part of their logo in blue.

The lesser known colours

While the four primary colours offer so much variety, there is a real support cast in the form of hues. These are the shades or variations in-between the primary colours. The five hues are orange, pink, purple, turquoise and brown. And it's not just the primary colours, because each of the hues has qualities which designers and psychologists believe impact the human condition.

Orange is somewhat like red in that it stands out and grabs your attention. It is recommended for areas where workers gather as orange facilitates communication. It's a warm colour and makes us more friendly and outgoing. It's also associated with food and cooking so could sit well in your canteen or eating areas.

Pink is supposedly a calming colour and helps to lower the temperature of a room. It represents happiness and feelings of contentment and brings a sense of security to the surrounds. Children's bedrooms are often decorated in pink and that is deliberate to bring a softer and quieter ambience to the space.

Purple was once popular with the nobility with royal families often wearing the colour as part of their impressive attire. That gave the colour an association with wealth and success. The hangover today is more with schools where uniforms and logos are often coloured, in part at least, with purple.

Turquoise is the laidback hue of the colour world. It is associated with the outdoors and with purity. You will often find medical packaging, drinks and outdoor pools and patio gatherings being linked with turquoise. If you are planning a spa at your workspace then decorating a part in turquoise could be the go.

Brown and beige are supposedly calming colours although beige has the unfortunate connation of being bland. Some scoff at beige clothing. But brown does work well in spaces where relaxation is a priority. Like all of the hues, brown works better when used in tandem with other colours. Throw in some bright and cheerful colours and brown can be the perfect partner.

Painting by numbers

If you are keen to have the colour schemes assessed in your workspace, talking to a specialist who deals in these matters seems a logical and sound idea. As experts have long described the impact colour has on people and thus on your workforce, ignoring the possibilities may harm your productivity and thus your bottom line.

You know the old picture books where the "artist" applies the colours according to the numbers in the spaces, well, that is not the recommended approach to tackling the décor in your workspace. Talking to furniture experts, interior designers and psychologists is a great place to start.

The experts reckon you need to start with how you want your employees and clients to feel when they enter your workspace. Once you're strong on what impact you want the colours to have, then you choose the shades of whatever is appropriate.

It works for others

Now that you know yellow is believed to be a happy colour and red goes well in food situations, is it any co-incidence that McDonalds, that universally recognised and successful food chain decks out its stores in yellow and red. Co-incidence maybe? I don't think so.

Now it doesn't have to be the whole hog if considering changing colours. It's not suggested to completely re-decorate your workspace from top to toe. It's possible to add highlights, or use new furniture or new accessories to existing furniture. A splash of colour here and there can make an impact.

Remember that you only get one chance to make a first impression. If your reception space requires an impression that you are serious and sophisticated, then colour is a great way to create that effect.

And mix 'n match is a popular way to colour your workspaces. If your walls are of a darker shade, perhaps using blue, then adding furniture with brightly coloured chairs, rugs and paintings will provide a contrast and boost the concentration of your members of staff.

Don't be afraid of colour. Don't be afraid to break out and do something a little different or daring. A staff lounge or kitchen is a good place to try something less conservative. Why not a purple hallway or a bright orange kitchen? Colours play a significant role in how people feel. Help them feel all the right thoughts and be more productive employees.