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The Use of Colour For A Good Work Environment

Published: Monday 15th June 2015

Multiple colourful butterflies

What do you look for in an ideal office? A comfortable and ergonomically well thought out workspace? Naturally. An air conditioning and heating system that keeps you cool in summer and warm in winter? Absolutely. A reasonable amount of natural light? Of course. Sensible noise levels? Indeed. But what about the colour of the office walls? Does that matter? Well, according to a recent survey by Create a Wall, the answer seems to be that it does.

In their survey, wallpaper design company Create a Wall asked: “If you were to design an office from scratch, which main colour would you use in order to maximise staff productivity?” The top answer was blue, chosen by 22.4% of the 769 people whose views were canvassed. Blue was not, however, a runaway winner, being closely followed by white, which was nominated by 22.1% of respondents. 

The rest of the top five comprised green (18.6% of votes), yellow (15.9%) and purple (10.3%). There were marked gender differences when it came to yellow, which was twice as popular with women as men, and white, which attracted a much higher proportion of male votes than female.

The results were not entirely surprising. Blue has long been considered a colour that creates a soothing, calming ambiance that’s good for the mind and easy on the eyes. A calm and focused worker is likely to be a more productive worker. White, on the other hand, is popular because of its reflective qualities. It can help to maximise the feeling of space in a room, something that’s particularly useful in a smaller, more tightly packed environment.

It would, however, be a mistake to assume that other colours do not have a part to play in helping to create a good working environment. Studies have shown that blue has the greatest effect on a person’s mind (ie the ability to focus and concentrate), yellow has a particular impact on a person’s emotions, such as ego and self-confidence, red is associated with the body and green is thought to have a balanced effect on mind, body and emotions. 

Each colour has many hues, and it would be a mistake to assume that every hue of a colour has the same effect on a person. A strong, bright hue has a stimulating effect, whereas a muted, less saturated hue is soothing.  Choosing the right hue is therefore just as important as choosing the right colour. 

The personal preference of workers should not be ignored either. Although it’s unlikely that consensus over the choice of colour and hue can be achieved, it should be possible to find common ground in terms of a colour choice that most, if not all, staff are reasonably happy with. 

A good colour choice offers the most benefits when coupled with the availability of a reasonable amount of natural light. Studies have shown that employees who receive higher amounts of natural light are likely to sleep better than those with more limited exposure to it. People perform better when they feel fresh, and a good night’s sleep is key to that. 

The amount of natural light that reaches an office can be maximised by ensuring that the windows aren’t blocked by cabinets or suchlike. Mirrors and other reflective surfaces can be used to help make the most of the available natural light, thereby giving an office a lighter, more airy and spacious feel. 

Artificial lighting can have a part to play too. All light has what’s known as a colour temperature which is measured on the Kelvin scale. The colour temperature of daylight varies according to the time of day and atmospheric conditions, but ranges between about 5000 and 6500 Kelvin. Fitting bulbs that are calibrated to output a specific colour temperature equating to daylight can enhance the available daylight as well as prolonging the sensation that an office is being lit by natural, rather than artificial, light.

The next time your company is thinking of revamping their offices or is looking to increase efficiency, why not remind the decision-makers that careful, considered use of colour and natural light can be a simple and relatively inexpensive way to improve a working environment and staff morale and productivity.

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