Applying the Psychology of Colour in Workspaces

Posted in: Blog | Workspace
Office workspace with chairs, couches and a table for Ukhuni
Photo credit: Paysafe Garitage Park Offices – Sofia

Designing a home office or traditional office is a lot of fun, but there’s so much to think about. From furniture and fabric to textures, finishes and colours. One good office design tip though, start by choosing colours.

Choosing the right colour palette for your workspace, be it in an office building or your home office, is essential. The impact of colour in our workspaces is far-reaching, even if you ordinarily don’t pay much attention to design, you likely notice the effects certain colours have on you. Thanks to the field of colour psychology we have a better grasp on how to improve our productivity, mood and our health through carefully thought our office colour schemes. With some handy tips, you no longer have to play it safe in a dreary dull office or be overwhelmed by clashing colours.

What is Colour Psychology?

Colour psychology is the study of how colours affect us and how we can best utilise them to improve our wellbeing. It is used in marketing because it directly affects the way people respond to brands. You can see this just by looking at how we perceive different colour brand logos.

As with lighting design in our offices, colour falls within the discipline of ergonomics because depending on how well the design is carried out, it will either positively or negatively affect our mood, productivity, and wellbeing. Many scientists have conducted studies and observed the subconscious effects of warm, cool, bright, or muted colours on the bodies and brains of their subjects.

Some colours have a calming effect, while others have an energising effect, the trick is knowing what colours are best suited for your business and how to use them to get the most out of your employees while keeping them happy and healthy.

Office workspace with tables and chairs interior design for Ukhuni
Photo credit: Aidsfonds SoaAids Netherlands Offices – Amsterdam

How Different Colours Affect Us

‘Colours interact in a yet unknown way with pituitary and pineal glands, and the hypothalamus deep in the brain which controls basic body functions and emotional responses.’

  • Alexander Schauss, CEO and Senior Director of Natural and Medicinal Products Research at AIBMR Life Sciences

Warm colours, also known as high wavelength colours, are energising, they keep us alert and our heart rats elevated. Low wavelength or cool colours are more calming and boost our focus. Still, each colour has its own nuanced effects and playing with a combination of colours can achieve just what your home office or traditional office need to ensure productivity amongst staff members.

Red – the most energising colour. Red increases your heart rate, blood flow and appetite which is why it is commonly used in fast-food restaurants and gyms. Too much red is overwhelming and can actually be draining over longer periods of time. It is best used sparingly as accents in furniture and accessories.

Blue – commonly used, this colour is known to lower your heart rate and blood pressure. Blue is calming, aids productivity focus and communication which makes it ideal for meeting rooms. Unlike red, you can use a lot of blue easily, that said, too much blue can become cold.

Yellow – energising and stimulating, yellow is easier to work with than red. Used correctly it is a positive colour which inspires creativity and complements natural light. Too much yellow may induce anxiety.

Green – the ultimate calming colour, green doesn’t cause eye fatigue. It is the colour of relaxation and creativity, reducing anxiety. It is ideal for creative spaces and relaxation areas.

Orange – the friendly colour, orange creates a social atmosphere and fosters collaboration. A splash of orange harnesses the best of both red and yellow but too much can be too energising and negatively affect productivity in the office.

White – generally considered bland and dull, white creates the impression of space. It is great when used to complement other colours, helping to balance out your colour scheme. Too much white can be bright and reflect too much light if you already have a lot of natural light coming into your office.

Black – exuding authority, control and luxury. Black absorbs light and too much of it will close in small spaces and become depressing. Used sparingly it is visually effective.

Office chill area interior design with chairs, couches and tables for Ukhuni
Photo credit: Mayborn Group Offices – Newcastle upon Tyne

Your Corporate Identity

No matter how much you love a particular colour, you may need to find a way to weave in your corporate colours if you are working from a traditional office. Your employees, clients and visitors will walk away with a clear image of your corporate identity and the ethos of your company. If your colours are bright, too much colour may be overwhelming. Find ways to balance them out with white and other neutral colours to harness their positive effects.

Internal canteen interior design with chairs and tables for Ukhuni
Photo credit: Axiom Zen Offices – Vancouver

Too much of a Good Thing

So you loooove red, many of us do, but your staff won’t love it if they are staring at it day in, day out. Too much is too energising, as with other warm colours. Cool colours are generally easier to manage but still, anything especially bright eventually becomes taxing when overused, used in the wrong space, and when people are exposed to it for long periods of time. Remember, we spend roughly eight hours a day at work!

Consider using splashes of colour by painting a few accent walls, investing in colourful pieces of art, furniture, accessories, and carpets. These colours can be muted in the form of pastels or balanced out with white and neutral colours. Intermittent pops of colour will ensure you get the desired effect, keeping your staff energised and focused so that they are happy and productive.

If you need more advice on office colour psychology and designing the ideal home office or traditional workspace, feel free to get in touch with us. For advice on furniture and office design book a consultation with our space planning and design team.