The Psychology of Color in the Office

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PURE Workplace’s Kansas City and Topeka offices recently received a facelift. The Topeka branch moved locations and the Kansas City branch had new carpet squares installed over our grey, cement floors. The results: fresh, more colorful offices that boost worker morale and productivity.

What we know, and want to share, about color in the workplace is that it has profound effects on our moods and in turn on our office efficiency. Imagine working in a predominantly white and grey space. Grey – the color of cement, missiles, and rocks. And then white – the color of hospitals and bird poop. None of these things inspire me to be creative or work harder.

Now you probably won’t believe me when I tell you PURE’s office is largely white and grey. What they lack in inspiration, they make up for in function. White and grey open up the office and make any space feel larger. However, these dull colors need to be balanced with pops of strategically placed blues, greens, yellows, and reds.

Green and blue have been found to improve efficiency and focus among people. This means in areas that require hard work and productivity, these hues should be incorporated into the design. Think blue or green desk chairs like the HON Mid-Back Task Chair or the Teknion In-The-Zone Sofas.

 

Warmer colors like yellow and orange are found to inspire optimism and freshness. This should come as little surprise – just think about how you feel on a sunny day. So make the workplace that same sunny oasis in a collaborative space. This could include yellow stools and ottomans from Teknion or colorful carpet squares like the ones PURE just installed from Shaw Contracts and Tandus Centiva. This space will serve as the perfect gathering areas for employees, students, or volunteers to come together and create something creative, innovative, and new.

Color can have a profound impact on a person’s mood, and it is our job as designers to channel this power into an environment that cultivates hard work, creative thinking, and personal well-being. This begins with a workplace that incorporates color into the space. 

Remember that feeling you get when the sun finally comes out after a weekend of rain. After spending a couple days hibernating in bed with whatever you’ve been binge-watching on Netflix, a surprise visit from the sun feels rejuvenating. You ditch the TV and go for a run (or maybe a walk). You finally get around to cleaning out your garage. You’re enthused with a new feeling of happiness and productivity all because of the light.

Offices face this same phenomenon. A dreary, fluorescent-lit office screams prison, and no one wants to feel like their cubicle is synonymous to a jail cell. Gloomy and dim lighting makes the workplace seem unpleasant, which can ultimately decrease employee morale and productivity. Studies have shown that improved lighting can increase productivity by 10 to 50 percent.

This improved lighting comes in two forms: ambient and task lighting. Think of ambient light as light for people, and task light as light for work. Both need to cooperate in order to achieve success.

Ambient light’s goal is to illuminate the room. The Koncept Z-Bar Pendant is a unique solution to outdated overhead lights. This customizable pendant is complete with sleek, floating bars that can be rearranged into different shapes according to your preferences.   And as an added bonus, its LED lights mean you’ll capture some extra LEED points for a more eco-friendly workplace.

LED lights also have a blue base, whereas fluorescent lights are more yellow based. Blue light triggers our ganglion cells, which tell the body to wake up and stimulates alertness. Nevermind that extra cup of coffee, just turn on a few more LED lights.

The second half of a beautifully lit office is task lights. Lighting solutions like the Teknion Conflux will transform any gloomy office to a sunny oasis for employees. Complete with LED lighting for a more environmentally friendly alternative and wireless charging portals, this task light perfectly enhances workplace design and efficiency.

However, when choosing task lights it is important to avoid the dreaded cave effect. Lamps often light desks downward, which leaves the surrounding walls and floors dark. Upward facing lighting will create that open, airy office you should be striving for. Humanscale, WorkWell, and Koncept all provide innovative task lights that will reduce glare effects, enhance sustainability, and promote productivity. Think more sunshine, less rain.

So flip the switch on those dingy lights hanging above your head. You’ll feel better, work better, and maybe even look better.

Workplace design has the power to help or hinder productivity. One main facet of this is workplace acoustics. The chatter of conversations, typing of keyboards, and clicking of pens can distract employees and ultimately decrease their productivity. Studies have shown that once an employee is distracted, it can take up to 20 minutes for them to fully regain their concentration. A distracted employee is also more likely to make an error while working.

So in the day and age of open offices encouraging employees to interact more, we are deemed with the task of mitigating these negative side effects. The solution to this lies in the ABCs: absorb, block, and cover sounds.

Open offices often occupy large rooms with hard surfaces for walls, such as brick, glass, or cement. Sounds reverberate and echo off these materials, requiring softer materials to counteract these hard ones. This could come in the form of rubber flooring, carpet, or ceiling tiles. These materials absorb any noise pollutants and diminish the negative side effects of an open office.

Wall partitions can also be used to block sounds. Open office spaces are perfect for increasing employee interaction and cooperation, but wall partitions can create that necessary private, quiet space for a distraction-free zone. Altos, Optos, and Focus are all architectural glass wall systems that allow for the customization of offices to facilitate acoustics and design.

To cover the noise, air conditioners, heaters, or sound systems will all do the trick. The Lencore White Noise System achieves speech privacy via a spectrum of ambient background noise which masks conversation, keyboard clicking, and other distractions. This white noise combines every frequency of sound, much like the color white combines every shade of the rainbow, to create a symphony of sounds that make it impossible to be distracted by any other audible sound.

Stéphane Pigeon, an engineer of natural soundscapes, travels the world collecting new sounds like waterfalls, wind blowing, or insects (yes, such a job does exist). In doing this, Pigeon is designing white noise out of natural phenomenon with the goal of reducing stress, increasing focus, and improving learning.

So keep the open office design, but remember the final touch: workplace acoustics. No one wants to listen to your clicking pen or chatter about what you made for dinner last night while they’re trying to fill out an expense report.

It’s Monday morning and you’re walking into the office with a green juice in your hand and a package of protein balls in your bag. You’re the epitome of the ever-growing health trend, and for good reason – who doesn’t want to live to be 95 with wrinkle-free skin? But no matter how many green juices and protein balls you consume, sitting at a desk, staring at a computer screen from 9 to 5 every day will not bless you with eternal youthfulness.

Hence the need for a healthy workplace environment. This doesn’t mean weekly office yoga sessions, but an office that promotes physical and mental wellbeing via ergonomically designed furniture. This kind of healthy office has lasting benefits, not only for employees’ health but also for company productivity.

A quick and easy way to fix the sitting all day dilemma is sit-to-stand desks. These high tech desks can be adjusted to different heights with the touch of a button. Whether you’re exhausted from your morning exercise class and need to sit down, or you need to get the blood flowing and the heart rate up, these desks can accommodate a healthy workplace for anyone.   

So allow a few hours each day to stand at your desk. Start first thing in the morning to get your heart rate up early and to kickstart your metabolism. Then stand again after lunch. Studies have shown that after eating a meal, blood sugar levels return to normal, faster when standing versus sitting.

In between these hours, add a perch seat to complete your ergonomic desk. These tall, backless chairs relieve pressure on your spine after standing and provide an adjustable complement to sit to stand desks.

Another quick fix to boosting workplace health are Zenergy or Runtz ball chairs. Once upon a time, the biggest health trend sweeping elementary schools nationwide was replacing desk chairs with aerobic exercise balls. The ball chair is essentially the office version of the exercise ball in the classroom. Its lack of a back promotes better posture (goodbye 80-year-old hunchback) and it’s less stable center increases core strength (hello spring break abs).


So keep drinking your green juices and eating your protein balls, but don’t forget about the importance of a healthy work environment. Your 95-year-old self will thank you later.