Do office workers benefit from the use of color in their environments?
Image: Red Envelope Office_David Wakely
If you ask the workers you will typically get a positive response. If you ask facilities management you may get a negative answer. If you ask the architects and designers you will get a mixed answer.
Why is this?
Every individual has subjective color likes and dislikes. If the office is designed using a workers preferred colors they tend to like their environment. Conversely if they hate a certain color and must work surrounded by it everyday, you know they will find it irritating.
Image: The Art Of Color_Johanes Itten
From a facilities management perspective, the typical objection to color is the extra work it takes to maintain an office with multiple hues. The time required to clean paintbrushes and paint buckets when several colors are involved translate to department costs.
Architects and designers may frown upon applied colors and believe that color should come from the building materials themselves.
I do not disagree at all with this belief. However, budget driven projects will use special materials in public spaces like the Lobby, Conference and Board Rooms. The open office may not have the budget for special materials.
Image: HP Lobby_Sharon Reisdorf
This is where paint and color can come in to make the work place more appealing.
Is there science behind the application of color to office environments?
Frank Mahnke in his book Color Environment and Human Response outlines a solid body of research supporting the value of color. Citing psycho-physiological, neuro physiological, psychosomatic and visual ergonomic factors, color and light can greatly improve a person’s impression of their workplace. We respond to color in a complex way that operates beyond personal preference. Lack of stimulation whether visual or psychological is associated with boredom, and fatigue.
Image: Cafeteria_David Wakely
By consciously varying the light dark contrasts and using a well rounded palette you can imitate the range of colors one would experience in nature. You also increase the chances of creating a pleasing environment that may appeal of a broad group of end users.
There is no specific formula of colors for an office that can be prescribed. Each office needs to be carefully evaluated to determine its optimal palette. There is ample research in cross-disciplinary fields to support the fact that color can play an important role in the office environment.
Color, Environment & Human Response
Frank H. Mahnke
Color Planning for Interiors