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Influence of colours on work efficiency

How colour works?

Deciding which colours to choose for interiors is significant, because it is colours that create the right ambience for the place. It takes great skill to use colours wisely. It requires the knowledge not only of their optical impact, but also of culture and psychology. Colours can make a room appear larger or smaller, they also have their symbolic meanings and they can affect our emotions and mood

Influence of colours on work efficiency

The Ancients were fascinated with the magical influence of colours. They believed that colours had healing power (chromotherapy). Now, we know it is not magic, but physics. Colours have their “energy” dependent on their wavelengths and thanks to that, they can either calm and relax or they can stimulate or even irritate. Studies in EEG or skin conductance, for example, have confirmed that statement. Colours that have short wavelengths (e.g. blue or green) make us calm and they can even lower blood pressure, whereas colours that have long wavelengths (e.g. red or yellow) make us energetic and active, but, if in excess, they could make us tired.

Many researchers have also been analysing how colours could affect our productivity and creativity at work or therapeutic effects of colours, e.g. in medical facilities.

Gradually, people become more aware that colours  do not only perform a decorative role, but they serve as an excellent tool to influence people’s emotions and ways of behaviour.


How colours help us to design healthy and creative workplace?

Colours shall be applied in accordance with certain rules and principles. We should treat colour trends as inspirations.

Choosing the right colour depends on:

  • size, height and function of interior
  • amount, type and temperature of light
  • field and work style of employees

Meaning of colours

The meaning of colours is connected with the culture we live in. We acquire that knowledge, even subconsciously, and that is why, we associate the colour white with innocence and purity, for example. That knowledge should be used in interior design. Colours have their long history, once we get to know it, we are able to convey, by means of colours, certain values and communicate some information. Gold is associated with wealth, power, prestige and authority, so it can be used in places where it is our intention to create such impressions, for example in offices connected with finance. Light pink will be perfect for the interior of a patisserie or boutique, but will generate confusion if used in a law firm because that colour there will not look serious enough. A good starting point to look for the best colour ideas is to focus on the colours of a given company.

Colour psychology

Another aspect concerns the way colours can affect our psyche and body. We need to remember that the human eye does not like monotony. Smooth, single-colour white or grey surfaces may cause the feeling of weariness and fatigue, while in some other people they may cause sadness and despair. Contrasts and touches of colour are necessary to stimulate our vision and mental activities. On the other hand, if the contrast is too high, it can strain our eyes and cause headaches. Additionally, some colours could make us feel tired if there is too much of them (e.g. red or yellow) or even depressed (e.g. grey or purple). In meeting areas and creative work zones we do need touches of pure, saturated colours, but in places where we work long we should let our eyes rest and we should use brighter and less saturated colours.

Which colours our brain prefers?

Our brain was developed in the times when people were closely connected to nature. As a result, the so-called earth colours ( earthy shades of brown, yellow and green) have a positive effect on us. Research shows that most people like the colour green. It is ideal for places where people work long hours because it is very soothing to the senses. The performance of employees who would look out their windows and see greenery outside has been much better than of those who could not see such views outside their windows. Another positive colour is blue, associated with the colour of the sky. It creates the feeling of greater space, allows us to rest and improves  work efficiency. The colour red has the longest wavelength. It is dynamic and it has an intense, sometimes disturbing, effect – it is often associated with blood. We can make us of this colour if we want to emphasise some elements or draw people’s attention to something.
The colour yellow is perceived by psychologists as the colour of optimism. It is energetic and fresh and it is also associated with the sun. It encourages innovation and lifts your mood, it is an ideal colour especially for creative offices. According to some researchers, this colour may create a favourable context for meetings. If overused, it can make people feel fatigued. Therefore, it has to be used in moderation, for example by painting only one wall blue or using blue only complementarily.

Cooperation between the senses

At “What Design Can Do!” Conference in Amsterdam, professor Charles Spence, experimental psychologist at Oxford University, encouraged designers to make use of research concerning the interaction of the senses. “All what you experience can have a great impact on the way you perceive the reality”, he argued. “What you see can change what you hear, what you hear can change what you taste”. In his opinion, colours affect our senses of taste and smell. Yellow colour stimulates appetite, so it is ideal for office canteens, for example. The cooperation between the senses is still an expanding field as well as the knowledge of the effect of colours, but nowadays it is worth looking at colour as a tool to design healthier and more productive workplaces.