When Serge Longin, founder of RevenueWell, moved the Bannockburn, Ill.-based marketing services company to a new office in 2012, he was eager to transform the bland, all-white office environment. "We wanted to create a space where people were happy coming in to work," says Longin, who previously studied psychology and color theory at the Art Institute of Chicago.
In an effort to visually energize his 25 employees, Longin chose a reddish-orange paint for an accent wall near the hallway. He also strategically placed dark-colored couches and a television against a charcoal-gray wall to establish a subdued area for employees to unwind and disconnect from the daily grind.
Business experts have long espoused the positive psychological effects that color can have on employees in the workplace, ranging from calm, creativity or enthusiasm. Here, we look at how a variety of colors and hues can help transform your office.
1. Red, Orange
Sprinkling small amounts of reds and oranges in an office, such as painting an accent wall or purchasing brightly colored accessories, can create an energetic environment, says Elizabeth Brown, principal of EB Color Consulting in Seattle. “Red is supposed to raise your heart rate,” she says. But use it sparingly, Brown warns, as too much of such a fiery color can evoke aggression and stress. Consider a reddish palette in areas where employees spend only limited time -- such as hallways, bathrooms, or even the kitchen -- where employees are not working, adds Leslie Harrington, executive director at the Color Association, a color consulting firm in New York.
Businesses using yellows and bright accents can create a sense of happiness for employees who may be bored or unhappy at the office. Psychologically, the color raises self-esteem because it’s often associated with cheerfulness. It’s best to use bright yellows sparingly such as on accent walls, décor or furniture. Too much of these hues – like painting an entire room in neon yellow -- can be agitating, says Mark Woodman, president of the Color Marketing Group, a nonprofit association that forecasts color direction. An exception to the rule is if you’re using a bold color that is part of your logo and you want to increase the presence your brand has in your space. Make sure bold colors are offset by more muted shades. For example, Woodman suggests balancing an intense yellow with light blue or a vivid orange with taupe.
3. Blue, Green
Colors commonly found in nature, such as blues and greens, can have a calming effect on a stressful work environment, says Woodman. Since workers spend most of their days inside fluorescent-lit offices, "any relation to the outside world makes people feel better," he says.
Looking for fresh ideas to grow your business? Consider greening your office with fresh plants or forest-like hues. Research published last year in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found a link between the color green and creativity. Among the study's participants, those who saw a glimpse of green prior to a creative task showed performed better.
If your office space has few windows or low ceilings, consider pastel colors like peach or lilac when you're ready to paint the walls as a way of brightening the office, says Woodman. Like blues and greens, the softer hues can also be helpful in stressful office environments that require a calming atmosphere.
Whatever color palette you choose, beware of creating too much contrast between the light walls and dark colors of the furniture or decor, says Brown. "Too much contrast creates eyestrain," she says. For example, a black and lilac palette can be jarring and cause visual fatigue. Instead, pair lilac with beige or wood grain.