5 Truths About Color in the Work Environment

Men laying new hardwood flooring

by Rebecca Ewing, Rebecca Ewing Color & Design

Between 1970 and 1973, in Munich, Germany, IQ tests were administered in different room colors: When students tested in colorless rooms – white, gray, black, brown and beige – the scores were up to 12 points below the average. In green, blue or coral rooms, their scores were up to 12 points above average. That is a 24-point spread based on room color alone — I’ve always wondered what other variables there may be.

The bottom line is this: color affects heart rate, brain wave activity, memory retention and memory recall and—not to be overlooked—attitude.

Choosing the color for your home office can be tricky, requiring more than simply choosing a favorite. It depends on what you do, what you need to be productive, which hemisphere of the brain you’re using. Do you work alone? In collaboration? In the same room with someone else or via phone or online? Are you dealing with data and tangible elements or ideas and concepts? Linear or lateral thought? Or sales? Do you take client meetings in your office or a coffee shop? Do colleagues or clients come to your space?

The best color for a graphic designer will differ from that for a bookkeeper. Different yet for a venture capitalist, an event planner or a business coach. Some people will perform better in an orange office, some in blue, while someone else may need purple or yellow.

Would that there was one right answer for each individual, but no. Not only must the hue fit your personality and your work, but ideally, should also harmonize with adjacent spaces. Like those students in Munich, almost NO ONE does his or her best work in white, beige or gray.

Here’s the nitty-gritty from my 30 years of color study:

  1. Blues are most conducive to detail and more cerebral tasks.
  2. Violets and purples are ideal for creativity.
  3. Oranges foster conviviality, good for those who spend a lot of time on the phone.
  4. Yellows can work well for someone dealing with technology, science or specification.
  5. Greens may be perfect for someone who has equal amounts of extroverted and introverted requirements.

Check out Rebecca’s other guest post “How To Avoid Choosing the Wrong Paint.”

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