We have all been aware of the effect of colours for many years and use them especially in the living area to increase our sense of well-being and to relax in the best possible way. But what about our office space, where we actually spend far more time than in our living rooms, for example? Unfortunately, we pay far too little attention to the effective use of colours there so that dreariness prevails. Yet it is just in these places that colours can have an enormous effect on our performance, as well as contributing to the enjoyment of work in carefully planned working environments.

When you walk through German offices, you often don’t feel very comfortable. Dark floors, white walls, white ceilings, white or beige desks and black office chairs do not really give a cheerful impression and depress us at best. Any plants or pictures create a relaxed atmosphere, but they don’t have the desired effect. Instead, the furnishings often seem uninspired and functional. However, it is far from being purposeful, because such dreariness cannot have a positive effect on work either. Rather, it depresses and creates a certain listlessness that simply cannot be overcome.

Colours brighten up the office

Schreibtisch seitlich zum Fenster ausgerichtet

A splash of colour here and there, used in an appropriate way, has a big effect.

Of course, taking things to the other extreme doesn’t help either. Offices with shrill, brightly coloured interior design, in which the colours seem as if they want to outdo each other with their vibrancy, do not create a positive working atmosphere either. It is true that bright colours bring life into the office, but if used too uncontrollably, they also create restlessness that does not help concentration. Therefore, the best solution, as always, is to strike a balance if you want to turn an office into a place where you can work productively, relaxed, and concentrated.

The colours used can already do a lot as accents, so it is not necessary to paint the entire walls with them. A properly implemented dash of colour here and there has much more impact and does not deter at the same time. Especially in offices where clients will be welcomed, this is an aspect that should not be underestimated.

Even the colour of the office chair upholstery can give an impulse. If you also match curtains, seat cushions on meeting chairs and rugs as well as murals, even a room with white walls and dark flooring can radiate a lot of cosiness or encourage creativity, concentration and similar. In other words, it’s the details that matter when it comes to making an office a place of well-being. And with all the hours we spend at our workplace on average, it also has a big impact on other parts of our lives. A nice office makes us feel better, more productive and relaxed at the end of the day.

The impact of colours

The impact of colours is still underestimated in offices far too often. A white office may look tidy, but it doesn’t really support well-being if there are no colour accents. Other colours can make us feel unfocused, lethargic, or uncreative, which can even manifest physically in exhaustion, headaches, and tension. Therefore, it is important to know the effect of colours and also to consider how their effect can change in combination with other colours.

Basically, colours have certain characteristics:

Lively colours in the office – how it will be more cosy 2

Creating a colour concept. / Picture: Safarbi.de / fotolia.com

  • Neutral colours calm and increase physical well-being
  • White symbolises purity and clarity
  • Red appears inspiring and cheeky
  • Yellow stands for relaxation and harmony
  • Blue makes it easy for us to concentrate and think more clearly
  • Purple inspires and establishes inner balance
  • Green reduces stress and helps us find new perspectives

The above overview shows just how different colours can be and how they influence our workspace. However, if we were to design our office all in red, it would no longer be inspiring, but would rather make us aggressive or depressing (depending on which shade of red we choose). A completely yellow room would also no longer provide relaxation, but rather make us nervous. That’s why it’s so important to use colours purposefully and, above all, combine them.

Of course, we don’t always have the opportunity to change all circumstances in offices and sometimes the previous “concepts” also follow a meaning that we can adopt ourselves. For example, it is perfectly common for offices to have white ceilings and walls and a dark floor. This gives the room a structure, which definitely has its advantages. If the lightest point is the ceiling and then it gets darker towards the floor, this follows a pattern we also know from nature. In this way, the room appears larger and more open overall, which is an advantage for most offices.

Combining colours

Lively colours in the office – how it will be more cosy 3

Combining colours / Picture: arsdigital / fotolia.com

If we want to set accent colours, then the following principle applies: Bright colours need little space to have an effect in their intensity. Matt colours, such as pastel shades, only stand out if they are used on a larger scale. A mural of bright red can therefore have more impact than a light-yellow wall. If the two are combined, the red becomes even more intense, while the yellow disappears further into the background.

However, there is more to consider when choosing colours for the office. Many offices are not only used for computer work, but also for small meetings. And, if you are lucky, they even have a corner for relaxation. If you now create a colour concept for your office, you cannot use it for all areas in the same way, because what contributes to concentration at the workstation may make the meeting area feel rather off-putting and unfriendly. The mood for the meetings would therefore be negative which is not desirable. It therefore makes sense to visually separate the individual areas of the office and perhaps also to use partitions in the form of shelves to make the separations clearer.

When creating the colour concept, we distinguish between the following colour ranges:

  • Primary colours: Red, blue, and yellow are the only colours that cannot be mixed from other colours. They therefore form the basis for all other colour ranges
  • Secondary colours: Orange, green and purple are created when two primary colours are mixed.
  • Tertiary colours: They are created when secondary colours are mixed and widen the colour range.
  • Pastel colours: If you add a high proportion of white to the colours, you get pastel colours.

If it is not possible to separate the different areas (working, meetings, relaxation) in the office, it is advisable to work with harmonious colours as a concept. This refers to all the colours that lie next to each other on the colour wheel. For example, a red mural can hang next to an orange curtain. This method creates harmony in the design of the colours and allows the effect of the colours to unfold even in places where an exact separation is not possible.

If you use complementary colours, i.e. colours that are opposite each other within the colour wheel, you should really do this purposefully in order to draw attention to a certain area or to set individual accents. Otherwise, if used too often, this combination tends to bring restlessness into a room, so it is more suitable when visual separations can be made.

Inspiration for colouring in the office

Lively colours in the office – how it will be more cosy 4

Inspiration for colouring in the office / Picture: virtua73 / fotolia.com

In offices where individual areas can be separated, you can use colours very well. For example, blue or red colour schemes are suitable for the workplace. They promote concentration, inspire, and give us energy rather than draining it. Meeting areas benefit from a yellow or orange colour scheme. These warm colours create a relaxed mood, but also inspire without distracting our focus. On the other hand, it is easy to relax with accents of green. This makes us feel safe and allows us to relax. Purple can also provide calmness if not overused.

It is important to mix powerful colours as well as pastel shades to achieve an even more coherent result. For example, deep blue curtains can appear cold. However, if you use a pastel blue and only use the more powerful blue for smaller areas, the effect will be balanced out and instead of radiating coldness, the room will now have an aura of concentration.

If you welcome clients at your workplace, there are even more traps one could fall into. If a strong red colour inspires us at work, it might seem too demanding and aggressive to customers. In this case, it is important to consider the extent to which orange or other colours can be used to create a pleasant atmosphere for both parties.

The post "Lively colours in the office – how it will be more cosy" written by:

Sophie Voigtländer

Expertin für Bürogestaltung und Ergonomie

Sophie joined deskonia at the beginning of 2021. Since then, she is mainly responsible for translating all kinds of texts into English.

She studied International Communication and Translation.

see all posts by author