Office Decor Colors and How They Affect Employees' Moods

The words “office décor” have an instant meaning for everyone. The office environment is effectively imprinted on people's minds. The décor, good or bad, is also remembered vividly.

There are a lot of theories about office décor, particularly color schemes and their psychology. Interior decorators, psychologists and alternative medicine practitioners all have theories as different as their professions. Colors are said to have emotional, psychological and even spiritual significance.

Colors are in fact different frequencies of light. The spectrum runs from low frequencies, the red-orange spectrum, through the middle yellow-green spectrum, up into the blue-violet high frequencies. The basic theory in office décor is that the energy levels of colors reflect their psychological values for employees.

The human eye can see up to 10 million distinct colors. Color sensitivity is believed to be a major survival mechanism, breaking light into as many distinct shades and tones to literally see things more accurately. Hence, the natural responsiveness to colors in a workplace environment.

The energy levels in colors are also considered a factor in interior design. The high energy colors above yellow are considered potentially over stimulating, in some cases. Brighter and darker colors also have emotional effects, some over stimulating, some depressing. The characteristics of the colors amplify or mute the effects of the basic colors.

Predominant colors with a mix of similar frequencies are the modern version of office color scheme. In the past, monotone offices with laminated furniture and fluorescent lights were the norm, and the modern color schematics are considered a major improvement. It was found, not surprisingly, that monotone color schemes were considered literally monotonous, as well as drab, uninteresting spaces.

Colors in the office

If you've ever worked in an office or workplace which was drab or highly colored, you'll appreciate the concepts of stimulation, or the lack of it, by office color schemes. Workplace color schemes are applied to all parts of the office environment, including furniture, carpets and ceilings.

They can be classified into basic types:

Neutral: Pastel, cream or matte colors, usually pale, a softening effect. The intention is a calming color scheme, unintrusive and with no drastic contrasts. The color spectrum uses muted blues, whites and darker matches.  

High Energy: Reds, yellows and whites, often in a customer service environment or fast food outlet. This is a high energy, "wake up" type of workplace environment.

Natural Color Work Environments: This is a more complex, but often elegant workplace environment with natural colors, using wood paneling, stucco or wood grain effects, sometimes with a matching spectrum of neutral grays, greens or off-white color blends. The object is a soothing, upmarket effect.

Bright, "Transparent" Environments: These Modernist color schemes are a variant on the neutral approach, often using the same colors, but including a mix of light and transparent surfaces like office partition glass and large open plan offices. The idea is the classic "light and space" effect, maximizing the appearance of space, and in some cases improving lighting effects.

In each case, the color schemes are designed to provide a good blend of matches as an environmental motif. Color schemes are intended to operate as a positive environmental element, very similar to home color schemes.