Colour has been widely studied in regard to influencing human performance. For example, one study involving 600 people found that a predominantly red environment enhanced performance on a detail-oriented task, whereas a blue environment enhanced creative task performance (Mehta & Zhu, 2009). Another study indicated that “blue (relative to green) light increased responses to emotional stimuli in the voice area of the temporal cortex and in the hippocampus” parts of the brain (Vandewalle, et al., 2010).

In order to take advantage of the affective role of colour, the workplace designer might use coloured mobile partition screens, adjustable hue lighting, or a combination of the two. The utilitarian approach of blanket use of white or neutral wall surfaces has the benefit of creating light and bright spaces, but can also lead to a feeling of ‘dehumanised’ space and to problems such as glare. Enabling users to vary the colour of their workspaces could enhance their mood and performance. It will also be possible to use colour to define work areas optimised for particular types of activity, on the basis that individuals will then be inclined to work in those areas.

Such is the variability in individual preference that the more personalisation can be built into the design of a lighting scheme, the greater the chances of overall satisfaction from its users.

The lighting preferences of older workers and of those with visual impairments, (both of which represent an increasing proportion of the working population), can vary considerably from those of younger people with nominally ‘perfect’ (whatever that may mean), vision.

Levels of illumination should not be homogenised within a space, and individuals should be able to control the quantity and quality of illumination at their chosen workplace to the greatest possible extent. Such is the variability in individual preference that the more personalisation can be built into the design of a lighting scheme, the greater the chances of overall satisfaction from its users.

This article is extracted from our white paper ‘Strangers in the Office. You can download the full report here.