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Our changing experience of Colour

Colours can be categorized according to their effect on our perception.

Our response to colour is deeply psychological. Colour affects us on a subconscious level. We can better utilize colour if we understand the responses associated with particular colours and the ways colour affects people.

Colour is the primary purchasing consideration among consumers in the fashion and furnishings industries. Colourists devote endless research hours to forecasting the upcoming season’s colour palette. However, people’s response to colour is more complex than meets the eye. Contrary to popular belief, our first response to colour is not to the aesthetic or “look”.

Regardless of which colours are in fashion, nearly everyone has a strong opinion concerning colour. We all have our favourite colours, or colours we don’t care for. A person’s colour preference is also dependent on demographic factors, such as age, gender, ethnicity and socio-economic level. In addition, colour preference can be affected by external factors such as climate. In sunny warm climates, people tend to prefer strong warm colours, whereas in colder cloudy climates, soft cool colours are favoured.

Colour responses are learned and, as our age and socio-economic status increase, our response to colour can change. It is important to note that a specific response to a particular colour will vary tremendously depending on where and how that colour is utilised. A colour used in apparel can elicit a very different response when used in interior design.

In spite of a person’s demographic profile and external factors, research has shown that particular colours affect everyone in predictable and measurable ways. We are born with a basic response to colour. Because of the way in which the human eye functions, all colours are viewed as either having a yellow or blue base. For example, there are yellow-based and blue-based reds, pinks, oranges, yellows, blues and greens.

Red.   Pastel’s, pale blues, pinks and yellows are the predominant colours used in marketing nursery items and baby clothes. However, red might be a better choice. Research has shown that the colour red can stimulate a baby’s brain and aid in neural development. Red is the first colour a baby is able to discern. Interestingly, there is a gender bias as well. Male babies have an inherent preference to yellow-based reds, whereas female babies consistently prefer blue-based reds. Over their lifetime some males will shift their preference from yellow based reds to blue-based reds. When used as an interior colour, red tends to distort time. People stay longer in a red environment, hence the ubiquitous red décor in lounges and casinos. Studies indicate that our sense of taste is enhanced in a red environment.

Pink is a calming colour which has a temporary but significant effect on stress and anger. It has been used effectively in jails and prisons because of this calming influence. Pink also causes people to highly value certain things. Sweet foods taste better when placed on a pink tablecloth or placemat.

Blue. There are very few blue foods found in nature and so it is not surprising that blue is not an effective colour for a restaurant. It tends to suppress the appetite. The colour causes the brain to release tranquilizing hormones and can be used effectively in hospitals and dentists’ offices. Pale blues encourage fantasy. It is the colour preferred by most Westerners. If not too dark, a blue surrounding increases productivity. Studies show that students score higher and retain more information when reading blue text. Weight lifters lift heavier weights in blue rooms. In apparel, dark blue denotes credibility, responsibility and trust. In the middle ages, blue was a difficult dye colour to achieve and it became associated with a high level of socio-economic and moral achievement. Today, it is an excellent colour apparel choice for a job interview, an attorney or a police officer.

Brown is a ubiquitous colour that appears in many forms. Chocolate, bread, coffee and cola, all are shades of brown making it a very consumable colour that elicits many positive responses. Brown can successfully be used in china, interiors, exteriors and apparel. Brown creates an open and friendly atmosphere. Interestingly, research has shown that when people wear brown, they are asked more questions. Brown might be a good colour to wear on a covert mission, in which gathering information is a key activity.

Grey is the colour for creativity. In a grey environment, creative people are more creative for longer periods of time than in any other colour tested. Many people have developed a prejudice against grey. The colour is associated with unpleasant experiences caused from grey surroundings such as storm clouds and raging winds. This prejudice has carried over to many other areas. In apparel, grey is seen as formal and respectable. Maybe there was something to the old adage, other than navy blue, there is no colour better suited to business wear than a grey suit.

Black is a colour with widely varying associations. Some people associate black with evil, for others it is the colour of mourning and despair. When used in apparel, black symbolizes power, authority and wisdom. No wonder black is the choice colour for police uniforms and priests. Black might not be the best political move for the junior executive interviewing with the chairman of the board.

White evokes many positive responses. The colour white denotes delicacy and refinement. White is the symbol for purity, chastity and cleanliness. For formal apparel, white or white combined with black is one of the most sophisticated looks you can achieve.

Colours with unique power can be categorized as being either a classifying colour or a declassifying colour. Classifying colours appeal to a relatively small number of people, whereas declassifying colours, such as yellow and orange, appeal to a relatively large segment of the population.

Orange is composed of 50% red and 50% yellow and is considered to be a declassifying colour. Yellow-based oranges known as “pumpkin”, elicit friendly responses. They are also attention grabbers. A product that is the colour of a yellow-based orange is seen as inexpensive; hence it is often used in cheap motels and fast food chains. It can also be used to make an expensive product seem more affordable.

A blue-based orange also known as “terracotta” is an upgrade version of orange which looks friendly but not cheap. It can give an informal appearance to an expensive product without compromising the appearance of quality.

Because yellow-based oranges are attention getters and evoke friendly responses, they are excellent choices for uniforms and recreational clothing. It can be a bit more challenging to dress up orange for formal attire.

Yellow is also a declassifying colour. Yellow can be used with wonderful results to grab someone’s attention. It is frequently used with black to indicate caution and danger (mimicking nature’s bees and poisonous snakes). However, yellow reflects light resulting in excessive stimulation of the eye, causing eye fatigue and irritation. It also speeds up a person’s metabolism. In a yellow room, babies cry more and adults lose their tempers quicker and for a longer duration. Have you ever wondered why school buses are painted a yellow-orange colour with black accents? Research has shown that people who drive yellow cars are less likely to be hit by another car. With these responses, you might imagine that yellow can be a tricky apparel colour.

Green is the colour of life and nature. There are many different greens. People’s response can drastically change depending on the value (how light or dark a colour appears), as well as the context in which the colour is utilized. Dark greens are classifying colours and therefore, only a limited number of people respond positively. Only 3% of the population responds favourably to dark blue-green, but it is the upper socio-economic 3% of the population.

Green is an excellent colour to be worn by health care professionals in an operating room. For every colour the eye focuses on, the eye sees an after-image. The complimentary colour or opposite colour is seen in the after-image, allowing the eye recovery time. In the brightly lit operating room, workers concentrate on exposed body tissue. The opposite colour of body tissue is surgical green, which aids the eye in the replenishment of vision. For every profession in which concentration is required (e.g. extensive work on a computer), colours that aid in visual compensation should be considered.

Green in everyday apparel can present problems. The colour that is reflected from a green garment is for the most part unkind to complexions. Few people can wear green next to their face without appearing nauseated; therefore, it is probably better confined to the lower half of the body.

It has long been acknowledged that nature brilliantly uses colour to attract mates as well as ward off predators. Flowers are specific colours to attract insects so that pollination will occur. Insects appear in specific colour combinations to ward off birds and other potential predators. As in nature, human beings have an innate response to colour. Colour is the first thing we notice, and elicits a psychological and emotional response. Knowing the ways in which people respond to colour can be a powerful marketing and design tool.

Carlton Wagner, Director of the Wagner Institute for Colour Research, Chicago IL
Faber Birren, The power of colour: how it can reduce fatigue, relieve monotony, enhance sexuality, and more.

Working Colour

…the opportunity is to apply complex thinking and defined processes to understand the behaviours, reactions and needs of people in work environments today.

We live in a colourful world and make colour choices daily. Yet there’s a lot about colour that isn’t understood or hasn’t been explored. What are the connotations of colour? What effects do colours have on people…and why? Do our eyes and brains process different colours in different ways, and could that be important to know?


In today’s workplace, colour plays a very practical role in terms of user comfort and minimising eye fatigue. Eye fatigue is caused by four things:

  1. Glare – highly reflective surfaces cause strain.
  2. Contrast – the muscles of the eyes expand and contract when they encounter contrast, which leads to fatigue.
  3. Pattern – distracts the eye.
  4. Monotony – the use of only one hue causes the eye to create an “after image” (the opposite colour) and leads to excessive muscle action.

To reduce eye fatigue in areas of immediate focus, the solution is to avoid highly reflective surfaces and select colours that minimise contrast. The ideal ratio of contrast is 3:1, assuming an even distribution of illumination. For example, white has a 90% reflective value and black has 5%. That makes the ratio 18:1 – far from ideal. Research has shown that the best colours to use in areas of focus are off-white, taupe, light grey, light beige, sand and grey-green, and in general, muted colours.

While muted colours are good for areas of focus, the corporate world often uses neutrals everywhere. The effect of this type of design can encourage detachment at the same time that managers are demanding more engagement. Today’s typical office space is a neutral world – a sea of beige and grey computer equipment and inoffensive office décor. It all goes together, but does it do anything to motivate people?

It makes no sense that the places where we are supposes to do productive work are incredibly impersonal. Given its appeal to different target groups that send different messages, can and should colour play an enhanced role in the workplace?

The answer appears to be yes. At its best colour can stimulate a culture of creativity and drive performance through the flow of ideas and information in the workplace. It can help stimulate a culture of innovation, collaboration, communication and learning. By combining colour and texture, surface materials in the workplace can be both stimulating and satisfying.

Ideas and data about how to create and manage effective workplaces are growing in sophistication. Corporate clients are turning to designers to create and implement solutions that will enhance the workplace experience – not just for the aesthetic impact, but as impetus for the behaviours, reactions and needs of people in work environments today.

Alternative Officing

For managers who think that alternative officing simply means sending a few staff members home with their laptops in hand, the new world of work will come as a terrible shock.

Sure alternative officing or AO as it is better known means being able to sit back and count the millions saved on housing staff. However if this is the only consideration, business efficiency will be severely compromised.

According to Lynne Watney CEO of The SpaceLogic Company, AO is far more than shedding a few costly staff members from the building’s bottom line. It’s a systemic approach that companies are using to meet their shifting business objectives. As part of the organisation’s strategic planning AO is far more than a fleeting flavour-of-the- month because it provides strategies that support the new ways people work.


With technology making it possible to work from all sorts of different environments, AO has given birth to new concepts like “hoteling” and “telecommuting”. Although to some it may sound like having to sleep in the office, in practise these concepts are already familiar to many productive people who spend very little time in the work environment. Therefore having office space dedicated to relatively nomadic staff can prove an expensive exercise.

Yet unlike previous office structures AO does not offer a fixed set of solutions, says Watney. It’s more like a series of strategic plans to continuously redesign space to meet the changing needs of the people who work there. For some businesses this may require just setting up a conferencing facility to meet their immediate needs but for others it may mean that everything must be movable.

In the past flexibility in the office environment was only one of a few critical considerations, but for businesses to achieve their new, more ambitious objectives it has become the “be–all and end–all” of workplace planning. Certainly, states Watney, it has dramatically changed our role as designers. To create winning seats we now have to gather far more information than was necessary in the planning of more traditional systems. Currently to craft workplaces which meet the often conflicting needs for improvements to both bottom-line and people effectiveness, we must have a better understanding of the patterns of work and space occupancy over time.

Clearly the demands of this new way of working are revolutionising space planning and it has been an uprising which has evolved over time. Since the early 80’s Watney claims the traditional office has been under scrutiny. Today the situation has been reached where many pioneering organisations have opened the floodgates for AO to enter mainstream corporate business. In America where the term AO was coined, each of the early projects was an interesting experiment. Based on their years of experience we now know where the pitfalls and benefits lie.

Having direct access to experience worldwide is particularly true for The SpaceLogic Company. By combining our joint expertise we are now in a position to guide local businesses through this necessary transformation without having to put them through a risky experimentation phase.

For Watney one of the biggest pitfalls is viewing AO as a “quick-fix”. It cannot be a bricks and mortar solution because we are dealing with people who are changing over time. As a result she claims the place where people work can no longer be an entity which is excluded from strategic thinking. Instead the working environment has become an integral part of the business system. If it’s dysfunctional, an uncooperative workplace will put pressure on the entire structure and the implications will ultimately have a negative impact upon business performance in future.

As part of this new system Watney sees all change processes to begin with the powerful influence of technology. Everything about the way we work has been recast to fit technology’s new intelligence. This includes business processes, organisational development and the place where people work. Business has reacted with both more strategic planning and an increasing pace of re-engineering. But neither will produce the desired improvements in results until the workplace piggybacks this transformation.

To gain maximum benefit from this new system Watney advises that strategic teams should currently involve authorities from a diverse range of disciplines.

New World of Work

Since the industrial age nothing has revolutionised the world of work more than the explosion of information. It has created unprecedented global economic pressure and an early casualty is the large corporate monolith. Now it is well accepted that meeting rapidly changing and somewhat fickle market demand means becoming more efficient and more elegant in business operations. In real terms this often means getting smaller and the implications are far-reaching.

For business a natural consequence of high levels of economic pressure is the necessity for greater responsiveness to customers. As a result the world of work has become a constant cycle of re-engineering. In itself this is having a powerful impact upon working people’s lives. Currently everything employees have taken for granted about their existence is being challenged and is almost sure to be changed. No-one will escape this transformation. It is irreversible.


Not only are these changes fundamentally altering the way people work but they are also having a profound impact upon the place of business. In boardrooms worldwide gripes are being heard about the burden of leases that do not respond to the present pace and cranky buildings that make change difficult, if not impossible. Not to mention the cost of course.

According to Lynne Watney, CEO of South Africa’s premier interior design firm – The SpaceLogic Company – modern businesses under the whip for improved performance simply cannot afford the old ways of working. It’s becoming prohibitively expensive because costs are not only direct expenditure on floor-space or furniture but they also include time. As an example take into account the cost of hundreds of employees wasting productive hours just to access a central place of employment. It borders on the absurd when one considers that so many knowledge workers can and do lead highly nomadic working lives. Think how much more could be gained if these hours were spent interfacing with customers?

To get a grip on the cost of working according to the old legacy, Watney suggests comparing the cost of accommodating a person per year to the income that person generates over the same period. Instead of the antiquated time based work-study, she states these are the kinds of measures that are becoming more and more relevant. For her critical considerations such as these are also the factors that are changing the role of space planners and interior designers.

With the cost of housing staff only second to the cost of labour in many businesses, Watney believes the initial outlay for appropriately designed space can easily be rationalised when designers dramatically reduce unnecessary expenditure on wasted space over time. As a result professional space planners have shaken off the once held image of the kooky decorator and are now playing a vital role in the central thrust of strategic management.

Specialists add value by designing space to improve the quality of work conducted there. She states, this means systematically analysing and measuring a building’s performance is constantly changing. With space considerations having become an integral part of business systems, she firmly believes no re-engineering process can be effectively conducted in the absence of space planning.

Buildings too are being “morphed” to meet current trends and Watney claims these changes will have major implications for many high-rise office blocks. CBD buildings more appropriate for the old-style of management need to be re-valued. This is particularly true in a city like Johannesburg. Many major centres have been through this decay phase but the re-valuing of existing space has given renewal a boost. She suggests that each building be examined for its potential and then appropriate uses can be found. Some may be well suited for satellite offices, learning centres or – even in the more hopeless cases – stack parking.

Even although she claims that numerous studies have shown that re-valuing a building will cost as much as building new, Watney stresses that these costs need to be examined more carefully. Most of these studies have failed to identify that rehabilitating a building means that the money is being spent where it counts most – inside the building. People don’t really care whether the bricks are new. What matters to employees is their working space.

Now that we no longer have to go to work to work, the division between business environments and home is now getting looser. One look around Orgatechnik – the world’s most advanced office expo in Germany – shows that comfy chairs, footstools and generous sofas are becoming standard fare in the workplace. These Watney states are located in strange new places like hives, dens and clubs – all designed to promote interaction and collaboration.

Clearly the office is switching from the hard benches of the controlled production line to comfortable environments which promote opportunities for social gatherings. To allay some potential fears of management, she claims these are not geared towards catching up on the latest office “skinner”. Rather they are places where employees can huddle for a productive think – tank. After all imaginative thinking and creative problem solving are the very factors that will give business the all–important competitive edge in future.

Watney is also adamant that this does not only apply to an elite group of knowledge workers. To retain any form of employment, every staff member must currently participate in adding value. If influential management gurus like Charles Handy and John Naisbitt are to be believed, most employees will not be participating from a single location in future.

Technology has spawned concepts like outsourcing and the alternative or virtual office and these are making sense in terms of both finances and productivity. Now instead of Joe or Jane Blogs’ having dedicated work-space (adorned with its status-bearing nameplate), Ms and Mr Blogs are conducting business from home, or even from Plettenberg Bay beach for that matter.

Technology has made it possible to work from any location and it also means that staff is more accessible. No longer do clients have to put up with receptionists wailing about personnel being out of the office. Now some of the worst departmental “skivvies” can be accessed, even if they are playing truant at the movies!

Changes to our working lives are affecting the very fabric of business and for Watney one of the greatest transformations will occur in the field of management. With more and more employees operating independently, management will no longer be about controlling people. Instead the focus will be on producing results from well managed projects. Clock-watching has been overshadowed by an emphasis on results and now it is no longer important at what time of day or where these are produced. This she claims has bred a new kind of worker.

Given that global knowledge is now accessible to the average person, office workers are becoming more sophisticated and intelligent. They are demanding great personal control over their lifestyles and working environment. For Watney this has had major implications for space planning. Although ten years ago companies may have gotten away with imposing a new environment on staff, today employee input is critical to the success of any new workplace design project.

Clearly technology is revolutionising everything it touches and in the office its reach extends way beyond operational systems. In the eighties and nineties integrating technology meant housing the equipment. But over the years we’ve discovered that the social implications are far more profound. Technology has given workers greater freedom and now they’re becoming much more demanding. To meet this new breed of worker’s needs we have to rethink how we use human resources. In itself this will bring about the greatest erosion in the convention of housing working people. For sure it will make the new office environment unrecognisable to the command and control production lines of the past.

Pre-Lease Negotiation

Building walk-throughs add value

Before starting on a new lease negotiation, it pays to have the client, designer, broker and technology contractors visit the site for a joint review of eleven crucial points.


As a result of the many changes that have taken place in the office leasing market in recent years, the ways in which designers deliver their services has undergone an evaluation.

In response to the client’s call to maintain a high level of quality design, on reduced budgets and shorter timeframes, designers have begun working more closely with engineers and contractors in developing new construction delivery methods in order to meet these new service expectations.

Among the most common of the newer methods of project delivery is the design/build approach in which the designer offers a single point of contact for the client by overseeing the contractors. The construction management approach in which a client hires a design professional to represent its interests in the pre-construction and construction process; and the fast-track method in which the phases of design and construction overlap and occur simultaneously.


What all of these methods have in common is that the design and construction team work together during the pre-construction (interior architecture) phase. By approaching the process in this way, the benefits to the client can be abundant. But if the team can begin working together even earlier in the process before a lease is signed, their combined knowledge and expertise can provide more leverage for the client during negotiations. While the method of delivery is generally the client’s choice, the design firm can suggest a pre-lease/pre-design walk-through to add value to its service.

The pre-lease walk-through, which is rarely if ever done with the traditional approach because a general contractor is hired after the design has been completed, allows the space to be assessed from a construction stand point, and all of the relevant building issues can be laid out in advance. The client benefits in the long run since the pre-lease walk-through also allows more attention to be paid to original design and leaves fewer worries about construction unknowns which inevitably add to the costs.

In preparing for a value-added walk-through, the designer, as the leader of this process, should assemble a pre-lease review team – including the client, the tenant broker, and technology manager or contractor to review several key items.

A checklist of items for review:

  1. Inspect the condition of the superstructure
    Be sure to assess the condition of the floor slabs to determine the degree of screed repairing compound, rat-patching and other work required to prepare for interior finishes. On one project, a R300 000 premium was added to construction costs to cover self-levelling screed of an out-of-level concrete floor in order to support glass partitions. Had it been identified in advance, this could have been specified as a landlord expense in the lease. 
  2. Anticipate ceiling installation costs
    Floor slabs should be inspected for future installation of dropped ceilings, since the presence of hollow clay or coffered slabs in older buildings can present an added cost per square metre to the standard cost of installing a dropped ceiling. 
  3. Inspect the space for signs of building envelope leaks.
    Check all the window seals and roof flashings are weather proof
  4. Assess fire safety compliance.
    In another case, a pre-lease review team found that sprinkler lines, shown on the landlord’s as-built drawings, had been entirely removed, thus requiring a whole new installation. Such a discovery can cause significant disagreement between landlord and tenant unless it is spelled out in advance of approval of the offer to lease. 
  5. Identify overtime and off-hours work.
    Check accessibility to other floors so that work that must be done to accommodate plumbing or other trades is possible without problems. On most projects, this kind of work must be accomplished after hours, which adds overtime charges to the construction budget unless the tenant can negotiate access during normal working hours. 
  6. Determine house rules of the management agent or landlord
    This may reveal possible hidden costs that have an effect on scheduling. This includes the use of elevators, schedules for projected tie-ins and/or shutdowns, and delivery and rubbish removal schedules 
  7. Check access to goods lifts.
    Determine the accessibility to goods lifts, as well as their size and load capacity up front. Unlimited access should be guaranteed in the lease agreement. Otherwise, the tenant could be invoiced later for access charges and subjected to limited-use periods. 
  8. Review HVAC systems.
    In one walk-through, the team discovered there were no self-contained valves for the automatic control of heat in the exterior offices, meaning that the heat in certain offices could not be regulated. In another case, they found that high-pressure ductwork was leaking and would need significant repair. Be aware that any existing air-conditioning units scheduled to be removed must be pumped free of chlorofluorocarbons. 
  9. Inspect for OHSA compliance.
    The contractor can, in partnership with the landlord or interior designer, make recommendations and provide preliminary estimates for the conversion of bathroom facilities, door openings, and other areas requiring compliance with the Employment Equity Act and with Disabilities Code standards. 
  10. Determine power load needs.
    Be sure the power supply is adequate to meet the needs of computer rooms and other building systems and information technology. If not, the tenant may want to negotiate provisions for additional power into the lease. 
  11. Inspect cabling for telecommunication and data
    Review the building’s cable service including its accessibility, type and quantity. Is there room for cabling in a high-tech installation and/or raised flooring? Does the building have fibre optics? What kinds of telephone lines exist? Does the building have an emergency power supply or must the tenant invest in an emergency generator? 

While the benefits of taking these steps in a pre-lease walk-through are clear enough, the process is still an exception rather than the rule. To the extent that designers take the initiative to urge clients to consider a pre-lease walk-through they not only facilitate making the entire process more efficient for all the parties involved, but add value to their own service by more fully responding to the needs of the client.

Gold Collar Workers


Just over half a century ago Winston Churchill predicted that “The empires of the future are the empires of the mind”. The future is now and brainpower, knowledge and information have overtaken blue- and white-collar contributions to create new empires of the working mind – “The Gold Collar Worker”.

The “Gold Collar Worker” is a phrase coined by Robert Kelley in his book of the same name. It attests to a new breed of worker – the thinking employee whose work – life is driven by gaining and using knowledge effectively. With the information explosion knowledge has become a fundamental cornerstone for economic survival.


Far from the “Don’t ask me to think, I just work here” breed of disinterested employee, new knowledge workers are highly creative, imaginative, original and fiercely independent. They demand participation and frequently control the work that is mentally challenging and usually operate in an uncertain environment where results are rarely predictable.

Knowledge workers comprise a great army of managers, researchers, scientists, salespeople, professionals, consultants and executives, who collect, process, analyse, create and disseminate information. Their work largely depends on creativity which, as we move into coping with the demands of the 21st century, is growing ever more valuable. Every indication suggests that this segment of the workforce is expanding rapidly.

In its essence the concept of “Gold Collar Worker” fits snugly into The Learning Organisation. Knowledge workers are learning driven. Far more than simply acquiring information, learning is experiential. This means people gain knowledge from their actions, experiences and mistakes and – most importantly – through integration of information gained. They are changed by the process.

Certainly this shift from manufacture and production driven businesses to knowledge and information will change the way we work but its implications will also alter the workplace forever.

According to Lynne Watney – CEO of The Spacelogic Company – “The single greatest asset in the corporation of the future will be the accumulated knowledge and innovative potential of its thinking workers.”

Believing that the future business environment will mainly exist in the space between our ears, Watney sees that the greatest changes in the workplace are still to come. “Thinking requires the right environment and the typical office of the 70’s & 80’s detracts from the kind of interaction and participation required for effective adult learning.”

For Watney the ‘gold collar’ worker’s priority needs are two-fold; access to information as well as common facilities which permit team members to share knowledge gained. Although knowledge workers tend to be independent, learning is a social process which is facilitated once individuals share information with other team players. Inevitably the new way of work will function around the contributions of inter-dependent players in inter-dependent teams.

With this in mind, one of the biggest changes Watney predicts will be satisfying this simultaneous demand for both privacy and interaction. The ‘gold collar worker’ needs space to collaborate as well as private time to integrate and apply information. “Old style coffee-areas and barren meeting rooms no longer meet this need for active dialogue and team sharing. Common collaborative space needs to be well equipped with access to a variety of resources. On the other hand private space must be free from interruption and adequately noise controlled.”

With systemic thinking at the heart of the Learning Organisation, Watney emphasises the need to see the working environment as a fundamental part of the overall business system. “Organisations must seriously consider the effect of office space and design systems on this new breed of worker. As its main rationale, office systems enable the redesign of work and sensitivity to the demands of thinking workers provides the necessary leverage which alters results significantly.”

Accordingly she believes that the old cubby hole styled office will simply fail the needs of learning dominated organisations. Instead of purely addressing the form and function of physical objects and space, the newly styled learning environment must take account of the purpose, meaning and motivation for work.

With constant re-engineering and redefinition of work and its environment, real flexibility is stressed by Watney as a key principle. “As people and the concept of work develop into a new era of economic functioning, business simply cannot afford to permit its rigid facility to hold back success.

For too long, business has paid lip-service to the notion that people are its most important asset. But as long as our views are still dominated by the industrial age, where workers are simply seen as a mechanical means to a profitable end, attempts at improving productive contributions will fall on very disinterested ears.

Making sense of our world through learning is fundamental to the human condition and, as such, more empowered workers are no longer content to sit on the side-lines. Now they will settle for no less than involvement as valued ‘entrepreneurs’. Evidently, for future success, business must now concentrate its efforts on creating the right conditions for learning – both inside and outside of the office building. For, with the increasing speed of ever-changing market demand, it is this growing sector of ‘gold-collar’ knowledge-driven workers who will engineer, redefine and prepare corporations for success in the technology age…and beyond.

Colour of your Collar

The colour of your collar appears to discern your work type?

Black Collar Worker is used to refer to workers in the mining or the oil industry. Sometimes, it is also used to refer to people who are employed in black marketing activities.

Blue Collar Worker is a member of the working class, who performs manual labour and earns an hourly wage. It originates from the popularity that blue colour enjoys among manual labourers.

Gold Collar Worker is a newly formed phrase which has been used to describe either young, low-wage workers who invest in conspicuous luxury (often with parental support). It is also used to refer to highly-skilled knowledge people who are highly valuable to the company. Example: Lawyers, doctors, research scientists, technology engineers, etc.


Grey Collar Worker refers to the balance of employed people not classified as white or blue collar. Although grey-collar is something used to describe those who work beyond the age of retirement. Example: IT employees, health care professionals, skilled technicians, etc.

Green Collar Worker is a worker who is employed in the environmental sectors of the economy. Example: People working in alternate energy sources like solar panels, Greenpeace, World Wide Fund for nature etc.

Open Collar Worker is a worker who works from home, especially via the internet.

Pink Collar Worker is employed in a job that is traditionally considered to be women’s work and is often low-paid. Example: Librarian, maid, flight attendant, receptionist, secretary, etc.

Scarlet Collar Worker is a term often used to refer to people who work in the pornography industry, especially women entrepreneurs in the field of internet pornography. The colour scarlet has traditionally been associated with adultery.

White Collar Worker is a salaried professional, typically referring to general office workers and management. It originates from colour of dress shirts worn by professional and clerical work employees, health care professionals, skilled technicians, etc.

Posted by Exam Corner

Tomorrow’s Workplace

As managers, we often confront change and look for better ways to respond, react or cope with its impact. Seeing change as a large reorganisation – of space, work flow, equipment, even of the organisation itself – provides an opportunity to move ahead of the change itself. Underneath the turmoil of this constant reorganisation lies a deeper more fundamental transformation. Work itself is reorganising, transforming its purpose, its process and outcome which substantially impacts on the environment in which it occurs.

The greatest changes in the workplace are still to come. While many have yet to absorb the decade’s advances in areas such as technology, building codes and worker sophistication, it is nevertheless time to think about the bigger changes ahead.

Offices for early industrial age workers followed the Henry Ford assembly line production model – row after row of desks, each worker performing a singular task, often unaware of the outcome of the total work effort. The days of rows of impersonal desks devoid of privacy are already gone.


Professionals who design workspaces must also recognise that the days of traditional forms of office space are also numbered.

It makes no more sense to place current knowledge workers in fixed cubicles, for example, than it does to store computer discs in metal file cabinets. As workers spend more time working at home, in transit or in beach wear than they do in an office, clients will look at their facilities differently. They will look for designers and managers who can help them with the demands that an increasingly mobile and flexible work force will make.

The future promises to reconceive where people work, what kind of work they do, even what work means. Multiple forces push toward this preconception.

Actualising this dream will create “work, anywhere” realities almost immediately, generating new economic pressure to optimise the integration of equipment, space and time. The future will be fundamentally different from the recent past. Businesses will need planning and facilitating innovations that fit new models of work rather than those based on our industrial past.

A leader in the new era of work will be a coach, facilitator and mentor. Advancing Workplace Solutions will incorporate collaboration, and a team-oriented approach between designer and client. An increasing proportion of businesses will be in the knowledge-intensive sectors where creativity and collaboration are vital. Look at companies already competing on this basis. Microsoft, for example, has campuses that look and feel like a college rather than a traditional business. Businesses must shift their focus from the workspace to the to the work environment.

The workspace refers primarily to a certain number of square meters of corporate property embellished by selected furniture and equipment. The work environment is much, much more.

In the corporation of the future, the single greatest asset will be the accumulated knowledge and innovative potential of its workers. Its most essential process will be the process of learning. The sole purpose of the work environment, both physical and the virtual, will be to facilitate learning and enable the organisation to continually recreate itself in response to an increasingly dynamic marketplace.

To make a relevant contribution, the designer offering workplace solutions will be part futurist, part management consultant, expert facilitator and a total systems integrator.

Their workplace solutions will include the purpose, meaning and motivation for work and the virtual reality of communication, information and learning. They will create interiors that are flexible and inexpensive. To reduce worker stress and address the immediate needs of workers, the components that form workspaces are becoming much more flexible, so that employees can tailor spaces to suit their immediate needs and preferences. Views, daylighting and environmental attributes once thought to be amenities are now becoming necessities that support worker creativity, performance and health of the worker.