How the Color of Your Office Impacts Productivity
A lot can be said about colors, yet there is so much difference between what people believe.
For example, whereas some people believe that colors can affect your productivity at work, others believe that productivity is a matter of decision. Although some believe that colors can even heal diseases, others dismiss this as an exaggeration.
But what is the truth?
And which camp do you belong to?
First things first, let’s understand what we mean when we talk of colors.
Colors can be broadly divided into two: visible and invisible colors. This visibility is determined by the wavelength of the color being referred to. Going by the wavelength, there are seven visible colors.
The image below shows these and differentiates them on the basis of their wavelengths.
The color with the shortest wavelength, measured in nanometers (1 x 10-9), is violet at 400nm. Red has the longest wavelength at 665nm.
How do you see and differentiate colors?
This is a question you need to have an answer to. First to avoid ignorance and second, just as a fun fact.
Your eyes can detect a color because it has either been reflected or transmitted. When light is shone on a surface, some of the color in the light is absorbed and others reflected.
For example, what you would refer to as a blue wall is actually a wall whose surface absorbs all other colors except blue. When light therefore shines on the wall, what you see is the reflected color.
The same applies to clothing.
A green dress appears green since all the other colors have been absorbed and green reflected.
The light shining on the surface so as to reveal a specific color is white light.
White light comprises of all the seven colors of the visible color spectrum. The best source of white light is the sun.
In case you’re wondering, the sun’s light is white, not yellow. It might be disappointing to know that all the drawings you did of the sun when a child and colored them yellow, were wrong.
HOW COLORS AFFECT HUMAN EMOTIONS
With some background of how colors are formed and seen, let’s look at what effect, if any, they have on us as humans.
It’s a fact that colors have an effect on human emotions. You can easily see this when you enter into a room painted in a certain color. Or even just seeing a picture of one.
The color of the room i.e. the painting of the walls plus the color of any wall hangings communicates something to you.
Consider the below images of two meeting rooms. One has brown and gray colors while the other has light gray and lime green.
Does the difference register with your emotions? Which of these two would you prefer to hold a brainstorming meeting in?
As you think about that, let’s look at some specific colors and the effect they will likely have on you.
As you read this, take note of the culture you’ve been raised in. Some cultures interpret certain colors differently from others. For instance, in Japan, pink is associated with masculinity while in the West, pink is associated with femininity.
What comes to your mind when you see the color red?
Valentine’s day perhaps?
Quite understandable. But red has more to show than love and passion.
Love aside, the color red is known to increase the heart rate and increase blood flow. It creates a sense of urgency and causes an increase in energy. Getting into an office painted red can even jump start your fight or flight system. This color gets you ready for action.
For example, if you were driving down the road then saw a big red sign saying “DANGER! TURN AROUND,” what would you do?
If you slowly and keenly go through your body’s response, would you recognize the process it took to get you to turning around?
The same applies when you enter an office or work in one which is painted red.
You will experience an increase in energy flowing to your muscles as your brain urges you to act. For this reason, it is advisable to paint red in the office where physical activity is the norm.
This will keep employees up and moving. Strong shades of the color will even create an environment encouraging competition.
If the red is in excess, as in all over the wall, furniture etc, things might get out of hand.
Too much of the color red is associated with hostility and aggression.
Blue is the color which is associated with logic and deep thinking. This is why you’ll see it used to depict images of the brain. As such, this color primarily affects the mind.
When you get into a room painted blue, one of the things you’re bound to experience is a sense of calmness.
Think of the seas and the oceans. What color are they? What about the sky?
And what happens to you when you go out to the ocean or look at the blue skies?
That same tranquility that comes upon you is the same thing you’ll experience once you get into a blue-painted office. You will be able to think more clearly and easily concentrate your thoughts to whatever you’re working on.
If you are prone to anxiety attacks, then a blue office would be a good environment for you. If you can paint your office the color you want, choose blue. If you can’t, then invest in blue-colored accessories.
You can have a blue diary, bag, file, dustbin, card holder etc.
There is also something else this color does apart from relaxing you. It helps promote good communication. This is probably as a result of the tranquility it creates.
Businesses which are about communication can do well to use this color for their offices. This includes the media and PR agencies.
Even if you’re not a media company, you still have a great opportunity to use blue. Paint it in your conference room or the small cubicles where two or three people can have a quick meeting and experience the benefits.
If you look at the color spectrum at the beginning of this article, you will see green is at the center. This gives it a balancing nature.
Green is very mild on the eye; you can never get eye fatigue from looking at this color. With other colors like white and red, you certainly can.
Just like blue, green also creates an environment of tranquility and calmness, especially if you choose the softer shades.
And just as you can experience the power of the color blue out in the sea, green presents its evidence in the natural world.
Just take a walk in the park. If able to, even in the forest. The lush vegetation does wonders on your moods.
A common advice given to those experiencing chronic stress is to walk, preferably where there is fresh air. And where is fresh air found if not among trees and vegetation?
Have you noticed that offices are now incorporating vegetation in their interiors?
For some, the main reason may be fresh air. But the sight of green plants around the office has other benefits too.
Think of working in the park. Just the view of nature has a definite effect on your emotions.
Green also signifies renewal, growth and life. This has found a place in modern offices.
If you have employees working for long hours, choose green for the paintwork. The environment will create a feeling of calmness and help get the work done while avoiding or reducing fatigue.
From the arguably dull colors to the bright ones. And the first one we’ll look at is yellow.
The sun is the sign of the day and the day signifies life and energy. On the contrary, the night signifies darkness, gloom and maybe even death.
So the color yellow ushers in a time of fun, creativity and joy. The color stimulates your emotions and can get you up and moving. This color is one of the favorites for most creatives.
Walk into an artist’s studio and you’re bound to see some yellow. A poet or music composer, a writer etc. If you need your creative juices to flow, yellow should be one of the colors you choose.
It has also been shown to encourage cheer, optimism, innovation and raise self-esteem.
In all this however, take note of the shades you use and the intensity of light shining on the yellow surface. Too much yellow can cause feelings of agitation.
As is the case with all colors, a combination is the best option.
Yellow and orange have similar effects on your emotions. And the actions you engage in while under the influence of orange is testament to this.
Creatives love orange just as they love yellow. These two colors are bright and bring about feelings of freedom and joy. A feeling of freedom is important for any creative person.
If you do creative work, you know this to be true.
You can see this in the kind of lifestyle such people live or prefer to live.
Creative people love flexibility and the color orange provides a sense of flexibility.
The color orange has the overall effect of increasing creativity and warding off negativity. Even symptoms of depression and anxiety can be reduced when one walks into an orange-colored room or office.
This color also has the ability to create an atmosphere of celebration. Company parties will often feature this color. That is why party balloons are mostly orange.
Here is a cousin to the color red. A relative both in appearance and function.
Pink is a color most notable with femininity. From clothing to cosmetics and even accessories like wrist watches and pens, pink is very much a female color.
But that doesn’t mean men cannot put on pink shirts. In fact for the man wearing a pink shirt, it’s a show of boldness. More than that, women initially wore more blue than pink. It was quite a process before they changed to pink. Watch the below video for more on that.
But the color also has connotations of love. However, this is not the love feeling brought to the fore by the color red. Whereas red is more towards passion, pink is more towards tenderness.
Pink is very soft on the eyes and also has a relaxing feel to it. It also communicates sensitivity and a soft emotional touch.
This softness was studied in detail in 1978 by Alexander G. Schauss and the results were stunning. If there has ever been hard evidence about a color’s effect on the human body, then this study proved it.
Can you believe that a violent inmate could be “tranquilized” just by the sight of the color pink?
The study showed that when a temporary holding cell in a correction facility was painted pink, the aggression of a violent inmate reduced. And this happened after only 15 minutes of exposure to the pink-painted cell.
From the results, pink can rightly be called a weakening color.
The study also found out that the effects of the pink color could not be suppressed by deliberate mind action. The same test was conducted using yoga practitioners and martial arts experts. Despite these people having trained minds, they couldn’t avoid the effect.
Considering that, it’s obvious that you should avoid too much pink in the office. Unless you want to turn employees into zombies.
White is a common color in many offices, though blue is more common. And as a bright color, white has some definite good things to offer.
First, white signifies cleanliness and purity. A clean environment looks great and can encourage you to work and have freely-flowing thoughts.
Along the lines of purity, white can point to integrity. With integrity indicating sincerity and the absence of evils like deception and corruption, white can go a long way in defining a workplace.
White also creates a sense of space and this is one reason the color is common. In a small space, white paint can make the place look bigger. Even in houses, this trick works and you’ll find hallways and corridors painted white.
The color also paints a picture of new beginnings. It’s like flipping a new and empty page, ready to be written on. Or in the case of a drawing canvas, ready for a new drawing.
But as bright as the color white is, it’s not all positive.
Have you noticed that hospitals use the color white? Even morgues?
This despite there being not much evidence of new beginnings, especially in the morgue.
This is the reason white can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can brighten and create an impression of more space but on the other, it can prove to be too cold.
The association with hospitals and clinic makes white a potential danger for the workplace. It can cause you to start feeling sick. The sheer purity of the color means that it can also reflect too much light onto your eyes. This will cause eye strain, especially if you work using a computer.
For this reason, it is best to use white as an accent color and not the main color of your office.
Gray for the office is not that weird but can get tricky. In itself, especially the lighter shades of it, can look pretty good. But this requires some skill.
Gray is primarily a dull color. It also has some associations with uncertainty, conflict, war and even death. It is not a coincidence that warships are gray.
And do not be fooled by good-looking gray attire. Just because gray works well in suits, having it on the wall can be too much.
Remember what we said at the beginning about surfaces absorbing or reflecting colors?
With a gray wall, you’ll have no vibrancy to share. Light up a gray-colored room and see how much excitement you feel from what you see.
This is a color associated with sadness, coldness and even depression. If you’re looking for productivity at work, this is one color to stay away from.
If you must use gray, keep it at a minimum and use the lighter shades.
The last color we’ll cover today is brown. Brown is quite popular in the office especially because it’s the color of furniture. Unless your desks and chairs are painted with other colors, they are most likely brown.
Brown is the color of the earth. It’s also the color of the soil.
Brown generally signifies stability and assurance. This might be the reason it’s so easy to work with.
Do you remember that green is relaxing and also provides a balance? Looking at trees will show you how brown can supplement or even work as an alternative to green. Whereas tree trunks are brown, the leaves are green.
You cannot appreciate the green in a forest without noticing the accompanying brown, or vice versa.
The color works well for backgrounds. You can use it in this manner then splash some yellow around for a perfectly-balanced relaxing and fun-filled working environment.
Colors work best when combined. There are also different shades of these colors which you should consider.
The good thing is that adding color to your office is not a big task. If you can’t paint it, at least you can use office accessories to bring in the color you want.
You can play around with different colors until you get your preferred mix.
If you work from home, you have more freedom and authority to make your working area perfect for productivity.
Whether you want creativity or relaxation while working, you have the information to get you started.
Share with us your thoughts on different colors.
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