Have you ever wondered whether the colors in the office space have any effect on productivity? In fact, many big name companies employ the psychology of color in office design in an effort to improve the moods of both workers and customers, and by extension increase productivity and boost revenue.
This use of color in the office environment is supported by a groundbreaking study by the University of Texas which confirmed that color does, in fact, elicit a reaction in the brain and can subsequently affect workers’ moods and their overall productivity.
The Research Behind The Psychology of Color
Researcher Nancy Kwallek, Ph.D., led the study which examined three color schemes in particular – white, red, and pastel blue green – and how those different colors affect workers in the office. The results suggest that color scheme alone may impact mood and can also affect productivity. Though the findings also suggest that mood and productivity were unrelated, the impact of colors was evident in the way the subjects responded to the stimulus.
The research found no link between mood and the performance of the employee, debunking the notion that for example, a positive mood results in higher productivity. However, Dr. Kwallek’s research gives credence to the actions of many companies which have been experimenting with color psychology for years, seeking to determine how to use color to positively impact the office environment.
In an article entitled Psychology of Colors in the Workplace, Officevibe’s Jeff Fermin notes the use of color is also a major strategy for many companies who use marketing materials to influence customers through the company website.
“It explains ‘why Facebook is blue’ and why particular sites opt to choose certain colors in designing their website. If you have the ability (and resources) to create a fresh atmosphere to match your company’s vibe, pick certain colors that go with your employees,” Fermin writes.
The Power of Colors
Colors can have a profound impact on productivity by simply encouraging positive emotions in employees. Natural toned colors such as green and blue hues can improve efficiency and focus, while warm yellows can trigger optimism, creativity and fresh energy. Vivid colors like red add intensity to the décor and can inspire passion and boost physical activity.
So what colors that promote productivity are advantageous to your business, employees and customers? Which ones should you avoid? Let’s take a closer look:
The color blue in the office can have a very calming effect on employees and aid in concentration, especially when workers are required to complete intricate tasks. Blue is an excellent choice in an office where activities require detailed focus. By helping to maintain calm, blue can also stimulate the mental process and increase worker productivity.
According to studies, white is the worst color to paint the office. White walls tend to give off a sterile or clinical feeling, like being in a medical exam room. Research has shown that white can hinder productivity and give off a cold and and isolated feeling. It’s best to use white as an accent color only.
If you want to get the creative juices flowing, choose yellow. This color is often linked to positive emotions like happiness, optimism and excitement. Used in office décor, yellow can help inspire employees who work in creative fields to come up with new, innovative ideas.
The color red is a vibrant color that can energize employees particularly those whose tasks involve physical activity. Known to increase the heart rate and even produce a slight rise in blood pressure, red can help boost the body’s ability to complete physical tasks. Red is also very effective as a “call to action” to get customers’ attention for marketing messages.
Different shades of green can elicit both positive and negative emotions. However, in general, the color green is usually associated with nature and rebirth. Painting the office in a light soothing shade of green can help ease anxiety and make people feel more relaxed and welcomed.
Consider Color Carefully
Dr. Kwallek’s study is supported by similar research into the effects of color. Dittmar (2001) found in a large scale study that using color names alone (blue, green, red, yellow) resulted in significant differences in color preference with advancing age. In another study, Edgerton, Ritchie, and McKechnie (2010) showed how color was used as one component of the changes made in a corridor of a psychiatric hospital to reduce the “institutional” feeling of the space and provide a “sense of nature”. In this case, the renovation resulted in slight increase in the number of positive behaviors.
“For better or for worse, colors affect our moods, and the last thing you would want is to work in a workplace that you absolutely dread. When coming up with a design or an idea, take into consideration the “psychology” behind choosing that color within your workplace. And when talking about the psychology of colors in a workplace, make sure you’re doing “mood research” in order to find out what works,” Fermin adds.
Take a look around the office. Are the walls dull and reminiscent of an institutional building rather than a place of productivity? How about conducting a full-scale assessment from the executive office to the production floor, and take into consideration whether the company’s core activities require employees to be innovative and creative, complete focused tasks, or to carry out physical duties. To boost employee output, plan the color scheme for each department accordingly and monitor mood changes to see the results.
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