Many offices are dull, spartan buildings. Computers are black or beige, walls are dull grey or blue, and the working environment is seemingly designed to be as boring as possible. It’s easy to understand why managers and designers initially went for that sort of layout and color scheme. After all, if things are as bland as possible, there’s not much to distract you and there’s not much chance that you’d find the working environment objectionable. However, those dull grey and beige buildings aren’t really conducive to being focused and productive at work.
One recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Texas1 found that dull offices produce feelings of depression and sadness. Women, apparently, find grey, white or beige to be quite a downer, while men experience similar emotions in brighter orange or purple spaces. If we’re not in a good mood, we won’t be productive, and we won’t be able to focus on getting things done.
Finding Your Focus
There has been a lot of research done into how colors can impact on our ability to concentrate and learn.2 Some low-wavelength colors, including softer greens and blue, have been found to improve focus. They can also provide a sense of wellbeing, making people feel calmer and making them more effective in the workplace.
Green for Concentration
Seeing green for even a few seconds can help to boost your concentration, making it easier to focus on more boring and mundane tasks. Even a short period of exposure to green in the middle of a long working day can help to improve a worker’s focus and productivity.3 So, getting up and going for a walk in the park could be a productive use of your time after all!
Yellow for Creativity
If you’re looking to feel energized and more creative while benefiting from a focus-boost, then yellow is a good choice. Yellow is energetic and is thought to help boost optimism. It’s a popular choice among designers and artists, and those are other professions who need to get their creative juices flowing.
Red for Passion
Red is a more intense, alarming and passion-boosting color. It is used to warn people of danger, and to increase adrenaline. It is a rather aggressive color, and it’s not something that should be used in abundance in the workplace, but it is useful for signs and for attracting attention to important details. Used sparingly, it is an effective color but used to excess, it could create a less friendly working environment.
Orange to Boost Your Mood
Orange is a mood-boosting color that can improve neural functioning. It is thought that it can help to increase oxygen supply to the brain, therefore stimulating mental activity, and motivating people to focus. It can be useful for those who need a motivational boost, but it can be problematic for those who have attention deficit disorders or are prone to over-stimulation.
Blue for Productivity
Blue, especially when balanced with other colors, can be useful for promoting the focus on work that has a high cognitive load. It can help people to relax and has a calming influence too. Tests have found that blue can improve reading comprehension, and it can be useful for promoting intense thought. It should be used in conjunction with other colors, such as orange, to highlight information, and to keep people motivated and stimulated. Too much blue can create a feeling of detachment.
It’s the Color That Matters
While scientists aren’t entirely clear on why color impacts our focus and mood, they have managed to determine that it is indeed the color that makes the difference, not the words or the cultural association with the color. In one study, researchers took participants from two cultures that use different ways of naming colors, one group that uses simple names, and another that has a two-term color language. They found that the retention of images in short-term memory, and performance in the tests, was unaffected by any cultural. 4 It appears that the wavelength of the light, and what that triggers in our brains, is what matters, and this is one of the subjects that is discussed in “Color Psychology and Color Therapy”, as Faber Birren examines the influence of color on our lives.5
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The impact of color on our moods, focus, arousal, and dominance is something that architects have paid a lot of attention to, alongside other aspects of environmental psychology, such as heat, light, and sound.6 Our working environment matters a lot, and what we see is just one part of that. We need fresh air, pleasant scents, the correct temperature, and comfortable seating too. If you take good care of yourself and create a nice working environment, however, you will find that your working day flies by.
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