Choosing the right office colour for maximum productivity


Why on earth would you waste time looking through colour charts when you’ve got a business to run? Well, believe it or not, the colour of your office walls has an incredible impact on emotions, mood, behaviour and productivity levels, so it’s worth considering a makeover to ensure optimal working conditions are in place. You probably spend the vast majority of your waking life in your home office, but it’s most likely the most decor-neglected room because ‘it’s just for work’. However, by adding a little splash of appropriate colour on the walls, you will be able to improve your mood, boost your motivation and increase your chances of continued success.

Colour psychology

Our reaction to colour is a subconscious, primitive instinct that runs far deeper than cultural symbolism. Whether we’re aware of it or not, colour is the first thing we process in any visual situation, and the electro-magnetic radiation emitted from light has a psychological impact on our mood and behaviour. This natural instinct, which we often forget we have, alerts us to dangers in the natural world and affects the way we react and behave in response to different visual stimuli. The same is true for our interior environment, which is why it’s important to consider the psychology of colour in your indoor space.

Anything but white

White is the worst choice for your walls, which is unfortunate because most offices tend to be painted monochromatic white with harsh fluorescent lighting. According to a study carried out by Nancy Kwallek, Ph.D., professor and director of the interior design program in the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin, a stark white working environment does not facilitate productivity. Having worked in many a white office, I agree wholeheartedly. It feels like you’re sitting in a sterile health clinic waiting for bad news.

Blue and blue-green colours have been found to be the most favourable in terms of their impact on mood, concentration and efficiency in the workplace. These colours make us feel calm, safe and happy, so shades of blue and/or green would be a great choice. Because of these qualities, blue is one of the most popular colours in many areas of business and often used in study environments. Both blue and green are particularly beneficial if your work demands creativity and innovation.

Soft neutral colours also have a calming effect and, unlike white, they’re less likely to cause eye strain. Warm greys, light golden yellows and creamy beige tones are all great choices, but be careful not to choose cold, dull greys and bland beige tones that illicit feelings of sadness.

You can, however, add a splash of bright, bold colour, in the form of nice neon lights or other showstopping features to certain areas of your space to create a balanced environment. This will offset the potentially dull effect of grey or beige, but don’t go overboard with too many colours of you will likely feel stressed, overwhelmed and anxious in the space. There is a fine line, after all!

Individual preference

In addition to our primitive psychological response to colour, we do have our individual preferences that can play a part. Some people really dislike certain colours because of negative associations. We also react differently to colour ‘noise’ so, whilst bold colours will work for some people, others will find them distracting, so you need to consider the colour – as well as the intensity and balance of colours – that you respond to best.

However, it should be noted that there is a tendency for many people to use the same colour in the office that they have in their favourite room at home. This should be avoided. You need to make a distinction between work and home, particularly if your office is in your home. This will make it easier to focus when you’re working and switch off when you’re relaxing in another area of your home.

Whatever colour you choose, just remember to avoid painting the entire room bright white. And if at all possible, please use a paint with low volatile organic compounds (VOSs) to avoid getting a headache from the fumes or damaging your long-term health. It’s tempting to go for the cheapest tin of paint but this decision could be counter-productive in this instance.

About Rachel – Rachel Craig is Head of Digital Content at 1st Formations Limited, the UK’s most high regarded company formation specialist. An expert in the industry, she provides small business advice and guidance on corporate regulation and taxation.