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How to use colour to enhance your mood and productivity

With the weather turning increasingly grey and gloomy as cold winter nights draw in ever earlier, it’s easy to fall into a similarly bleak mood. This has an impact not only on individuals' moods, but on their productivity, and therefore on businesses and the economy. In fact, research has found that a shocking 1 in 3 British people experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) each year, while another study found that around 165 million people across the EU are affected by a mental health problem, making it one of the biggest causes of health-related economic loss, ahead of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Mental health is a hot topic at the moment, partially thanks to a recent government report which highlighted the disparity between the support for people with mental health issues in the workplace and those with physical illnesses. Clearly, mental health is a highly important issue for individuals and businesses alike, and the fact that white and grey, the colours of many office walls, is consistently associated with a sterile atmosphere, increased by workers, and decreased productivity, probably doesn’t help matters!

While changing your work space colour scheme won’t magically cure the winter blues or any other mental health issue, understanding the properties of different colours and the best way to use them is important for businesses seeking to create a positive, encouraging, and motivational work environment. For individuals, utilising colours in the work environment is a small step that can really help boost your day to day productivity, and, for those who work from home, could allow you to fully transform and revitalise your office space.

So, take a tip from the cheerful autumnal golds and yellows of Mother Nature herself, and read on to find the best colour to offset those gloomy grey skies.


Good for: creativity, calmness, communication

Blue and green are the most common colours seen in nature, and blue in particular is good for enhancing productivity and increasing focus. Stronger, brighter blue enhances communication and opens the mind to new ideas, so for those in a creative industry or role, this should be a key component of your workspace colour scheme. It also works well for meeting rooms for the same reason.

Light blue is especially good for promoting a calm environment, and as a base for painting an entire office which is then accented with other, brighter, colours in the office accessories and decorations. People across the world frequently report that blue is their favourite colour, making it a safe choice for a working environment frequented by large numbers of people. Businesses also value blue for its connotations of trustworthiness, as it projects a positive first impression of a company for visitors and clients.


Good for: long hours, balance, freshness

Like blue, green is frequently seen in the natural world, and pale green in particular brings with it associations of freshness, wellbeing, and calmness, making it a safe bet for an office.

Green also causes the least strain on the eyes out of all the colours, because the way it hits the eye requires no adjustment to focus on it. This means any kind of green is an ideal base colour for an office in which employees frequently work long or unsociable hours, although dark green can represent stagnation and boredom, so pale or mid green is preferable. Being in the middle of the colour spectrum, green also represents balance, making it a good colour for spaces where communication and teamwork is encouraged.

Accents of green can be added to desk space in the form of plants, which have the added benefit of not just a soothing colour scheme but are also proven to reduce employee stress by between 30-60%!


Good for: welcoming, creativity, memory

The colour of happiness and sunshine, yellow should be used strategically so as not to overwhelm a room, as people have been proven to be more likely to lose their tempers in rooms painted completely yellow!

Instead, it should be used as an accent, providing detail in conjunction with another colour to create a balanced, motivational palette that does not overwhelm the eyes, as the welcoming and warming effect is quickly lost if the colour is used too extensively. Pale and mid yellow are the most effective in a workplace, as dark yellow can become sickly, and bright yellow can strain the eyes.

Yellow is, like blue, effective in increasing levels of creativity, as well as being good for stimulating memories, so having accents of yellow in a blue room could help get the best out of your employees without tiring their eyes. It is advised that, if used as a wall colour, yellow is reserved for no more than one wall.


Good for: warmth, urgency, short-term energy

Associations with danger, passion, and urgency mean that red is a volatile colour, whose effect on productivity can be unpredictable, and should be used in small doses as part of a wider colour palette. However, red is particularly good for creating the illusion of increased temperature, so adding red accents to a workplace in colder months can be highly effective in increasing comfort and productivity. It has also been shown to motivate those whose jobs are high-energy and require physical activity.

However, red has the longest wavelength of all the colours and subsequently creates most strain on the eyes, so for desk-based jobs, this will create headaches, stress, and, due to red objects appearing closer than they actually are, can also induce panic. Furthermore, the energy boost triggered by the sight of the colour is often short lived, and in the long term, red reduces analytical thinking. For certain businesses, then, red is best avoided altogether!

So, there you have it, the tools to supercharge your work environment and power up your productivity!

If your boss insists on white, beige, or grey walls, however, fear not; there are still ways you can personalise and optimise your individual work space. As mentioned, office plants have several benefits, and a couple of succulents on your desk can add a touch of calming nature vibes to a potentially sterile office environment.

For other colours, office accessories such as files, folders, diaries, pens, mugs, flasks, cushions and display boards can all be purchased with a specific colour palette in mind to increase levels of a particular element. You could even incorporate your chosen colour into your work clothing, especially as part of a Casual Friday culture!

However you choose to go about it, chasing away the winter gloom is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

To bring some brightness and cheer to your digital environment, why not follow us on Instagram? Our feed is sure to cheer your wintery mood!

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