Using Colour Psychology to Increase Output and Spark Creativity in the Office

Colour greatly influences human emotion and behaviour, and so choosing the right office colour scheme can be equally as important as choosing the right employees. Studies into the psychology of colour in the workplace have shown that colours not only determine our mood, but also have a strong impact on productivity. Therefore, a basic understanding of colour psychology can help you to create a work environment that will maximise your potential.


Red is a powerful colour and can stimulate and excite employees. Studies have found that it can increase heart rate, raise blood pressure and even trick your brain into thinking it is warmer than if the walls were painted in a cooler colour. Angela Wright, a world renowned colour psychologist states that red stimulates you physically rather than mentally and so it is a good choice for those who are looking to be more physically productive. However, it is mainly recommended to be used as an accent and not a main colour. This is because it is not a particularly comfortable colour, making it suitable for corridors and canteens or anywhere where you don’t want employees lingering.



Blue is commonly thought to be one of the most productive colours, and contrary to red, it can lower blood pressure and heart rate and thus help to reduce stress. Research by Creighton University found that those working in blue-themed offices felt the most centred, calm and hopeful towards their work. Mixing blue with the green can also add to its calming effect as green has been said to reduce anxiety.

Angela Wright recommends that blue is the best colour to use if you perform mind-stimulating work as it affects the mind rather than the body. Further to this, a study done by the University of British Columbia suggested that blue can also help people with creativity by opening up the mind to new ideas and would therefore be a good choice for a room where brainstorming takes place.



If your workplace requires an environment with a strong sense of balance, green might be the colour that makes your employees most productive as it affects the essential balance between the mind, body and emotions. Colour specialist Leatrice Eiseman suggests that green is restful for the eyes and produces the least amount of eyestrain so is a suitable choice for those who work long hours. It can also be great option for spaces in which money is being exchanged as green has been found to stimulate feelings of reassurance and calmness. This also extends to places where people are seeking help, for example social work or counselling.


Yellow & Orange

Shades of yellow and orange are associated with the sun and can make a person feel warm and positive. Yellow is a good choice for designers, artists and other creatives as it can help to channel positive energy into their work. Research has found that orange increases oxygen flow to the brain, producing an energising effect and stimulating brain activity. However, when these colours are too bright they can be associated with hunger, anger and frustration.


Brighter shades of yellow, much like white, are extremely reflective and can cause eye strain by over-stimulating the eyes. Studies have shown that people are more likely to lose their temper in yellow rooms. As a rule of thumb, steer away from strong, contrasting colours as the more the eye has to avert away from bright colours, the more tiring and straining it becomes. Stick to less saturated shades.



If you are looking to create the impression of spaciousness in a small offices or corridors, white is your best bet. Its’ light and neutral characteristics make it a popular choice, especially in hospitals or medical centres as white can portray feelings of cleanliness and purity. For an office, however, you should add an accent colour to inject some energy into an otherwise boring and uninspiring room.


Combining colours

Colours should not be used in isolation. It is best to pick a main colour based on the characteristics and the nature of the work, and then combine this with a complimenting neutral shade, either by livening up or toning down the main colour. Black, grey and brown are good choices for complimenting brighter offices.

Summary Table:


Associated with:

Use for:


Increased heart rate and blood pressure, physical stimulation

Increasing physical productivity


Lower blood pressure and heart rate, calming, reducing stress

Mind-stimulating work, opening up mind to new ideas


Balance, reassurance, calmness, reduces anxiety

Relieving stress, reducing eye strain when working long hours


Warmth, creativity, positivity

Channelling positive energy into work


Warmth, energising, positivity, increased oxygen flow

Stimulating brain activity, encouraging socialisation


Light, spaciousness, cleanliness, purity

Evoking mental clarity and purification of thoughts/actions


Elegance, power, sophistication, strength

Giving an impression of strength and authority - use in small doses as an accent


Sturdiness, longevity, compromise, intelligence

Use subtly to stabilize and tone down brighter colours


Security, stability, practicality, organic

Creating a sense of stability and orderliness, pair with livelier colour to increase stimulation



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