Color has the power to influence our emotions and certain colors in the workplace can even make us more productive.
Humans have always had moments of envy when looking out into the natural world. We see birds take flight as they experience the sheer freedom of an open sky and dolphins dancing beneath the waves. Some of us may even feel a moment of wistfulness as we watch the common squirrel engage in aerial acrobatics. However, our species does possess a few highly developed abilities which outpace most life on earth.
Humanity’s first exceptional trait is obvious – our highly developed brains. However, we’re often less aware of our second extraordinary feature. We see more colors than the vast majority of life on earth. Humans have three types of color receptive cone cells in our eyes. Meanwhile, most mammals only possess two types of cone cells. In practical terms, this means that humans see far more colors than most other mammals. What’s more, our impressive sense of color ties in with our equally amazing brains. You’ve most likely experienced this effect countless times within your life.
Have you ever felt elation or peace while looking at the bright reds and golden yellows of a beautiful sunset? If so, then you’ve experienced one of the ways color can influence our emotions. What’s more, we can even channel this power within our daily life. For example, five specific colors will make you more productive.
Red has an important place in our psychology, physiology, and history. It’s one of the first colors seen by infants as their eyes develop. What’s more, evidence suggests that humanity’s very first dyes might have been red. The earliest known example dates back to cave paintings made around 16,500 BC. Of course, we also have some deep psychological ties to this color. Red is the color of blood and vitality. This color is the very stuff of life itself. It makes sense that our body and mind would be especially dialed into the color red.
In a workplace setting red is a useful way to demonstrate authority. This makes red ties or other accessories an important part of office productivity. If you’re looking for a way to get your team functioning as a more cohesive unit then consider adding some red to your attire. You might just find your co-workers looking at you in a new light. Just be careful not to take things too far as red is also associated with overly competitive mindsets.
A little competitive spirit within your office can be beneficial. But you don’t want to take things to a point where the environment feels hostile. Red is, therefore, best used sparingly. A red tie can help promote team solidarity. But imagine how uncomfortable it’d feel to work in a room with blood-red walls. A little red goes a long way.
Have you ever heard of a green room? The phrase refers to a lounge where performers can relax before their appearance. The term has been around for quite some time as well. It dates back to theaters in the 17th century. This verdant color scheme was originally chosen as a matter of convenience.
The green fabric lining a green room was in plentiful supply at the time. If purple colored fabric were cheaper then they might have created purple rooms for their stars. However, those rooms might not have stood the test of time in quite the same way. Because today we know that the color green does have an impact on our performance. What’s more, it can help us in both work and leisure.
Some recent studies have shown that the color green can promote a feeling of calm happiness. A runner’s heart rate will actually go down if he’s in a green environment. What’s more, this state of calm concentration persists through different tasks. The potential benefits should be clear to anyone who’s worked in an office.
Think back to the last time you needed to finish a project whose deadline was approaching at a breakneck speed. Everyone becomes stressed and their overall productivity suffers as a result. It’s essentially like trying to brainstorm while you’re in the middle of a marathon. But think back to the impact green had on a runner’s heart rate.
We can apply the same principle to an office environment. Adding green to the office or workspace can help calm people down. What’s more, the researchers also found that green can promote a more optimistic type of adaptive problem-solving. This is the exact type of thinking people often need when they’re pushing their way through an especially difficult project.
Yellow may well be one of the least utilized colors in the business world. Common wisdom often holds that yellow makes people anxious. It’s supposed to make babies cry and adults feel ill at ease. However, this runs contrary to most of our real-world experience. How do you feel when you see spears of yellow start to appear in a gray and cloudy sky? What emotion does a sunny day or a field of sunflowers evoke?
The vast majority of people find themselves energized and happy when they encounter yellow in those conditions. Of course, there’s an exception to every rule. And it just so happens that one of those exceptions taught a generation about the role of color in human psychology. The man himself has passed from the world. But his distaste for yellow survives as one of those anecdotes which “everyone knows”. However, the scientific consensus is in. Most people become notably happier when they’re around yellow.
In practical terms, this means that you can easily add some extra happiness to your workday. If you have a time in the day when you’re usually feeling down, then try to boost your mood with yellow. You might try a yellow mug for a coffee break. Or you could even bring in some yellow flowers for the office as a whole. Whatever form the addition takes, it stands a good chance of brightening people’s mood. Even a slight boost in office morale is often enough to make a huge difference in overall productivity.
The term “melanopsin retinal ganglion cells” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. The cells haven’t been especially apparent to researchers either. These unique elements of the human eye were first discovered about two decades ago. This is rather astonishing in light of how important the cells are to human physiology. However, by this point, you’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with the color blue. To understand the link we need to highlight two important traits shared by this new type of cell.
The first point to consider is what the cells do. Melanopsin retinal ganglion cells are a tertiary photoreceptor which operates independently of the rods and cones in our eyes. When triggered the cells stimulate the suprachiasmatic nucleus of our brain. This neural area is a large subject unto itself. However, for now, we can simply think of it as our body’s biological clock. It helps ease us into a tired and restful state as night approaches. Conversely, it also helps to keep us alert during the day.
The second point we need to examine with melanopsin retinal ganglion cells is their range of sensitivity. It turns out that the cells are extremely sensitive to the color blue. This makes a lot of sense when we consider how humans lived throughout most of our history. We spent the majority of our day with a bright blue sky in our line of vision.
It turns out that this same blue sky was working with the melanopsin retinal ganglion cells in our eyes to keep us awake. As night fell, the cell’s stimulation ebbed. This would in turn cause our suprachiasmatic nucleus to trigger the body’s sleep cycle. It’s an incredibly efficient way to handle a species’s sleep/wake cycle. Or rather it was until we started to spend so much time under ceilings rather than clear skies.
All of this goes a long way to explain why so many of us feel tired, drained, and out of sorts when we work in offices. And of course, this is often even worse for people who work evening or night shifts. During the day we at least see the blue sky outside of a window or during the daily commute. The night shift won’t have that stimulating blue at all. Or, rather, they won’t unless they manually add it in themselves.
We don’t have to go as far as adding blue-tinted lights to our workspaces. Instead, we can try to simply ensure that we have some blue in our line of sight. We can take this even further by adding in some additional psychological boosts. For example, a picture featuring loved ones standing under a sunny blue sky can do wonders for our mood. What’s more, it can help us regulate our sleep-wake cycle so that we’re more awake and alert at work.
Conversely, we should try to reduce exposure to blue light once the sun starts to go down. Of course, this can be difficult in a world where we do so much reading on bright digital displays. Thankfully most phone and tablet manufacturers are well aware of how blue light impacts our sleep cycle.
Various phones describe it in different ways. Some call it a blue light filter. Others call it a night light. And a small number of them require you to install an additional app to handle blue light filtering. No matter what it’s called this filter is a valuable tool. Adding blue to your workday can help you stay more alert and productive. And you’ll get another boost by removing blue light from your life a few hours before bed.
White sits in an odd place at the end of our discussion. Think about the most generic and morose office environment you’ve ever seen. Try to fully picture those cubicle walls looming as far as the eye can see. What color filled your memory as you felt the crushing weight of the workspace’s gloom? It’s easy to predict what most people would say. The most emotionally crushing environments tend to have endless processions of white walls.
Research has shown that office workers tend to associate white with sadness and depression. But at the same time, it’s important to keep in mind that white isn’t inherently bad. It’s a solid choice to frame and enhance other colors.
A green plant will be far more striking against a white wall than it would if camouflaged into a fully green environment. A picture of our family beneath a beautiful blue sky and the bright yellow sun becomes the focal point if it’s placed against a white background.
Remember That You’re the Artist Painting Your Own Unique Path
Finally, it’s important to remember why the color yellow had so many negative connotations. Most people find that their mood improves when looking at the color yellow. However, one man simply didn’t like yellow and wound up convincing his students that it was inherently bad. From a modern perspective, it’s easy to point at the data and state that he was wrong. However, in reality, he almost certainly did have a negative reaction to yellow. His mistake was only extrapolating his own subjective take onto the world as a whole. And you might discover that your own subjective view on colors differs from the commonly held consensus.
We all have our own unique artistic and aesthetic preferences. The sum of our life experiences often makes us remember certain colors more fondly than others. This can sometimes even push past biological or cultural influences on color preferences. In the end, it’s important to continually ask yourself how changes to colors within your workplace are helping your overall productivity. The averages suggest a probable outcome. But you’re the best judge of how various colors make you feel. Likewise, you’re the authority on how all of this comes together to impact your productivity.