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The colour that boosts your focus by 31%

·5-min read
A color wheel / circle with 36 hues (rainbow colors) on a white background. The hues graduate in 7 steps to its white center.
Which colour should you put in your home office? Image: Getty

Adding a pot plant, fresh air and natural light can all boost productivity and creativity when working from home, but if you’re looking to overhaul your space entirely, it’s worth considering the best colour to paint your office.

While most workers (54 per cent) have their home office painted white, according to a survey from MyJobQuote.co.uk, this isn’t the best colour for productivity, creativity or even happiness.

“Offices without a splash of colour, especially those in neutral white, grey and beige tended to induce some sad and depressive feelings, especially for those identifying as female,” psychologist and wellbeing consultant Lee Chambers said.

The most common colours after white are beige and grey, followed by yellow (24 per cent), blue (22 per cent) and orange (17 per cent).

Fewer workers have their home office space painted green, red, pink and purple.

Here’s what the colours mean for your workplace performance.

Yellow - if you’re creative

Chambers said yellow is often considered the colour of creativity, which is why it features in innovation labs and other creative spaces.

“An interesting feature of yellow backgrounds is that they increase information retention, which is helpful for highlighting key learnings and important information,” he added.

“If you have a creative job, yellow is definitely a solid choice, but be mindful of the overuse of yellow as a background and as a space, as it does induce eye fatigue.”

In fact, if we see too much yellow for too long, we can become agitated.

Blue - if you want to supercharge productivity

Blue is considered the most productive colour, as it promotes calm and a state of flow, Chambers said.

A 2009 study from the University of British Columbia found that blue also boosts creativity. The study tracked 600 participants’ who performed cognitive tasks that required either creativity or detail-orientation. It found that those who worked on computers with blue screens produced twice as many creative outputs as those who were on red screens.

“Through associations with the sky, the ocean and water, most people associate blue with openness, peace and tranquility," Juliet Zhu of UBC's Sauder School of Business said. "The benign cues make people feel safe about being creative and exploratory. Not surprisingly it is people's favourite colour."

A University of Texas study also found that a blue-green room improved productivity more than red or white rooms.

Chambers said it’s worth considering adding some warm highlights to a blue room to ensure the blue doesn’t leave you too relaxed.

Orange - if you want to feel welcome (but men, beware)

Around 17 per cent of those surveyed had their office painted orange.

Referencing the University of Texas study, Chambers said a peachy orange tone can make a space happy and welcoming.

However, more broadly speaking, orange is “especially detrimental to men” when it comes to boosting productivity.

Green - if you need calm in your life

Green is considered one of the most fresh and calming colours, as well as the colour of growth.

In fact, several studies have shown having plants in your office can boost productivity, creativity and happiness and limit burnout, due to their positive effect on the air and visual appeal.

“Green is the colour of nature, and we can see more shades of green than any other colour. Being the colour of serenity and growth, it causes less eye fatigue, which helps longer-term focus and attention,” Chambers said.

“It is calming in a similar way to blue, but research shows that it produces less benefit for productivity, but a higher increase in wellbeing, and is a great colour for a balance of the two.”

Red - if you need to ignite passion...but use wisely

Red for danger, so look out: red is associated with speed, mistakes, danger and passion.

However, the question is: will a fiery tone make you more passionate about your work or just on edge?

“Red is a powerful, vibrant colour, and is very situational in its use for productivity gains. Studies have found the emotive and passionate fire of red raises blood flow and heart rate. This is great for physical tasks, like a little natural energy bar,” Chambers said.

“Red naturally draws the eye and is often the colour of emergency objects for a reason. For a home office, red can very easily become overstimulating, causing us to lose focus and concentration, and gradually feel volatile, increasing the potential for mistakes or conflict. Use red wisely to take advantage of its benefits.”

The University of Columbia found red, however, is also good for detail-oriented tasks.

In fact, injecting a bid of red into a work environment improved participants’ memory retrieval and proofreading skills by as much as 31 per cent.

Pink and purple - if you want to create mystery

Few of us have pink or purple work spaces, despite purple being the colour of magic and mystery.

Chambers said pink is “indulgent and warming”, but purple just lowers the mood for workers who identify as male.

What do I do with this information?

Chambers said workers should consider the colours that are in their direct eyeline, not just the colour of their walls.

“Some things to consider are that the colour of your desktop is continually in your eye line and is a perfect place to utilise productive colours,” he said.

Get some plants in your eye line, and you get both the green vista, and the air-purifying benefits too. Have a canvas that incorporates colours behind your workstation, and definitely try and get as much natural light, especially through winter.”


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