Financial Data
Updated 26 Feb 2020

Get more done with colour

How using colour in the workspace can improve your employees mood and productivity.

28 June 2013  Share  0 comments  Print

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So you’ve found your way to the management part of this site expecting to find an article on how to manage your business better for increased productivity and profit.

Instead you find this article about colour in the work place and wonder how on earth this can relate to managing a business.

True, this article isn’t going to tell you how to organise your systems or manage your cash flow, but it is going to tell you how to manage your staff with something as simple and inexpensive and effective as colour.

Colour has amazing effects on people’s mood and psychology, so transforming a bland, all-white office environment into something with colour can help create an environment that people are happy coming to work to, improving the overall mood as well as level of productivity in the office.

Conversely, if you’re working in a high stress environment, the right colours in the right spots can help keep employees calm and provide a space for them to unwind. Here’s how.

How to use colour

Depending on the energy you want to encourage in your office – ranging from calm, creative, enthusiastic, colour will transform your office.

Reds and oranges

This is an excellent colour for energising. Red is supposed to raise your heart rate, but go easy on where and how much you use.

Be sparing with amounts of red and orange in the office such as an accent wall or some brightly coloured accessories to create energy. Too much can evoke aggression and stress – think about a bull and a red cloak.

It is best to use it in areas where employees don’t spend too much time such as a reception area, bathroom, or kitchen. Take a look at this reception area of Melbourne-based contracting and engineering firm John Holland.



Yellow has the ability to create a sense of happiness for employees who may be bored or unhappy at the office.

From a psychological perspective, the colour raises self-esteem because it’s associated with cheerfulness. Like red and orange, bright yellow is a strong colour and can be agitating if used too much and should therefore be used sparingly like accent walls, accessories or furniture.

When using a strong colour like bright yellow, be sure to offset it with more muted shades. For inspiration look at how nature groups colours:

A bright sun in a light blue sky, bright yellow sunflowers against dark green leaves and charcoal centre. Below is an example of using bright yellow contrasted by neutral colours by Dutch gas and electric provider, Stedin.


Google’s Dublin Campus demonstrates how to use yellow in areas where staff are only passing through for a short period of time. Here’s one of their lunch areas.


Blues and greens

These are commonly found in nature and have a calming effect in a stressful work environment. Since workers spend most of their day inside an artificially lit office, any relation to the outside world makes people feel better.

To bring green into the office try fresh plants or forest-like shades of green. Psychological studies have also linked the colour green with creativity. Here are some examples of green and blue at work:

Google’s Dublin Campus uses plants, Astroturf and natural wood to evoke a sense of the outdoors.



While Adidas’s Shanghai office uses blue to create a sense of movement and calm.


In another of Google’s Dublin Campus’s rooms burnt oranges have been used effectively to create an autumn feel that creates a sense of outdoors and calm – despite orange being typically associated with energy.


Pastels and white

While bright colours are great when used sparingly, pastel colours can be used in much greater areas and create a sense of light and space as well as promote calm in the same way blues and greens do.

A point to remember when using pastels though is to try avoid creating too much contrast between light walls and dark furniture, for example, lilac and black is jarring and will create visual fatigue.

Instead pair a pastel with beige or natural wood grain. Here’s an example of neutrals at work in 37 Signal’s new office – a web-based apps developer.


Architecture and design firm Ahrend uses white and pastels to create a calming environment to help the imagination wander.


Financial company Rabobank in the Neetherlands uses pastels effectively to create a modest, elegant looking space.


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