Do me a quick favor. Look up from your monitor, take note of the space you’re in, and consider the effect that the most dominant color you see is having on you. (Go ahead. I’ll wait.) Is the color one that energizes you, or does it sooth you instead? Whatever its impact, if you’re in your office it probably says a LOT about the ways you conduct your day-to-day business.
I wish I could tell you the wall color upon which you should stake your professional fortune, but it’s just not that simple. Bright colors. Soft colors. Light colors. Dark colors. They can all do different things to different people. But there are some well-accepted commonalities that can help explain why, for example, you might pick fights and then lose steam after too much time spent in a bright yellow room.
The true effects boil down to generally these two things: VISION and PERSONALITY.
So back to YELLOW again. As the brightest color in the spectrum, it can give you a wonderful burst of energy with its ability to stimulate your senses and capture your attention. But alas, it can also bring on fatigue faster than Thanksgiving turkey due to the amount of reflective light it produces, which leads to damaging strain on your eyes. In fact, studies have shown that extended exposure to such an environment actually breeds irritability. So save yourself a black eye and avoid using it in critical performance areas. And throw out those yellow legal pads while you’re at it.
And don't overlook the color of your desk itself. If you spend significant timing working directly off of it aim for a lighter surface, which will reduce eye strain by reducing the amount of contrast between your paper and its background. If that upper-management mahogany is just too tempting to turn down, at least purchase a desktop calendar or ink blotter to use as your immediate work surface.
The lines blur a bit when you head toward softer colors. Mainly because the same properties that help us to visually sooth ourselves can also hinder us physically and emotionally. Former University of Iowa coach and psychology major Hayden Fry firmly believed in the powers of PINK to evoke a calming and passive effect. Which is why to much ongoing protest, the opposing team’s locker rooms remain awash in that very color. For the most Machiavellian among you, this might provide inspiration for future boardroom negotiations. “Hey, would you mind grabbing a seat in our My Little Pony conference room while we hammer out these final contract numbers?”
Then there is how personality factors into the mix. We commonly feel at ease in BLUE and GREEN rooms because of their relationship to nature. But kick the color up a notch to RED and you’ll see the natural effects of increased blood pressure and respiration, which can likewise enhance your energy and productivity. (The unfortunate downside being that it similarly stimulates appetite… so go easy on those Mallomars you have stashed in your desk drawer.)
With the fresh year underway, now can be the best possible time to make a change in your office. In fact, The Westinghouse Hawthorne Study has suggested that ANY change in your environment (even better lighting) stands to positively influence your productivity. Being punch drunk from the optimism of a new year and realizing you will be spending far more time indoors over the coming months should be just enough motivation to act now while motivation supplies last!
Hmmm… so back to that magic color upon which one can stake professional fortune. I’m gonna go out on a limb here and suggest GREEN. And if each one of you just sends a little paper sample of it my way, I may have just taken a very important step toward ending that debate once and for all….
Cary Zartman is a principal at Z Factory Advertising and Marketing. A small agency with a big advantage.