How Do Colors in the Workplace Affect Employees' Moods & Attitudes?

You may feel more comfortable in an office decorated in neutral colors.
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You may like shocking pink walls and cranberry-colored carpet in your apartment, but your co-workers might get cranky in an office with the same color scheme. Colors have long been thought to affect people’s moods. A monochromatic little black dress will put you in a party mood. An all-black office space, however, probably would not.

Red and Blue

    Research seems to support the effects of colors on your mood. Red can wake you up or -- if you're tense and anxious -- be disturbing, according to the International Center for Leadership in Education, or ICLE. Blue is calming and promotes feelings of tranquility, but put too much of it in the workplace and employees might do more dozing than data processing. The ICLE also notes that people from different countries respond differently to the same color. In the United States, red means danger, while in China it means happiness. Blue means peace in France but masculinity to Americans.

Color in Schools

    If you work in a school, certain colors may be used to send a particular message about the area or room. When painting a study hall, choose greens, blues, browns and earth tones, which send a message of stability and calm. In the gym reds, oranges and other bright colors encourage students to be active. Paint the media center in restful tones to encourage little darlings to calm down -- light green, aqua, peach and rose will murmur restful and soothing. In the main entrance, however, odds are you'll find the school colors blazoned across the front doors.

Color and Productivity

    NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration -- the folks who brought you the moon walk and space station – actually did some research on office color schemes and worker productivity. The January 2005 issue of "Implications" reported that three identical offices were painted in different color schemes. One was pure white; one mostly bright red with white trim and and a lower wall painted a medium blue-green; and one was painted in pastels. The red office resulted in more negative moods in some people, as did the all-white office. Productivity varied according to how environmentally sensitive workers were. The researchers concluded color could affect mood, but that mood and productivity weren’t related.

Mixed Views

    Some color experts feel that color can be used in the workspace to encourage people to spend more or less time in an area. The AAA Paint Company of Chicago suggests bright colors such as red for lunch rooms, break areas and locker rooms to help move people along and get them back to work. Cool colors, such as blue-green, are best for reception areas or maintenance shops. The bottom line is that while color seems to have an effect on some of the people some of the time, there’s not enough evidence to make specific connections between color and overall employee mood.

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