Somewhere within the rainbow, productivity

paint cansIf you’re looking to boost productivity in your workplace, think of the paint you’re splashing on the walls. Yes, color can profoundly affect your behavior, according to color psychologist Angela Wright, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Colour Psychology.

And it all starts with the four psychological primaries: blue (mind), yellow (emotions), red (body) and green (balance). By combining these colors, you can control your demeanor and attitude, according to Angela’s research. But she quickly points out it is not a color itself that affects behavior.

“What defines whether a color is stimulating or soothing is not the color, it’s the intensity,” she says. “A strong bright color will stimulate, and a color with low saturation will soothe.”

What’s more, says Angela, when you combine more than one color, you get the effects of both of them.


If you google “the most productive color,” every result seems to suggest that blue is the most “productive.” Angela called this an “oversimplification.”

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If you need to stimulate your mind, then yes, blue would likely make you the most productive. “If you’re an accountant, blue probably would make you more productive. But not everybody is an accountant.”

If you do mind-work all day, Angela recommends painting your office blue, but spicing it up with a bit of orange so that you introduce a bit of emotion into your room.


“If you’re a designer, and you want creativity, blue isn’t going to be the color for you,” Angela says. “Yellow is a better color,” because it stimulates your ego and spirits, and makes you more optimistic. “It takes guts to be creative and come up with something new—that’s why yellow works in that environment.”


If you want to be more productive doing something physical, red would make you more productive than either blue or yellow. If you’re hiring a bunch of guys to build you a house, for example, “blue isn’t going to be a lot of help to you—you want the red for physical strength and stimulus,” says Angela.


If you’re in an environment where having a strong sense of balance is the most important, green might just be the color that makes you the most productive. As well, “because it’s so balanced, calming and reassuring, it’s great to use around money’s changing hands.” On the flip side, though, “it can be very stagnant and inert,” so an “action man, who loves red, is going to find green quite a strain,” Angela says.

What’s right for you?

To determine which color to paint your surroundings, first narrow down which main color (or combination of colors) will work the best in your situation by deciding whether you want to affect your mind, emotions, body, or balance.

Then, pick a specific hue of that color. Naturally, keep in mind whether you want the color to stimulate or soothe you, by picking either a highly-saturated or lowly-saturated hue.


This article was adapted from “The exact color to paint your office to become more productive” a blog posting by Chris Bailey, a productivity coach, speaker, and experimenter at A Year of Productivity.