The productivity palette: Colours to bolster focus, motivation and creativity at work

Colours have been an integral part of home aesthetics, but they are now being leveraged to bolster focus, motivation and creativity at work

Published: 16th April 2023 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th April 2023 02:43 PM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

If the workplace had a mind of its own, colours would be its emotional centre. Since two-thirds of the world we process is visual, colour associations are deep and sometimes permanent. While hues have played an integral part in home aesthetics, they are now being used as a productivity tool at work. Whether it’s to encourage sales, manage expectations, resolve conflicts or to foster empathy, promote inclusion and nurture relationships, the right colour can give you a leg up. Low-wavelength colours such as blue and green promote restfulness and improve focus, while high-wavelength colours such as red promote courage and determination. Depending on priorities at work, a thoughtful selection of the palette can offer cognitive and creative benefits. Here’s what you get by spinning the colour wheel:  

Boost of blue: One of the most calming shades, blue increases productivity and learning, while promoting openness and reliability. Several reports show that it reduces psychosocial stress by slowing down the pulse rate and lowering blood pressure. “As the human eye processes it, neural passages release cortisol, the hormone that makes one alert, while restricting the release of melatonin, which makes one drowsy.

That’s why incorporating blue can make you agile,” says Dr Sameer Malhotra, director and head of department for mental health and behavioural sciences, Max Super Specialty, Saket. If your role needs you to think on your feet or meet tight deadlines, use the placid temperament of blue, just like Natasha Jain, co-founder of interior design company Bent Chair did by bringing elements of navy blue (with bursts of yellow) in the Delhi office of marketing agency Vantage Point. “The idea was to foster an environment of creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving and collaboration. Whether it’s boosting confidence or initiating curiosity, blue achieves it all,” she says.

Yes to yellow: The easiest way to build a positive and motivated work environment is to include yellow. “Exposure to it helps the release of serotonin, a hormone associated with happy mood. Yellow also enhances concentration,” says Malhotra. That’s why Nipun Gupta, the founder and CEO of Nukleus, 
a co-work and co-play space in Noida, used shades of amber and banana. “Yellow is energising and cheery. For a hub of aspiration and inspiration like Nukleus, we needed a colour that would bring optimism to the space,” says Gupta.

Gush of green: Humans have a primitive association with the shade as it symbolises fertility and life. At work too, it stands for new possibilities. “Green induces calm by increasing the parasympathetic activity in the brain (rest and digest state) and helps with emotional regulation. Adding it can boost creativity while reducing fatigue,” says Malhotra. It’s ideal for artists, designers, writers and musicians.

When interior designer Shabnam Gupta was doing up the office of Precision, a Mumbai-based plastic conduit company, the brief given to her was clear: use a hue that supports growth. “I couldn’t think of anything other than green. We bought venerated pots and plants, and mounted them on high indoor and outdoor walls, with spurts of red to energise the space,” she says.

yellow elements at Nukleus, Noida

Orange all the way: Indicating agility, pride and ambition, orange is revitalising. “MRI scans have shown that exposure to the colour increases activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, responsible for reasoning and impulse-control,” says Malhotra, adding, “If your work requires you to make quick decisions, manage expectations, and strategise, use  orange elements to promote emotional balance.” The right shade makes all the difference though. While peach orange, tangerine and burnt orange promote resilience, saturated orange may cause agitation.  

Roaring red: In the psychology of colour, red invokes the strongest emotion. “It boosts confidence and energy, and is especially useful for those in leadership positions or people conceptualising new projects,” says Dr Rachna Khanna Singh, head of the department of holistic medicine, at Artemis Hospital, Gurugram. Mumbai-based Sarah Sham, principal designer at Essajees Atelier, did up 
her entire office flooring in a muted shade of terracotta. “The colour sets a strong impression and that’s what we intend to do with our work. Red is also assertive and encourages quick decision-making,” she says. Sham juxtaposed the energy of red with the neutrality of sage green as her desk backdrop. “I wanted something restful and quiet to offset the intensity of red because as creative people, we also need tranquility to ideate and create,” she says.

Great grey: Strong and steady, grey inspires modesty and dependability. If you’re trying to build trust and credibility, tap into the merits of grey. “While yellow- and blue-based greys are helpful, combining them with white and green can multiply the benefits. With its cooling effect, it’s perfect for those who are overly competitive or self-critical,” says Singh.

Black: It can make a space seem closed and mysterious, and de-energise it as well

Brown: While earthy browns are fine, dark brown is associated with close-mindedness and dullness  

White: An all-white space can be too stark to bear, creating sterility and coldness

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