Calm and focused: how office lighting and color affect productivity [UPDATED]

Julia Gifford 14.04.2023
office productivity

There are countless studies proving that office lighting and color choice have a great effect on employees’ productivity.

In the movie Joe vs. the Volcano, the only light Joe had in his dreary basement office was a tropical lamp that cast revolving images of beaches, coconut-heavy palms and dancing Hawaiian girls on the windowless, concrete walls. Every day he plugged it in with a kind of devout reverence as if it were the only bright, comforting thing in his world.

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We may not all work in dark, windowless basements, but the way a room is lit can often make it feel as though we did. Harsh, glaring lights against gloss-bright walls or dim lamps illuminating little more than the pool of work on your desk can equally create feelings of:

  • lifelessness
  • anxiety
  • lack of productivity
  • depression

Whether you’re working from home, have a one-person office or are working in a larger community room, spurring creativity, productivity and a positive mood overall starts with your surroundings.

Check out this infographic and find out how you can boost your team’s productivity with the right colors and smart lightning.

how lightning affects productivity

How color can boost mood and productivity

The concept of influence of color on psychological health goes as far back as ancient Egypt. Back then it was found that color can affect people’s wellbeing. Then, colors were used to treat mental as well as physical conditions, from ailments of the lungs to skin problems and even poor circulation.

Today, choosing the right color for a room may not cure a cold, but it can help create a more comfortable and stimulating environment for both employees and clients. Therefore, when choosing a color for your workspace, consider the following:

Muted over bright

Bright colors can be a visual shock. Studies have found that continuous exposure to bright colors can increase feelings of anxiety or even cause a panic attack. This goes just as much for bright yellow as it does for bright red. That’s why you should try to keep the shades on the softer side to create a more relaxed environment.

The right colors can create a comfortable and stimulating environment for both employees and clients.

Warmth over chill

While blue is some people’s favorite color, it can also project a feeling of sadness and cool indifference. Meanwhile, warmer colors tend to make people feel more comfortable and relaxed. At the same time, don’t let this stop you from using cool colors as accents – ice blues against muted tan makes a comforting room overall with excellent areas of visual stimulation.

Matte over gloss

High gloss and even semi-gloss can cast annoying reflections that might make people edgy. Painting the entire room in gloss or semi-gloss wouldn’t make a calm and peaceful environment. Instead, all the gloss would feel noisy. On the other hand, matte finish helps to absorb that extra light and create a more visually soothing environment.

Creating a more relaxed environment visually can help you and your employees focus more on work without the subconscious distraction of irritating light and colors.

Lighting choices to boost employee work efficiency

Once you’ve chosen the color and finish, the next step is lighting. The way you light your space can be just as important in creating a productive yet comfortable environment. There are several directions you can go with lighting your office space when natural light is limited:

Track lighting

Track lighting works well when you have several areas in a room that you want to highlight without directly lighting the floor below. For example, it’s the best solution for rooms with artwork on display, interesting architectural elements or excessive recesses. For spaces like these, track lighting can add just the right amount of light where needed.

Try to avoid running track lighting directly over desks – the exposed bulbs can produce a harsh light.

Lighting can make your team more productive or cause everyone headache.

Wall lights

Sconces and other types of soft wall lights can create focal points and gently light areas that receive a minimal amount of use. As such lights tend to cast very little brightness, they aren’t the best sole-source of light for an office. But they can be combined effectively with floor and desk lamps, and recessed lighting.

Recessed lighting

By tucking light bulbs back into the ceiling, you can easily light a room while avoiding the harsh light of exposed bulbs. In combination with desk lamps and other small lamps around focal points, recessed lighting can create a well-lit room without the glare.

Hidden lights

Hidden lights differ from recessed lighting in a way that they can be tucked in all corners of the office, from the floor and walls, to ceiling corners. Hidden lights are often used as a creative element to light up the office space while avoiding the use of harsh, bare light.

Floor and desk lamps

Individual lamps can encourage employees to add their own creative touches to their office spaces. A variety of desk lamps can also lend a sense of character to an otherwise sterile room.

Creative lighting

Adding a touch of whimsy with a unique lighting fixture can help give the impression of a gentle sense of humor in the office space. The feeling of lightness can go a long way if your work environment is especially harsh, such as a room without windows or even a windowless basement. From self-lighting wallpaper to pop-up book lamps and lamps that look like works of art, a creative touch can soothe even the roughest work space.

Final words

As in any work environment, productivity has as much to do with feeling comfortable in one’s environment. With nothing more than a coat of paint and some well-placed lighting, you can help to not only increase your and your employees’ productivity, but their overall mood and job satisfaction.

What are some color combinations you’ve found that work well in your office environment? What are some interesting lighting choices you’ve come across?

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