- Taking a thoughtful approach to you and your team’s physical work environment can help strike a balance between comfort, productivity, and overall wellness
- The ancient Chinese practice of feng shui is a tried-and-true method for harmonizing any office environment, whether working remotely or back in a physical office space
- An ergonomic desk setup, natural light, fresh air, and a clutter-free environment are a few ways you can practice office feng shui
No matter where you or your team are working right now, a work environment that supports health and well-being is key to promoting comfort and balance in everyone’s day-to-day life.
From the ergonomic efficiency of desk, chair, and computer placement, to the sounds, light, and air quality that surround the space, there are many factors to consider when setting up the workplace for success and less stress.
In this piece, we’ll take a look at how applying the traditional Chinese practice of feng shui can help harmonize your business’s work environment and contribute to overall feelings of wellness, positivity, and even productivity for your employees.
With everything that’s happening in the world right now, who couldn’t use a little bit more of that?
What is Feng Shui?
Feng shui is an ancient Chinese practice that uses scientific calculations to chart the balance of energy, or “chi,” in a particular space.
Also known as Chinese geomancy, feng shui invites positive chi into the space, so the person occupying it feels balanced and energized. Metaphorically speaking, it gets your mood vibing on a whole different level.
Literally translated, feng shui means “wind water.” Since both wind and water are associated with favorable health in Chinese culture, feng shui has come to signify good fortune and wellbeing for those who practice it.
Over the years, feng shui has become much more mainstream, with famous enthusiasts like Gwenyth Paltrow and Marie Condo using some of its simple practices (we’ll get into those shortly) to make their homes healthier, happier and more organized.
The Relationship Between Workplace Wellness and Productivity
When it comes to office wellness, a healthy, happy worker can lead to an increase in overall productivity, whether they belong to a work from home company or they’re operating out of a dedicated space. In fact, a study from the University of Oxford found that workers are 13% more productive when they’re happy.
Prioritizing The Work Environment
With the recent rise in popularity, workplace wellness programs have been gaining ground in terms of prioritization, with offerings like on-site fitness, yoga classes, napping pods, and wellness challenges. The ultimate goal is to engage employees in their own well-being and prioritize self-care and personal health.
And while nobody’s necessarily saying no to a sanctioned midday snooze, a recent study found that employees actually prefer the basics: better air quality, the ability to personalize their workspace, and natural light. So much so that, by a margin of 42% to 28%, employees would rather be able to personalize their work environment than have unlimited vacation.
If given the chance, these employees could trade in their summer trips for a work environment they enjoy all year round. And people who are satisfied with their work environment are also 16% more productive.
Enter: Feng Shui. A time tested tradition that turns your work environment into a place filled with positivity, productivity, cleanliness, and clarity.
Achieving a State of Office Feng Shui
Finding your way with feng shui might seem a little abstract at first, but here are a few practical ways to apply the ancient principles— making your company’s workplace look and feel great to work in.
Incorporating the Five Elements of Feng Shui
There are five elements that attract the energy or “chi” that needs to be balanced to achieve feng shui:
- Wood is used to evoke growth and creativity. Having greenery like trees or plants in the workspace represents this element.
- Fire, the strongest, most powerful element, creates drive, energy, transformation, and expansion. Bringing in the color red or lighting a candle (unless that’s a fire hazard!) can help bring this element into a space.
- Water is linked to inspiration and emotion. Blue items or even a tabletop fountain can represent water in the work environment.
- Earth is an element that signifies strength and stability. It can be evoked with rocks and earth tones that are brown or tan in color. Old books work as well.
- Metal is a key element in feng shui. It unites all other elements and is said to offer focus, order, sharp thinking, and even productivity. Objects that are white, gray, silver, or made of metal represent this element.
Creating an Ergonomic Work Environment
Ergonomics is defined as the science of tailoring a workspace to fit the user’s unique needs. It’s about designing for people, aiming to increase their productivity and decrease their discomfort. With an ergonomic setup, greater emphasis is placed on proper posture and the reduction of repetitive movements that could cause strain in the eyes, neck, back, wrists and other parts of the body.
From the angle of employee computer screens to the height of the desk, the lighting in the room, keyboard placement, chair and monitor selection, it’s important to think about how your team’s physical setups could be impacting their ability to stay healthy and focused over time.
Additionally, taking into account the need for movement breaks throughout the day and striking a balance between sitting and standing (perhaps with a height-adjustable desk) can help your employees fight off the effects of sedentary work behaviors.
General rules of thumb for observing proper ergonomics include:
- Keeping the monitor at arm’s length and at or just below eye level, directly behind the keyboard
- Wrists straight and hands at or below elbow level
- An adjustable chair height, so knees are level with hips and feet rest flat on the floor
- Keeping key objects close to the body (phone, stapler, keyboard, mouse, etc.) to avoid excessive reaching
- Leaving adequate room beneath the desk
- Using a headset or hands-free option when typing or writing
Checking Command Position
One of the most important principles in feng shui is called the “command position.” It’s about how staple pieces of furniture like beds, couches, and desks are positioned in the space.
In the office, the desk is the most essential piece of furniture (makes sense!). The command position of a desk is designed to give the worker a clear, uninterrupted view of the room they’re in. It can be achieved by placing the desk diagonally across from the main door with the worker’s back to the wall. Having visual control over a work realm is said to give the worker more control over the work itself!
Keeping Things Clutter-Free
In feng shui, clutter is said to steal energy. This can certainly be problematic if you and your team are trying to crush things at work.
To help stay organized and rebalance that chi, you can schedule a clutter cleaning session where you label three boxes—In, Out, and I Don’t Know—and place items from cluttered office areas into whichever one applies. Afterward, the In box contents stay, the Out box contents get donated, and the I Don’t Know items can stay in a storage area for six months, upon which they can be revisited to decide whether they’re needed yet. If they’re still not, odds are they never will be.
By keeping things physically clear from clutter, extra mental space can be freed up for your team to stay focused!
Bringing in Natural Light
Fluorescent and yellow-tinted lighting can bring about sluggishness and fatigue. If at all possible, position employee workspaces in an area that offers natural light from windows. If it’s not possible, incandescent or full-spectrum light bulbs are a better way to bring light into the office without going fluorescent.
Enhancing the Air Quality
According to a recent Harvard study, the number one environmental factor cited in a survey of employees was better air quality, with 58% of respondents saying fresh, allergen-free air would improve their wellness.
According to feng shui, if your workspace doesn’t have access to an open window or outdoor space, certain plants can help purify the air:
- Pothos plants are easy to care for, incorporate the feng shui wood element, and can thrive in low to medium light
- Moth orchids release oxygen at night and, according to feng shui, they also invite an “upright and noble” romantic partner into your life. If you’re searching for better air quality and a stable significant other, a moth orchid might be the way to go!
- The snake plant is said to offer protective energy and release oxygen into the air overnight
- Gerbera daisies double as being pretty and purifying the air around them. Their cheerful, colorful flowers are said to remove any energy that is stuck
- A ZZ plant AKA eternity palm is known to survive droughts with its thick, waxy leaves and strong branches
Incorporating Vertical Elements
In feng shui, incorporating vertical shapes and lines into a space represents expansion and growth. It doesn’t necessarily mean installing iron bars all around your employees’ desks (shudder), but adding in some lighting that travels upward, a vertical tree or a tall bookshelf in the corner could help you and your team achieve this particular principle.
Creating Pleasant Sound Energy
From a sensory perspective, pleasant sounds can make a space feel more harmonious in nature. From a feng shui standpoint, they also help move the chi throughout the space. Not all sounds are created equal, though.
Some sounds can be considered noise pollution and should be cut out of the work environment if at all possible:
- Traffic sounds
- Household equipment sounds (furnaces, dishwashers, washing machines, etc.)
- Noisy neighbors
- Loud, harsh or offensive music
- Noise from commercial establishments
Certain pleasant sounds can help cancel out noise pollution and rebalance negative chi:
- Wind chimes
- Gongs or bells
- Flowing water
- White noise
- Uplifting music
- Singing bowls
- Sounds of nature
Adding a Touch of Artwork
Adding art to the workspace is a great way to get some positive chi flowing for you and your team. It’s also a way to incorporate feng shui elements that might be otherwise lacking. For example, if the space is missing the wood element, perhaps think about adding a painting that’s rich in the color green.
In order to maximize the flow of positive energy, putting up the right kind of art is pivotal. Something active or vibrant in the office can help spark productivity and forward movement for everyone on the team.
The distinct walls of the room make a difference as well:
- The North wall represents career and success. A photo or piece of art with the water element can help improve this area (which is pretty important in the workplace!)
- The West wall represents creativity. Anything with abstract expressionism, cubism, or Dadaism is ideal art for this particular wall.
- The East wall represents health and vitality. Art or photos that depict the beauty of nature or life work well here—team photos and anything that depicts happiness and joy.
- Finally, the South wall represents fame and reputation. This area is thought to strengthen or weaken public image. Activate it by hanging art that features the fire element with warm colors and abstract images.
Regardless of the nitty-gritty, the ancient art of feng shui strives to keep things simple.
Achieving a sense of well-being starts with the places where we spend the most time. If you and your team find yourselves sitting (or standing) at your desks more than anywhere else these days, you’re not alone. But by creating an environment that supports everyday wellness, you might just find yourselves more positive, productive, and harmonized than ever.
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