The literal translation of Feng shui is “wind” (feng) and water (“shui”) in Chinese. In design, it refers to the art of arranging living and working spaces for harmony and balance. The point is to maximize the flow of positive energy in a space. At the deeper levels is complex minutiae. At broader levels, we find useful, connective arrangement advice that makes a lot of sense.
In an office, the point of feng shui is to arrange furniture based on a room’s natural flow of energy. That gets done by using colors, materials, and layout to enhance a room’s ambiance.
Feng Shui overview
Feng Shui started in China around 3,000 years ago as a way to position graves. It was important to site graves so they were not affected by floods, typhoons, or high winds. Today, feng shui design tactics are staples across the Asia-Pacific region. People practice feng shui design in Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Compass reading fundemantals
Feng Shui planning starts by getting a sense of a room’s ying-yang balance. After that, the goal is to get compass readings.
Yin represents a dark, feminine, receptive principle. Yang is light, masculine, and active. Within interior spaces, the goal is to balance the two energies.
A Feng Shui Compass interacts with the Earth’s magnetic field. It has an inner ring made of eight trigrams (ba-gua). These symbolize the natural world: Heaven, Earth, Fire, Water, Lake, Mountain, Wind, Thunder. Each side of the eight-sided map corresponds to an area of life experience.
You could also use a phone app or regular compass, and then reference the feng shui one. The gist is to take readings to determine which cardinal direction they face.
The four basic directions are north, east, south, and west. That splits into eight directions (north, northeast, east, southeast, south, southwest, west, northwest).
The eight directions split further into 24 mountains. These divide 360 degrees by 24 points. Each of the 8 basic directions divide into three ranges. As a result, you have , South 1, South 2, South 3, North 1, North 2, North 3, etc.
Summary: use a compass to determine the cardinal directions of your room’s front door, your desk, windows, and furniture. Use that data as a guide to balance energies governing peace of mind, clarity of thought, and happiness.
Five feng shui elements
Summary of the five elements in feng shui:
- Wood: harnesses the power of creativity and expansion. It represents traits like growth, strength, flexibility, and intuition. Too much wood makes a person rigid, stubborn, and inflexible. Too little can show up as apathy, depression, or a lack of creativity.
- Fire: boosts enthusiasm and leadership skills. Incorporate fire elements to encourage bold expressiveness and inspiration. Too much fire manifests as anger, aggression, and impulsive behavior. Too little shows as emotional coldness and a lack of self-esteem.
- Earth: makes people feel grounded, balanced, and stable. Too much earth yields boredom, seriousness, and sluggishness. Too little breeds a lack of focus and chaos.
- Metal: affects mental clarity and logic. It promotes organization, focus, and analytical prowess. Too much makes a person overly chatty and critical. Too little generates cautiousness and a lack of focus.
- Water: influences spirituality and emotions. In balance, water brings inspiration, wisdom, and insightfulness. Too much can create overly social energy and a feeling of emotional drowning. Too little encourages a lack of sympathy, loneliness, isolation, and pettiness.
With an understanding of the 5 elements in mind, the next step is to balance the elements in each room.
Balancing the five elements
A key point in Feng shui is to keep the elements in balance. Each piece in your office represents an element. Everything in heaven and on earth is a constant interplay among the five elements. In an office, a balanced blend of all five elements creates a harmonious environment. Achieve balance by applying nurturing, controlling, or reducing principles.
For instance, fire nurtures earth. After fire burns, the resulting ashes add more earth crust. Metal nurtures water by containing it in vessels.
For controlling elements, fire controls metal by melting it. Wood controls earth by planting roots. Earth controls water with dams and dikes. Water controls fire by extinguishing it.
In the reducing cycle, fire burns wood. Water corrodes metal. Metal gets mined out of the earth. Earth suffocates fire.
Clean and de-clutter
The end goal of feng shui is to increase happiness. Begin the process by ensuring a clean office space free of clutter. Start by clearing any clutter off the floor. Do the same on your desktop. Give your computer, keyboard, screens, and desktop a good wipedown.
After that, set a goal of starting every workday at a freshly-cleaned desk.
Desk towards the door
Make sure you have a good desk. Wood is ideal because it is natural and sturdy. The main positioning point is to arrange the desk to face the main entrance of a room. That is a power position that stimulates energies of success. In contrast, sitting with your back to the door raises anxious and vulnerable energies.
In a room with windows, try to avoid sitting with a window in front or behind you. A window in front makes your energy and attention flow past your desk and out the window. In a similar fashion, a window behind you lets chi exit, creating a sense of unrest.
Colors depend on what kind of work you are doing. For example, an accountant should choose soothing colors that promote focus. In contrast, a designer could choose pastels that inspire creativity. Green represents growth. Black represents the water element that is connected with money. Purple represents mental clarity. If you feel stressed, choose earth tones.
Dark Yin energy is intimate, quiet energy symbolized by the moon and nighttime. Yang energy is lively, social, energy symbolized by the sun and daytime. An office that is too dark will have too much yin energy.
Light represents the fire element and is the strongest manifestation of energy. As a result, your choice of office lighting has a strong influence on the quality of your chi.
Different rooms have unique energies. The bedroom is calming and soothing, the kitchen energetic and bright. In most cases, an office space should focus on creativity and productivity.
One of the easiest ways to add a feng shui touch is to add fresh air and natural light. If not possible to open windows, add plants to help clean the stale air. Areca Palms, Lady Palms, and Rubber Plant are good air cleaners.
Sound energy comes from vibrations that travel through air, water, or matter. The transmissions produce physical and mechanical energy that one can hear and feel. These vibrations affect the energy balance within your working space, mind, and body.
Creating pleasant sounds makes a space feel more harmonious from a sensory perspective. That helps chi energy flow more easily.
Noise pollution has a negative effect. Loud neighbors, traffic sounds, construction, or even a loud conversation can shatter concentration.
If noise is a problem, one option is to drown it out with pleasant sounds. For instance, bells, wind chimes, and water fountains are popular feng shui options.
A more modern option is noise-canceling headphones playing white noise or nature sounds. Ocean waves, rainfall, or wind rushing through trees can drown out unwanted noise.
Spending time in nature reduces stress and produces a sense of calm. Listening to the sounds of nature as music usually has the same effect.
Feng Shui is a 3000-year-old practice that can be as complicated as you want it to be. Many hobbyists and scholars can spend decades poring over the finer points.
For desk workers, feng shui is a means to an end. The point of adopting feng shui is to promote a balanced flow of positive energy through a workspace. At the most basic level, there are only a few essentials to keep in mind:
- Maintain a clean office space that is free of clutter.
- Keep your desk clean and clear of clutter.
- Position your desk facing towards the room’s main entrance.
- Avoid working directly in front of or behind a window.
- Open windows to flow fresh air into the room. Add plants to help clean the air.
- If outside noises are a distraction, override them white white noise or nature sounds.