As our homes become, for many of us, our places of work, rethinking the spaces we reserve for working becomes more important.
Enter Feng Shui, a 3000-year-old philosophy that is all about introducing positive Chi (or energy) into the home. Although its connection to the home has always been part of its history, it’s more recently appeared in the world of work. A famous example being the office building at 22 Bishopsgate in the City of London, for which Feng Shui ‘Grandmaster’ Dato Joey Yap was consulted on to improve wellbeing and concentration of its occupant workers.
For home workers there are many possibilities to introduce Feng Shui into your environment. But where to start?
“Feng Shui has been described as ‘doing the right thing in the right place at the right time’,” says Zoe Vita James, who runs her own consultancy in Feng Shui.
Although Feng Shui (literally, ‘wind, water’) is a very personalised practice – Zoe advises each client based on their birth dates and the work they do – there are fundamental principles and theories that anyone can adopt to change their workspace.
“I often describe Feng Shui as a mechanism for harnessing nature’s Qi (energy to you and me) to bring about harmony in your environment and in your own Qi composition that you were born with,” she says.
Schedule your day to the sun
In the office, our working day was automatic as the hands of the clock, beginning at 9am and ending at 5pm. But a recent study suggests that the average worker is productive for just two hours and 53 minutes!
In Feng Shui, it’s believed that each individual has their optimum times of day for productivity, depending on their Qi and the work they do.
But Zoe says we can all aim to work with natural light to schedule tasks. “Use the early morning light to inspire your creative and aspirational tasks,” she suggests.
“Use the mid-afternoon to evening light for ‘taking stock’ activities; similar to a cashier counting the day’s takings before closing, it’s the ideal time for calculative and analytical types of work.”
Adopt the power position
Now consider where you work in the house. We all know the feeling of sitting in the ‘wrong’ place, for example with our backs to a corridor or door.
“Placing your desk in the Feng Shui ‘power’ position is really important – have a wall or solid furniture behind you, and not an open door,” says Zoe.
This helps to feel powerful and confident, which is even more important when working virtually: “You may otherwise find that you are being kept out of the loop in the virtual office goings on, or even an unfavourable subject of them.”
Lack of a home office space isn’t a barrier necessarily. Zoe recommends that those short of space use a collapsible desk and move it to a favoured position in the home. It also helps to define the boundaries which can blur for home workers – a key risk factor for stress.
“Setting it up in the morning and tucking it away at the end of the day also helps give a sense of purpose to your working day. It also guarantees your ‘desk’ is clutter free,” she says.
Elementary, my dear Watson
Finding your element requires a bit of detective work and here’s where it gets interesting. Does your job make you a metal, water, wood, fire or earth kind of person? Once you know this, you can build a workspace to support you in your job and goals.
For example, Zoe explains that metal is related to precision, accuracy, engineering and analytical skills. “If these are important to your work, you need to encourage the Metal energy,” she says. “Use metallic colours including white and grey, metal desk furniture, accessories and art, and circular shapes.”
Water represents communication. “If talking and communicating is a big part of your job, the element Water will support this,” she says. “Encourage Water Qi by using the colour black, images of water, as well as placing a bowl of water refreshed daily near your desk. I also recommend wearing something black, even if just black socks!”
Business leaders might like to know that fire is an element that will help cultivate power and standing. “If promotion, being visible and in the spotlight is important to you, encourage the Fire Qi.
“Take coffee breaks in the sunshine, and go outside to meet people, ideally around midday when the Fire Qi prevails,” she continues.
Changing shape of homes and offices
A recent report from McKinsey suggests that 80 percent of the office could be converted into collaboration rooms as people use the office as a place of meeting and their home for concentrated computer work.
Recently leaving her full-time job at PricewaterhouseCoopers to focus on her Feng Shui business, Zoe sees a growth in discerning home workers who are wanting to invest more in their environment.
“You want your workspace to support and benefit your professional success and wellbeing,” says Zoe.
“It’s likely you’ll likely be spending a good number of hours there each day.”
Zoe Vita James is a classically trained Feng Shui practitioner, who brings to the practice empathy and precision from her science and business backgrounds.
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