Practiced for at least 2,000 years in China, feng shui is the art of arranging your surroundings in a way that optimizes the flow of energy, thus promoting health, good luck, abundance, and well-being.
A Westernized version of this practice became popular in the U.S. during the 1980s; since then, this Westernized version of the ancient art has influenced how many people plan their spaces, including where they work. Feng shui has many different schools and forms, offering different philosophies about how to organize space for optimum spiritual benefit, along with earthly happiness and success.
After decades of growing interest, there are now professional consultants who will optimize your office building or your workspace based on a variety of applications and practices. No matter which type of feng shui you or your consultant subscribe to, the most basic tenet entails reducing clutter and arranging objects—furniture, plants, objects—in a way that allows qi, or energy, to flow unhindered.
“In a space where there are too many objects and clutter, the qi energy cannot flow and provide support or nourishment for the space,” Dr. Kac Young, author of Feng Shui the Easy Way, and a feng shui consultant, told The FruitGuys Magazine. “Think of a water hose that is clogged; the water cannot flow through it freely.”
According to Young, utilizing feng shui principles in an office space creates the opposite effect. “[It] allows creative energy to flow,” she says. “Shared space is enhanced and valued, and productivity increases because there isn’t anything blocking the energy.”
Young also notes that feng shui principles can scale from the largest to the smallest spaces. “You can feng shui a city just as well as you feng shui your desk.”
Four Feng Shui Steps
Here are four simple Western Feng Shui steps you can use to open up the energy flow within your home office or workspace, whether it’s a large open-office concept, cubicle, or private office suite.
1. Pay Attention to Light and Air
According to feng shui principles, light and air are needed for balance and energy, so allow as much natural sunlight into your space as possible. Reduce the use of curtains, blinds or other obstructions—keep furniture from blocking windows, for instance—and bring in plants, which can both help purify the air and add a pleasing design element.
2. Place Your Desk in the “Power Position”
Consider the position of your desk from a metaphorical, as well as a physical perspective. Ideally, you want something solid to “have your back,” so if possible, position your chair so that there is a wall behind you (not a window or other furniture). If the space won’t allow it, try to use a high-backed chair, which will help you look and feel supported. The ideal position is one with a view of both a door and a window, so aim for that, if possible.
3. Add Stripes and Color
Horizontal shapes are said to hold supportive energy in place, so try adding design elements that include stripes or hanging horizontal art. While you’re at it, mix in colors that relate to your focus. Black, for instance, relates to money, green relates to growth (yet another reason to add plants to the décor), and earth tones add calmness. See if you can mix and match colors and shapes for the perfect balance that supports your goals.
For more on the meaning of different colors in feng shui, check out this guide from The Spruce.
Finally, go for a literal flow with a water feature, ideally, a small fountain. Water adds to the circulation of qi. If a fountain isn’t feasible, try a fish bowl, or a vase with flowers that you change out regularly.
On a basic level, modern feng shui involves thinking about how we interact with our environment, while creating spaces that will maximize positive energy and productivity. There are clear parallels with good design elements, and even desk ergonomics, even though feng shui has deeper spiritual roots. If we believe that our surroundings have a direct influence on our mood, our outlook, and our ability to get things done, then it’s worth making space and taking the time to learn even the basics of feng shui.
Additional Feng Shui Resources:
- Feng Shui Office Design to Increase Your Prosperity – from the Udemy blog
- The Feng Shui Society – a UK-based organization and information resource
Jonanna Widner lives in Portland, OR, where she writes about sports, music, travel, and fitness.