Cubicle Feng Shui

Submitted by SharpMan Editorial Team on Friday 15th October 2010
In this article
  • What is feng shui?
  • Why should guys care?
  • Six easy ways to improve your cubicle.

Is it… Mystical?

Pronounced "fung shway," feng shui can be traced back to China… 6000 years ago. Literally translated as "wind, water," feng shui is the study of man and his relationship to the world around him. The goal is to create a perfect environment in which you have total harmony and balance with nature. In the context of your office cubicle, the goal is to enhance your little work space so that it is more conducive to you being productive.

Feng shui uses five different elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water, to balance our environment. When all of these energies work and flow together in harmony, it creates a space that feels good and seems appealing or inviting. The places where we spend most of our time can affect us poorly if the energy is "constipated" and negative — which can cause us to feel uncomfortable or physically drained.

All right, I know, it sounds like new age malarkey. But, most SharpMen spend an increasingly large amount of time at work — and if that environment is unpleasant, well, then, our whole experience can generally suck. So, without delving too far into the ideas behind the art of feng shui, see below for all you need to turn the average office cubicle into a proverbial energy-filled paradise.

I mean, really, what have you got to lose?

Cubicle Art

In general, the very idea of the cubicle is negative. It often brings to mind words like "slave" and signifies the average SharpMan’s rat-like existence within a small prison of paperwork and computer wires. The cubicle creates an inhibiting environment devoid of privacy, but also fails to keep out distractions. Think about an overhead view of a cubicle-filled office (or "cube farm"): seems like one of those little mazes that they run mice through, doesn’t it?

So how do you change this? The goal is to create an environment that is relaxed, one that will allow you to be creative and free-flowing. You want your cubicle to be more pleasant, in a way that will make it a more effective work space — without creeping out your coworkers and boss. After all, you don’t want to be become known as the "new age cubicle guy." That would be weird.

Check out the following easy steps for transforming your cubicle into a more effective work space through the art of feng shui:

Step One: Take a lunch hour to de-clutter your office. Remove all objects — even office supplies like staplers and tape dispensers that you don’t use more than once per hour. Place these in drawers out of view. They’ll only remind you that you’re in work jail. Also remove outdated schedules and other scraps of paper that you thumb-tacked up on the walls of your cube just to look like you had stuff going on. The key is to open up your space.

Step Two: Chances are that you work on a computer and often spend a lot of time in a chair. Your first goal should be to make the entrance to your space visible. This is often the complete opposite of the way an average chair is oriented, as most of the time people arrange their chairs so that their backs face the entrance to their cubes. Why is this bad? It reflects paranoia. How can a work space be relaxing if you may be surprised from behind at any moment? When you can’t see what is coming, you will instinctively worry about it and not be able to relax and focus on the current task at hand. If it is not possible to face or see the opening to your cubicle by moving your chair around, or if you simply don’t have the option of adjusting your space due to office restrictions or electrical access, then try placing a small mirror in a place that allows you to see the entrance to your cube while working.

Step Three: Although it may not seem to be related to the design of your cube, make a short list of your work and personal goals. For example, jot down "improve work quality" or "receive raise" or "move to next level." Just go with us, here. The changes you make to your cube will be based on reinforcing those goals that you’d like to achieve. Choose to focus on one or two goals at a time. Then mentally commit yourself to following through on these goals.

Step Four: Get a regular old compass and find the four major directions within your cubicle. Mark them on Post-Its®. Now match your goals to the following feng shui design concepts:

  • North Corner. The color of north is black, its element is water and its animal is the dependable turtle. "Enhance" the north part of your cube if you are looking for overall business success and growth. Do this by enhancing the visual prominence of this corner with the color black, adding a small water feature (although you are treading remarkably close to the "new age cubicle guy" label).
  • East. The color of the east is green, its element is wood and its animal is the dragon. "Enhance" the east part of your cube for business growth and personal health. Do this by enhancing the visual prominence of this corner with the color green, by adding a plant or wooden object.
  • South. The color of the south is red, its element is fire and its animal is the phoenix. "Enhance" the south part of your cube if you desire fame and fortune. Do this by enhancing the visual prominence of this corner with the color red or a figurine of a phoenix.
  • West. The color of the west is white, its element is metal and its animal is the fierce tiger. "Enhance" the west part of your cube to improve your personal creativity and overall self worth. Do this by enhancing the visual prominence of this corner with the color white or a metal object.

The key is to determine which direction(s) best matches your goals and visually enhance that corner of your cube with its corresponding color, element or animal.

Step Five: Now take a look at your cube again. Is there anything else that would make you find the space more pleasing? A plant? Better lighting? A picture of your car? If the things that you see make you relax, then you will be more likely to relax enough to focus on your work.

Step Six: Now the reality check. There’s no magic associated with feng shui. Meeting your goals is up to you. What feng shui does do is help you create an environment that is more conducive to feeling more comfortable and therefore more focused on your goals.

On the other hand, feng shui should act as a mere base from which you can develop ideas of your own on how to create a productive work space. If the feng shui plans don’t work for you, then throw them out and try it your way.

You need to feel good about the space in which you spend nine to twelve hours out of your day. So do whatever is necessary to make your little part of the maze a bit more pleasant. Before you know it, the other rats may be finding their way to you.

This article last updated on Friday 15th October 2010
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