When Anthony Minko was designing his new office in Brooklyn, the estate planning attorney knew that it needed to feel calm and supportive.
After all, a place where people talked about what will happen after they die should feel secure.
So Minko — who had studied the spend idly slow martial art tai chi — hired RD Chin, a New-York based feng shui architect.
“The whole process started with our values in the law firm,” Minko said said, “how we care about keeping families together across the generations, where grandparents can come with children and grandchildren.”
“What surprised me was how practical the feng shui principles were,” he said.
Literally translating as wind-water from Chinese, feng shui has been practiced for at least 1700 years in Asia before becoming popular in the US in the 1980s.
Chin, whose lectures are on YouTube, argues that everybody can sense feng shui — it’s simply the how-it-feels quality of being in a place. If you feel inspired, creative, and capable in an office, then it’s got some positive feng shui going on, but if you feel trapped, blocked, and insecure, then it’s some poor feng shui, and your productivity will suffer as a result.
Vancouver-based feng shui consultant Rodika Tchi said that feng shui is “acupuncture for a space,” a way of increasing the sense of harmony in a room.
So how can we use these principles to improve our work spaces? Here are some tips from Chin and Tchi:
Pay attention to the quality of air.
“In most businesses, somehow we overlook the quality of air,” Tschi said, because “we get used to poor quality air very quickly.”
“Any business can have plants,” she said.
It doesn’t require anything new agey, you don’t need to run out and buy a set of healing crystals.
“Just to starting to pay attention to the air will do wonders,” Tchi said. “You have to be aware of what you’re inhaling, what you’re feeding your brain.”
Then improve your light.
“Light is nutrition,” Tchi said.
Most of us are malnourished.
Because while direct sunlight gives you 100,000 lux, or units of luminance, office lighting only provides around 500 lux.
The solution — beyond going for a walk — is to install “full spectrum” lights in your office, which are more nourishing than fluorescent lights, which have been shown to make you feel less alert and screw with your quality of sleep.
If you can’t control the overhead lights, then add a nice incandescent to your desk.
If possible, give your desk a “commanding position.”
In feng shui, the commanding position is where you have your back to the wall and your face to the door, so you know who’s coming and going.
“You want to position your desk so that you feel very safe, very protected,” Chin said. “You want to position your desk so you can see out the window and see who’s in front of you. People coming behind you creates a lot of distraction — you can get the feeling of being attacked, feeling of someone looking over your shoulder.”
And something to look at.
“You reduce stress by looking out the window,” Chin said, “because physiologically your eyes relax when you look out into the distance. That’s why you feel so great looking at the ocean — you can see a long, almost infinite distance into the horizon.”
So the obvious application is to make sure you can see out your window. If you don’t have ready access to a window, then make a window to another world: put a painting or a photo on your wall so you can stare “into the distance.” If you work in a windowless space, put a mirror up, since Chin said it will expand the space.
For managers, taking care of feng shui is way of investing in your team.
“Ideally, a successful business has people who are energized,” Tchi said, “and there’s no way to have that unless you have a space that supports that energy. You can use feng shui to support that human well-being, creativity, and talent. If you put people in a space that has no light, no colour, no images, you can’t expect that energy from them.”