The Realistic Way To Feng Shui Your Office Desk
> Feng shui is an ancient Chinese practice to promote positive energy
These days, with all the bullshit going on at work, home and the world in general, we could all benefit from some positivity and good vibes.
As kids and even today as adults, many of us will do a little something to boost our chances of good luck and fortune.
Blow out birthday candles.
Knock on wood.
Cross your fingers.
Wish upon a shooting star.
Throw coins into a fountain.
See a penny, pick it up.
Find a four leaf clover.
Read a Chinese fortune cookie.
What do all of these little things have in common?
They all provide a sense of hope for better outcomes in life and a chance to improve our current situations.
These superstitions have become as much a part of everyday life as logical, reasonable rituals like brushing our teeth.
Superstitions create a form of ritual.
We say ‘bless you’ without thinking whenever someone sneezes. It’s an automatic verbal reflex. Why do people need to be “blessed” when they sneeze? It’s weird, right? But, everyone pretty much does it. It’s part of social norms.
Engaging in rituals gives us comfort and helps us to feel in control.
Take your favorite sports star, for example. Chances are they have a specific set of actions they take before a big game, whether it’s Michael Jordan wearing his lucky shorts or Serena Williams bouncing the ball 5 times before her first serve.
There’s no way you would catch any of these athletes playing without completing their good luck ritual first. It helps to set their mental state of mind.
In addition to the element of ritual, superstitions that center around good luck inspire positivity in us. They create a feeling that the odds are in our favor, boosting our mood.
Studies have even shown that superstitious beliefs can affect performance - in one study, people with lucky charms performed better in an exam than those whose lucky charms were taken away.
So, how can we use rituals or superstitions to inject some positivity into our work environment?
Don’t worry, we’re not about to suggest any wacky ideas like spinning around in your office chair four times every morning. You’ll just end up barfing up breakfast.
There’s a form of bringing luck and even sparking joy that can be done easily at work and beyond the initial setup, it won’t take up much of your time.
Introduction to Feng Shui
Feng shui (pronounced “fung shway”) is an ancient Chinese practice of designing a space in a particular way so that qi (pronounced “chee”) or energy flows smoothly, promoting prosperity, good health, and general well-being.
It has been popular in China for thousands of years. However, in the west, the concept of feng shui is less well-known or applied in daily life.
With the recent success of Marie Kondo and her “Tidying Up” philosophy, the idea of harnessing positive energy through organization has revitalized interest in feng shui to a new generation.
If you’ve heard of feng shui before (or haven’t), it probably conjures up images of Chinese witchcraft and repositioning furniture in seemingly the most awkward positions.
But it’s so much more than that. In China, it can even dictate how entire buildings are designed and built.
Before you freak out, you don’t have to go to those lengths. You can apply the fundamental principles of feng shui at varying levels from the smallest little desk accessory to decorating and rearranging your entire office space.
When it comes to upping your positive vibes at work, feng shui offers some simple, affordable ideas for creating a workspace where you can feel happy, calm and focused.
So, how do you get started with feng shui?
It’s all about analyzing your space and adapting it to attract specific energies and keep negativity at bay.
But it’s much more than just having a spring clean.
As a system steeped in ancient wisdom that has been passed down from generation to generation, there’s a specific system in place and rules to follow.
It can get pretty confusing if you’re new to it. But thankfully, there are three main tools which can give you a basic understanding of feng shui; the bagua, the five elements and cures.
A) The Bagua
The bagua - which means eight areas - are the most important areas of your life, which you want to protect and create abundance for using feng shui.
The 8 bagua are:
1) Health & Family
2) Wealth & Abundance
3) Fame & Reputation
4) Love & Marriage
5) Creativity & Children
6) Helpful People & Blessings
7) Career & Path In Life
8) Spiritual Growth & Cultivation
When using feng shui, people divide the space in terms of the ideal directional placement of certain things - be it a bed, desk, room, house or garden.
Here’s a traditional visual representation of the bagua:
You’ll notice that the south is at the top and north is at the bottom. This is because China is in the northern hemisphere and you typically look south toward the sun. As such, the south end should face the sun or “fire” element.
Each section relates to one of the bagua and your targeted items should be located in that particular compass direction for ideal results.
This will determine what kind of things are put in the space and in what location. For example, the love & marriage bagua is in the southwest corner of the space (top right hand corner of the image above).
So, someone who follows feng shui principles would make sure their photos and items relating to their significant other are in the southwest corner of each room.
Now, for most of us, our workspaces are small areas, not rooms. So, just know that the eight areas can be simplified and tailored to “fit” in your cubicle or work area.
Don’t put yourself under the notion that you need to represent all eight of these in your cubicle. In fact, for a lot of us, we barely have room for just our chair and a wastebasket, so we’d be lucky to be able to consider one or two out of the eight.
B) The 5 Elements
Feng shui acknowledges the importance of the five elements (yes, five) and uses them to attract and manage different energies into a space.
Each element has associated objects and colors to help you apply them in your feng shui.
Candles, lights, paintings with the associated colors
Red, strong yellow, orange, purple and pink
Terracotta pots, ceramics
Light yellow, orange & earthy colors
Metal objects, things with a metallic finish
White, grey & pastel colors
Fish tank, mirrors, fountains
Black & dark colors
Plants, sculptures, wooden objects
Green & brown
Now, if you’re going full-on feng shui, each of the baguas (mentioned above) thrives with different elements. You would go a level deeper and combine the bagua and the element to decide what kind of things to put in a space.
So, using our example above, you would know that the love & marriage bagua needs the earth element.
So, maybe the picture with your partner would be in a light yellow ceramic frame.
And you’d add a rose quartz crystal in a terracotta pot.
All in the top right corner of your desk.
And replace the image every 3rd full moon.
But who has time for all that nonsense?!
Here’s the good news - you can still get some positive energy flowing through your workspace with a few simple tips and the help of some feng shui cures. We explain more about this further down.
Let’s move to the third and final tool of the set.
C) Feng Shui Cures
When deciding what items to have in your space, feng shui cures are believed to be particularly good at creating and directing positive energy.
Crystals - different crystals have different properties associated with them - rose quartz for love, turquoise for creativity - but all crystals are believed to bring sunlight and good energy into a space.
Fountains and water - ever wonder why there’s an aquarium in pretty much any southeast Asian restaurant you go to? They’re a brilliant cure to attract wealth and prosperity.
Mirrors - they are believed to activate, circulate, expand and direct the flow of qi.
Spiritual symbols - whether it’s a little Buddha or an angel statue, these symbols bring obvious positive vibes to any room.
Time to Feng The Shui Out Of Your Desk!
All of the above may sound confusing and intimidating...not to mention time consuming!
But you really can get some of the benefits of feng shui without getting a degree in the ancient Chinese arts.
And, there’s no need to get neck-deep into all the details, nuances, rules and formalities. You don’t have the time or mental capacity for that right now.
Our aim is to give you the most basic and helpful feng shui set-up that you can realistically do at work. There’s no need to rearrange office furniture or renovate the space. You can’t do either of those at work anyway.
Just follow these simple tips below and your workspace will look nicer, feel better and give you the space to work in a positive environment.
The ultimate goal is to drum up more of the good flowing energy so that you feel happy AND productive at work, NOT stressed and burned out.
1. Clean & Clear Your Desk
This is pretty obvious and doesn’t belong only in the feng shui arena. It’s something that we should all do consistently, day-in and day-out.
This study published by the University of Chicago showed that a messy desk reduces productivity and leads to feelings of not being in control. Thus, leading to more self-generated stress.
We’re all guilty of letting stacks of paper pile up on our desks. A paperless office? Ha! No chance.
We’re also bad about keeping things around “just in case” when really, we should throw them out.
To start attracting good energy, clear out all the clutter - drawers too! And, most importantly, maintain a clean-n-clear space within your main working area.
Feng shui recommends that you keep your desk clear by tidying up at the end of every day. In fact, it’s a great end of the day ritual to help you mentally and emotionally disconnect from work. It’s a great way to leave the bullshit of work at work and not bring it home with you.
But when you’re starting from scratch and your desk looks like garbage dumpster, it can be intimidating and difficult to know where to start.
We wrote a useful article to help you declutter and organize your desk here. It goes into detail about how “less mess” results in “less stress” at work can really help.
Here’s the short version.
Step 1: Figure out what you actually use. That hole puncher you’ve used twice in the last year doesn’t need a prime position on your desk.
Step 2: Divide and conquer. You don’t need to tidy up everything all at once! Go section by section and don’t forget about the dark underworld beneath your desk too.
Step 3: Sort and purge. Have piles for trash, recycling, things to keep and things to give away. The piles help to quickly sort all the craziness.
Step 4: Remove everything and deep clean - including your nasty keyboard which has all sorts of gross finger droppings, dust, food bits, etc. Blast it with a compressed air duster.
Step 5: Return and replace only the most used and important items and organize them neatly on your desk. Put away the rest in your drawers and/or cabinets. For the stuff you don’t use or need - get rid of them.
2. Clean The Air
As well as being an essential part of feng shui, purifying the air around us is obviously good for our wellbeing.
This study by the EPA shows that in certain circumstances indoor air can be up to five times worse than outside air.
As well as the same pollutants we encounter outdoors, indoor air has added nasties such as chemicals from cleaning products, our computers and equipment and building materials.
And, during the winter months, when everyone is hacking, coughing and sneezing at work, we feel as though the office air is just recirculating all that nastiness everywhere.
This poor quality air can negatively affect our concentration and work performance.
But hauling a giant air purifier into the office might not be such a good look.
Instead, you can invest in an air purifying plant.
There are many different varieties of indoor plants that can help to purify the air around you. But, we wanted to really narrow things down and make it super easy for you.
We like indoor plants that have the following qualities:
- Low maintenance
- Requires minimal water
- Low sunlight or just indoor lighting
- Tolerates dry air and varying temps
- Did we say, low maintenance?
Here are two air purifying plants that meet the above criteria and that you can pick up at nearly any garden store in your neighborhood.
Also known by the insanely cool names Viper’s Bowstring Hemp and Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, the snake plant is a smart looking plant with long, clean cut leaves. It’s the neat-freak’s desk plant.
They can easily survive low levels of sunlight and minimal water, making them a perfect plant for even the most neglectful gardener.
The spider plant, also known as St. Bernard’s Lily and Airplane Plant, is a more free-form growing plant where the leaves grow out in all directions.
These plants need moderate indirect sunlight and only need occasional watering. They do grow quickly however, so they might need re-potting every year or so.
3. Assume The Power Position
In feng shui, there is a belief that you should always assume a commanding position.
This basically means that you should be facing the entrance at all times. The belief is that by positioning yourself like this, you will then be ready to face whatever comes your way, both literally and metaphorically.
On a practical level, it’s always useful to be able to see your boss coming up to your desk - especially if you just happen to be taking a “break” on Facebook.
But in an office, you rarely get much say on where you sit or the positioning of your desk. You just can’t unbolt your cubicle from the floor and reposition it.
So, how do you assume the commanding position if you’re stuck in a corner, facing a wall?
Feng shui is great at giving unrealistic, over the top rules to follow but it’s equally as good at giving simple workarounds. Remember, the cures we mentioned earlier?
In our example of not being able to reposition your desk, the work around solution is to get a small mirror and position it so you can see the entrance, or at the very least, see directly behind you.
This gives you approximately 3 seconds to close your browser before your boss appears behind you - no more sneak attacks!
As well as being good feng shui, being able to see what’s going on around you will help you feel relaxed at your desk and mirrors will help your cubicle feel more spacious.
4. Does This Spark Joy?
Now that your cubicle is tidy and your air is clean, it’s time to add the personal touches. This is the fun stuff where you can add a few sentimental or meaningful things to bring smiles and happiness out from you.
We’ll touch on a few here.
Though the lighting in your office is probably adequate, adding your own personal source of light can add a decorative touch to your cubicle.
For example, a Himalayan Salt Lamp offers a warm light while looking like a fancy art piece.
According to feng shui, this should go in the southeast corner of your desk as this is the Wealth bagua - but any location will brighten up your desk!
In addition to lighting, you can add any number of the feng shui cures mentioned above.
Add objects that will spark joy and happiness - a photo of your family or pets, a beautiful painting or a crystal.
And don’t forget to make use of what you already have. Adding an awe-inspiring or relaxing wallpaper image to your computer screen or printing up an inspiring quote for your cubicle wall or cabinet are quick and easy ways to bring in some positivity.
For a bit of guidance, refer to the bagua and make sure you have something for at least one or two areas on your desk - the more the better but don’t let it get to the point where it’s cluttering your desk or workspace. At that point, it’s counter-productive.
Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Health & Family: a family portrait
- Wealth & Abundance: a citrine crystal (said to attract wealth)
- Fame & Reputation: your business cards in a metal holder
- Love & Marriage: something heart-shaped, like a pen holder
- Creativity & Children: your notebook to capture thoughts and ideas
- Helpful People & Blessings: gratitude notes from yourself or others
- Career & Path in Life: a motivational quote as your computer wallpaper
- Spiritual Growth & Cultivation: an air purifying plant
And if you can, keep the five elements in mind and use different materials/colors for each cure in order to represent them.
If you can be bothered to that is…
Otherwise, no harm done - don’t sweat it.
Watch this short video below for additional “real-world” things you can do at your desk to get and keep the positive energy flowing.
VIDEO: Feng Shui Your Desk For Increased Productivity, Focus & Effectiveness
> Visible things plus the invisible Qi are keys to focus and productivity
> Keep things clean and clear to minimize frustration and stress
> Comfortable and proper ergonomics will promote positive flow
The key here is to just create a workspace that provides happy and productive vibes to get your work mojo on. It’s as simple and straightforward as that.
There’s no need to overcomplicate things - simple is good.
So, here’s what it all boils down to:
1. Clean and clear your desk
2. Add an air purifying plant
3. Add rearview mirror (if needed)
4. Sprinkle just a few bits of joy on top
See? Not that complicated.
When your workspace has a positive vibe to it, it’s flowing with you rather than fighting against you. And that’s the name of the game, folks.
Let The Qi Flow
On average, each of us will spend about a third of our lives at work. That’s a pretty long time to be in an environment that doesn’t promote wellbeing.
Using the principles of feng shui, we can revamp our cubicles and improve our wellbeing, concentration and productivity.
Just as finding a four leaf clover or throwing coins into the fountain brings a smile to your face, arriving at your cubicle each morning can be a positive experience.
You don’t have to be a feng shui fanatic in order to see how these simple tips can improve your working life. Even just taking action on a couple of these ideas, like putting a small plant on your desk or sticking a small happy post-it note your monitor, will be enough to trigger happiness and good feelings.
If everything is energy, it’s not superstitious to place importance on channeling and keeping positive vibes around us. It’s smart!
Do these cubicle improvements and you can be sure that the positive qi will flow all around you without having to wait until your birthday or spot a shooting star.