How to create the ideal office
Either your office space can be a practical, useful space or it can be a healthy, creative, inspiring place that nurtures and supports you. According to Anthony Ashworth, feng shui and vastu consultant and former corporate interior designer, even a very minor improvement in the quality of the work environment can increase the levels of productivity and staff retention and decrease the levels of absenteeism. Additionally, improving your office environment might even enhance your health as well as your relationships with co-workers.
Whether you work from home or in an office away from home, you can implement tips from the ancient knowledge of vastu and feng shui to create your ideal office space.
Your office in relation to your bedroom: If you work from home, feng shui consultant Rodika Tchi suggests having your home office as far from your bedroom as possible. “If the layout of your house allows it, having a separate entry to your home office is ideal.” If this is not possible, create as much separation as you can between your office and your bedroom.
The ideal position: From a vastu perceptive, Ashworth recommends the northwest area of your home as the best place for your office. Here, the element of air is dominant, which strongly correlates to the intellect and energises the space. The element of air is about change and movement, decreasing your chances of getting bogged down, inspiring and propelling you to move forward and make changes in the world. Of course, this is especially useful if self-motivation is an issue for you.
The southeast can also be a good area for an office because here the element of fire is predominant, which is related to passion and focus. In commercial businesses, the best place for the boss’s office is in the southwest because whoever resides here is typically in charge.
The direction your desk faces: While the direction you face when sitting at your desk is important, vastu stresses the greater importance of your relationship to the windows and doors. It’s best to be able to see the door of the room and, if possible, to have a solid wall behind you. However, if your back is facing the door, there are a few things you can do to negate the negative effects. Use a chair with a high back for support and protection and hang a small mirror in your work space to help pick up any movement behind you.
If you have the choice, the best direction to face is east, the direction of the rising sun. This brings with it qualities of enlightenment, inspiration, passion, drive and focus. The next best direction to face is north, from where all positive physical energies flow, bringing abundance.
Whenever possible, position your desk in what feng shui calls the “commanding position”, ie the spot furthest from the door and not in direct line with it but diagonally across from and facing it. This will enable you to attract stronger and more successful energies to your work area. It’s also better not to be facing a wall while at your desk, because it blocks and restricts your energy, but if you have no choice, then you could make use of a wall mural or a row of lush tall plants to “vanish” the wall as much as possible, transforming it from a barrier to an inspirational wall.
Best and worst colours: The office is one of the few rooms in which Ashworth says the use of grey is OK as it’s good for the intellect, but be warned — it has the propensity to bring on or exacerbate depression. Good colours for the office include grounding but not-too-dark earthy colours, or whites with a slight touch of earth in them. Blue can also be good because there is a lot of movement and the element of water in this colour, which brings about wealth. Red, while not so great for an office itself, is useful in a reception area because the element of fire and life force creates vibrancy and energy.
When decorating your office, think of what images, colours and meaningful memorabilia and decor you could include that will help you feel inspired and uplifted. If you work from home, you’ll probably have more freedom to express your creativity; if not, there are other subtle ways of expressing your creativity, such as including certain pictures, photographs or colourful images in your workspace. Allow your office to reflect the energy you want to project into the world.
The importance of air and light: If your brain’s hungry for oxygen and your body’s not getting enough natural light, you won’t enjoy being in your office no matter how much you love your job.
Plants are excellent for improving the air. Not only do they bring another living being into the environment, they also produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide and pollutants. “Actually, it’s not just the plants that are doing all the good work,” says Ashworth, “but more the microbes in the soil, so having big plants in big pots with good soil in them can really help in reducing the toxins in the air.” Pollutants include emissions from synthetic fabrics, furnishings, paints, glues and computer terminals.
Research by NASA showed that indoor plants increased humidity in offices with fixed windows, where breathing dry air produced by air-conditioning systems can cause respiratory and other health problems. Great plants to have in your office include:
- Areca palm: great for removing indoor air toxins and the best of the plants tested for removing emissions released from adhesives, computer screens and paint.
- Bamboo palm: removes benzene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde and adds a peaceful, tropical feeling to the environment.
- Rubber plant: has an excellent ability to remove toxins, especially formaldehyde, from any indoor environment.
- English ivy: removes most pollutants, especially formaldehyde.
- Dwarf date palm: removes most pollutants, especially xylene, can reach about 1.5 to two metres and tolerates low levels of light.
- Ficus alii: removes most pollutants, especially formaldehyde.
- Boston fern: removes most pollutants, especially formaldehyde, is beautiful and lush, but does require attention in order to thrive.
- Peace lily: besides being an efficient remover of many chemicals, including alcohols, acetone, trichloroethylene, benzene and formaldehyde, it is one of the most efficient plants at removing bio-effluents.
You can also improve the quality of air in your office space by introducing any of the following:
- A small fountain
- An electrical air diffuser
- A small air purifier
- An old-fashioned negative-ion generator. Although they generate EMR, the benefits they offer outweigh this. They help eliminate pollen, mould spores, dust and many other allergy-causing particulates from the air you breathe.
- Invest in an aromatherapy diffuser and burn essential oils that not only clear the air but also create vibrant energy, e.g. eucalyptus, peppermint, orange and rosemary.
It’s really important to bring good-quality light into your office. Not only does it improve your level of productivity, it increases your propensity to stay focused over long periods of time. While fluorescent lighting doesn’t use a lot of electricity and energy, “It’s an incredibly poor light source,” says Ashworth, “and should be minimised and avoided at all costs.”
According to the Cambridge Handbook of Psychology, Health and Medicine, “Fatigue is a common complaint from individuals exposed to over-illumination, especially with fluorescent media. Some studies have shown that the flicker and over-illumination in some fluorescent systems yield particularly high fatigue incidence.” Some office workers have solved the problem by turning off the fluorescent lights in their offices and bringing in their own lamps, but if you have to use it, at least use the tubes that are colour-corrected to warm daylight. Colour-corrected LED or full-spectrum LED are better than fluorescent lighting. To improve the light in your office, consider any of the following:
- Maximise your exposure to natural light.
- Get an appropriate task lamp.
- Introduce bright colours (colour is light) in various office decor items such as brightly coloured office supplies etc.
What else can I do?
Be clutter-free: Clutter drains your energy and brings confusion in your mind. If your workspace is free of clutter you’ll be surprised at how much more enthusiastic and energetic you’ll feel, provided you’ve actually dealt with the clutter and not just moved it out of sight.
Protect yourself: Many environmental stress factors considerably lower your energy, including commonly used devices such as computers, phones and wi-fi etc, which emit EMR (electromagnetic radiation). The more time you spend surrounded by EMR and the closer you are to it, the more likely you are to feel drained, but don’t despair. There are things you can do to improve the situation.
Helping your body cope with EMR
Improving the EMR in your home
If you don’t have a huge amount of control over EMR in your work environment, at least do what you can to minimise it in your home. Do the following to minimise EMR in your home:
- Turn off the wi-fi whenever you’re not using it (particularly at night before you go to sleep because it throws a smog of microwaves and EMR over the entire environment) and is a very strong environmental pollutant.
- Use EMR-reducing paints to lessen the effect of EMR from surrounding buildings.
- Use more natural fabrics, e.g. natural-fibre carpets to reduce the offgassing of toxic materials and avoid sick workers syndrome.
- Avoid direct-stick carpet because, even if the carpet is natural, the glues used to stick the carpets down are very toxic.
- Use land lines with a cord as a preference over any other type of phone. However, if you use a hands-free phone, Ashworth strongly suggests having your listening ear toward the base aerial so the EMR is less likely to go through to your brain. Avoid internet phones as these are wi-fi. Use EMR-reducing earphones with your mobile phone to minimise personal harm.