Feng Shui Your Cubicle

Feng shui consultant Alison Marks wants you to be happier at work:

Work at a nonprofit? When's the last time you gave some love to your work space?

We in nonprofits often suffer from the misconception that just because we don't have a lot of money and time, we have to make do with so-so - or even junky - offices. It's not true!

Our environments are mirrors for us, reflecting back to us the intentions we put into them. The "style" of nonprofit offices tells the world and ourselves whether what goes on within our walls is important enough to deserve a little attention.

Enhance the energy

Here are a few quick feng shui tips that will help you feel better -- and perform better -= while at work:

  • Have a "protected back," that is, sit with your back to the wall, looking out into the room. Studies show that when people can't see what's going on behind them, their productivity plummets. If you're in a nonprofit with "inherited" cubicles, see if you can use a screen or tall plant to create a bit of a back.
  • If you're not lucky enough to work in a beautiful environment, looking at a picture of nature on your wall will calm you. Landscapes can make your cubicle or office feel bigger.
  • If they'll grow, fresh plants are a great addition to any environment. What a great metaphor for growing support for your organization!

Work with what you have

Try the "Fresh Eyes" exercise - the most fun and effective you do it with a couple of your co-workers! Enter your workplace as if you had never been there before and move through it, simply paying attention. Assk yourself questions like:

  • What is the first thing I notice?
  • What are my eyes drawn to? What makes me look away?
  • What am I reminded of? A
  • How do I feel here?
  • What does this workspace tell me about this organization and the people who work here?

Then try asking:

  • Is what I observed consistent with the mission, vision and values of our organization?
  • Is this a place I would send someone I love for several hours each week?

After doing this exercise, one nonprofit that raises funds for supporting people with a health disorder realized that their office was dingy and didn't express healthfulness at all. They couldn't spend the money to paint the whole office, but invested in some matching frames for photos of smiling survivors, and a beautiful blue paint for the entry area.

Be sure to pay special attention to what does work, not just the problems. For example, how can you better take advantage of the great natural light or the nice furniture that was recently donated? You might not be able to magically expand your office to fit six people instead of four, or stop all that noisy traffic on the street. But you might be surprised at the creative solutions you can come up with for problems you've been living with.

Reduce the chaos

Give yourself a gift and get rid of all the tchotchkes. A few photos or things you've collected from clients can be nice reminders, but much more than that and you never really "see" any of them. (If you're resistant, try just putting it all in a box for a month and see how it feels, and what you really miss.)

Or give the eye fewer things to look at by creating homes for them in attractive containers. One foundation executive had gifts from grantees displayed all through his office and it felt a bit junky -- not reflective of how meaningful they really were to him. He got a display case to hold them. Not only is he less distracted by all the busy-ness around him, but he likes having an area that reminds him of why he loves his job. Similarly, nonprofit employees who have scraps of paper tacked up around their cubicles can contain them on a bulletin board.

In your work space, you want to be stimulated, but not overwhelmed. Relaxed, but not falling asleep.

Inspire yourself and others

Get clear about what part of the office is yours. You may not be able to change what a co-worker does in her cubicle, but you can commit to making your own little corner of the workplace one that nurtures you, and to being a cheerleader for a work environment that's beautiful and supportive for all your co-workers and clients.

Good luck!

Three years ago Alison Marks threw away all of her desk toys and never looked back. She is a former executive director of Or Shalom Jewish Community and the Haight Ashbury Food Programs in San Francisco. She is now a feng shui consultant and Professional Organizer; visit her website at www.InsideOutDesignCoaching.com.

Comments (4)

  • Great article..good suggestions..thanks Marlene McDonough - Don't Break A Nail - Home Restoration, Inspection & Repair

    Jun 16, 2009
  • It is so true! For some reason, our counseling staff at the YWCA Greater Austin believed that because we are nonprofit, we cannot create a space that speaks of comfort, inspiration, tranquility. See how a little cash from the local Jr. League, some frugal/creative shopping, and a handful of staff/volunteers on a Saturday morning transformed our space (http://www.ywca.org/site/pp.asp?c=9oIILUOtGlF&b=374475). We actually like coming to work even more than before!
    Diana Gorham
    Executive Director
    YWCA Greater Austin

    Jun 17, 2009
  • Great makeover! And imagine how much nicer it is for your clients!

    Jun 17, 2009
  • Some very helpful information here. Corporations don't necessarily design cubicles for success, unfortunately. Many cubicle-dwelling employees feel stuck, exposed, persecuted or unable to advance in their careers. But you can use Feng Shui to make yourself more comfortable in your cubicle and enhance your career success until you finally move into that corner office you desire.
    View additional tips on How to Feng Shui Your Cubicle for Career Success.

    Dec 30, 2009

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