How to make over your office and beat the January blues

12 January 2012 -


Become a blackbelt in Feng Shui and combat the annual round of Seasonal Affective Disorder

No matter how committed and enthusiastic an employee you are, no one can honestly say they relish the return to work after the festivities of Christmas and New Year. In particular, after the escapism of the holiday season, it can be demotivating to get that “back to the grindstone” feel. To exacerbate this, the office is shorn of any Christmas decorations that might have brightened it up, the days are still short – and the nights are still long. However, a good manager will take steps to combat all these negative elements and brighten up the office environment for their workers.

Fengs to consider

Since being identified in the mid-1980s, Seasonal Affective Disorder – or SAD – is now a widely recognised condition, and can affect people’s energy levels, mood and desire to sleep: symptoms that are not conducive to productivity. A simple way to combat this in the office is simply to provide more light. Standard overhead fluorescent lighting can be harsh over the course of a day, so floor or desk lamps can be more effective – and at the same time, why not make these colourful, or with an interesting design? In addition, SAD can be addressed by increasing activity; perhaps it is time to organise a mid-afternoon table-tennis tournament, to combat the common slump at that time of the day.

The practice of Feng Shui has many believers – so perhaps January, and the start of a New Year, is the ideal time to give it a try. Advice varies, but common solutions that are straightforward to implement include:

1. Not sitting in line with the door, which puts you in the path of negative energy (practically this is a good tip anyway, as this provides an easy central access route);

2. not arranging your workspace so that you look out to a corridor, or see stairs, toilets or escalators (again, on a practical level, this can reduce the possibility of being distracted), and

3. having a balance of yin and yang in the office, via a mixture of soft and hard surfaces, light and dark colours and smooth and rough textures. On the latter point, a spot of repainting is always welcome in any office, and can bring out a more pronounced difference, by brightening surfaces that have become tired and dull.

Pollution solution

Going green is another excellent tactic. Office plants are hugely beneficial for a variety of reasons, both physical and psychological. Offices can be notorious for indoor air pollution and low humidity, as well as housing fumes from carpets, cleaning products, computers, photocopiers and the like, all of which can reduce concentration and even stimulate illness. Plants can combat this by increasing levels of oxygen, cleaning the air and acting as buffers to unwanted noise. In addition, they have been shown to have a calming influence and reduce stress levels. So why not go big: returning to work to find a giant bamboo tree forest in the middle of the office would certainly give your workers a talking point.

But perhaps plants aren’t quite enough nature for you. Many people believe that an animal in the office heightens productivity. Feng Shui recommends the presence of an aquarium in the north area of your office – but even for non-believers, surveys have shown that a majority of office workers believe that an animal would help their work-rate. They can relieve stress, promote a nurturing atmosphere, and offer companionship, whilst also waking up sleepy employees. Of course, much depends on the size of your office, and clearly, choosing the right animal is key. A Staffordshire bull terrier is highly unlikely to aid productivity – perhaps start with a goldfish and see where the year takes you!

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