Guest Author - Carol M. Olmstead
Feng Shui principles tell us that the arrangement of your office space can affect how happy and productive you are in your job, and now research reported in the Wall Street Journal says that some of the same Feng Shui improvements recommended for offices can also improve your health. In the article, writer Jonah Lehrer describes several studies linking poor office environment to higher stress levels, and how office design can influence your mood, your cognitive skills, and your memory. “Today the cutting edge of architecture has to do with the psychology of buildings," says Lehrer, “not just their appearance.”
Scientists who are focusing on how architecture and design can influence our moods, thoughts, and health have discovered that everything from the quality of the view and the height of a ceiling, to the wall color and the style of furniture, can shape how we think at work. For example, if your office has high ceilings, low cubicle walls, and access to sunlight, it may be a boost to your health.
One of the studies reported in the Wall Street Journal article looked at two measures of stress — heart rate variability and levels of the stress hormone cortisol — in people working in two different buildings for the same company. The space in the older building had floor-to-ceiling walls, poor natural light, and offices that ran around the perimeter, while the newly-renovated building had a more open-air feel, cubicles with lower partitions, and offices in the core of the floor. As a Feng Shui practitioner who has worked with numerous office clients, I wasn’t surprised by the study finding that the people who worked in the renovated office space were more satisfied with the amount of daylight they received and the quality of the air around them. Those who worked in the older space showed a rise in cortisol and more often reported being aware of the low-frequency mechanical noise, which is linked to stress.
In another study, psychologists studied how background color, such as the color of a wall, can affect performance on a variety of mental tasks. They tested 600 subjects who were surrounded by either blue, red, or neutral color walls. The findings reinforce Feng Shui color theory: people in the red environments were much better at skills that required accuracy and attention to detail, such as catching spelling mistakes or keeping random numbers in short-term memory, while people in the blue group did far better on tasks requiring some imagination, such as coming up with creative uses for a brick or designing a children's toy. According to the scientists, the color blue automatically triggers associations with openness and sky, while red makes us think of danger and stop signs. In Feng Shui, the color blue is associated with calm and soothing, while the color red ignites and stirs passions.
A similar effect seems to hold for any well-lit and open spaces. A study of the relationship between ceiling height and thinking style showed that when people are in rooms with high ceilings, they are better at seeing the connections between seemingly unrelated subjects. In Feng Shui we know that a light and airy space encourages the positive chi to flow around the occupants of the room, making them feel more comfortable and productive.
Does your office space feel relaxing or stressful? Click on these articles in the Related Links section below this article to read about simple Feng Shui changes you can make in your own workspace — Feng Shui Office Makeover, Feng Shui for Cubicles, Feng Shui Workplace Quiz
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