The environment in an IT department can directly contribute to or detract from employee morale. Recent studies of workplaces over the past couple decades show this to be the case, and companies increasingly look to make the physical space in which their employees work as stress-free as possible to encourage productivity.
While feng shui has made inroads into Western culture, some still consider it a fad. Yet this ancient Chinese philosophy brings ideas of balance and harmony that can easily apply to the modern workplace.
What is Feng Shui?
Feng shui essentially means “wind” and “water.” It was initially used to find ideal locations for constructing both residential and commercial buildings. Meant as a method to bring abundance, happiness, and harmony to a structures’ occupants, it has become widely used in architectural design – for both interiors and exteriors – and in urban planning.
Bringing feng shui into a modern office focuses on optimizing work areas and making employees comfortable. It’s about creating balance, in order to utilize space to its fullest while improving employee morale.
Why Workplace Layouts Matter
Employees are invariably a company’s biggest asset. In order to reduce stress and maintain employees’ health – both physically and mentally – companies need to understand a bit of the psychology behind workplace design.
Pooja Duggal – founder and CEO of HealthHunt – says this about the modern workplace, “Believe it or not, directly or indirectly, cluttered workstations are often the reason behind high absenteeism and low morale at offices.”
Her company promotes wellness in companies and organizations throughout Asia, focusing on such basics as ergonomics and how it affects employee productivity. For example, chairs that provide proper back support can reduce eye strain and stimulate creativity, encouraging people to sit in a way that will promote teamwork and boost happiness. Even the way companies arrange desks and chairs can affect productivity, with more balanced environs fostering positive interactions between coworkers.
Nirvana Being – an Indian company focusing on creating more sustainable environments – likens the workplace to a company’s central nervous system, which directs information processing and workflow.
“Infrastructure can be translated into good working conditions and can be a motivational factor for people to enjoy their work, and help stimulate ideas and creativity,” its founder Jai Dhar Gupta says about employee morale and productivity.
Analyzing the Science
Science supports the idea that work environments affect how employees interact, not to mention their relevance to overall productivity. According to research by P. Brenner in 2004, the physical environment in which employees find themselves influences their attitudes towards their work. Environment affects motivation, with satisfied workers tending to collaborate better, leading to a more creative environment and ultimately higher productivity.
These factors were found to affect efficiency:
- air quality
These aspects show a direct correlation between employee comfort and improvements in productivity.
Conversely, Zane Quible mentions in his 1996 book how poor environmental conditions in the workplace can reduce job satisfaction, leading to inefficiencies that impact upon the entire organization. In fact, overlooking simple things like lighting, noise, or crowded work spaces can actually demotivate workers, leading to lower morale that can result in higher employee turnover.
Creating Balance & Reducing Stress
When looking at how feng shui might operate in your workplace, its very much up to interpretation. Creating balance is as much art as science, so if renewing office décor feels right, go ahead and do it. Positivity is very much a feeling.
Here are some ideas you can use to alter the office atmosphere:
- Paint: White walls are notoriously bleak and reminiscent of institutions, so why not enhance them with a little color? Try blue for northern walls, cream or yellow on the northeast or southeast, red or purple to the south, and gray for walls on the northwest or west.
- Plants: Bring in greenery to not only augment an otherwise sterile setting, but also to add elements of color and meaning. Position such things as bamboo or money trees in the east or southeast parts of your workspace to create a more prosperous – and healthy – environment.
- Work Stations: By rearranging desks and grouping them in different areas to create balance, you can also create cohesive pods of employees, encouraging collaboration while creating an aesthetically pleasing environment. Perhaps even place desks pointing east, towards the sunrise, to channel the day’s energy.
Take a good look around your office. Does it seem balanced?
If you see an area that isn’t well-lit, put in additional lighting. If one part of the office feels too confined, move the furnishings to open it up. Feng shui, after all, is all about balance. Certain interior designers with knowledge of feng shui can help improve the feel of any office, changing the ambience and even lowering workers’ stress levels.
Cubicle Feng Shui
As many employees these days spend the majority of their time staring at a screen in a cubicle, one element over which they have control is their individual work stations. Encouraging workers to bring plants, family photos, or otherwise decorate their work spaces helps make them more welcoming and leads to lower absenteeism.
In the same way rearranging office furnishings can improve employee morale, so too can streamlining and rearranging the computer with which they work. Putting colorful background images that motivate – such as photos of exotic places, animals, or plants – can liven up a space and stimulate productivity.
New software that reduces clutter and streamlines processes can also help improve workplace environments, reducing stress. Using electronic signature software can help eliminate waste that’s so often associated with office work, helping make your office more auspiciously green as well as balanced.
Translating Feng Shui to the Digital Workplace
With 82% of Millennials – who now make up the majority of workers – considering workplace technology when considering a job offer, it’s important that the workplace cater to their needs. Some basic considerations about the workplace employers should consider are:
- Worker Experience: Managing mobile devices – smartphones and tablets – in the same way as more traditional computing devices – desktops and laptops – will help improve efficiency and lower IT support costs.
- Smart Workplace: By utilizing emerging tech like virtual assistants and machine learning, feng shui can translate easily into the digital realm, streamlining processes and allowing predictive maintenance to create digital balance.
- Frontline Employees: With alternate and virtual reality (AR/VR) tech, employers can provide tools that help those working directly with customers to streamline the sales process while adding value.
- Citizen IT: While shadow IT can be a problem and should be discouraged, enabling employees to create and utilize software applications provides them with control over their work environment that can contribute to their empowerment.
Little things like these not only ensures happier employees and a more tranquil workplace, it also encourages greater productivity, resulting in higher profits.