Management Matters Management MattersManagement Matters
Practical advice for federal leaders on managing people, processes and projects.

Federal Feng Shui

Richard Griffin /

With ringing phones, buzzing BlackBerrys and chiming computers, we all could use a little harmony in our workspace. It’s one thing to straighten up the piles of paper on your desk or to put a plant in the corner of your office, but experts say arranging your desk or office according to feng shui principles could help you to get more work done with less stress.

Frequently used to lay out buildings and living spaces, feng shui is a Chinese system that aims to increase the flow of positive energy in a space and in the lives of its occupants. While your agency’s choices of décor and cubicle location might not let the qi flow freely, you can make minor changes to bring a better energy into your workspace.

For starters, according to Darrin Zeer, author of the book Office Feng Shui: Creating Harmony in Your Work Space (Chronicle Books, 2004), under the principles of feng shui, out of sight is not out of mind. Your first step in rearranging and organizing your space might be to take the papers cluttering up your line of sight and file them away in drawers or cabinets. Hidden clutter is just as damaging to the flow of positive energy as a mess on top of your desk. Even if you have to assign a “procrastination drawer” for items you don’t immediately know what to do with, that designation and inside-out organization will make you feel more creative and less stressed. 

Feng shui experts believe you can feel clutter, so the placement of items like files is important. If at all possible, don’t store files and papers in or on overhead shelves or cabinets. The belief is having files overhead can create a feeling of literal downward pressure, block the flow of energy and generate negative feeling toward your space.

For an ideal feng shui workspace, you want a room of your own with a regular shape (such as square or rectangle), natural light, a solid door you can close and the ability to position your desk facing the entrance. But odds are, you don’t have that kind of choice when it comes to your office or cubicle.

A key tenet of workplace feng shui is the “command position.” What this means is  positioning your desk so that, while you’re seated, you still face the entrance to your workspace. If you have a cubicle, you may feel powerless to assume a command position, but you can achieve a similar result by setting up a mirror to enable you to see colleagues and visitors entering the space.

Plants are considered integral to the circulation of positive energy. Having one on your desk helps replenish good energy, and placing one on either side of the door to your office or entrance to your cubicle is believed to attract positive energy.

Another helpful addition to your cubicle is a desktop fountain. The term feng shui literally translated means “wind-water,” and moving water is believed to increase the flow of energy. If you are not able to find a small tabletop fountain, even photographs of waterfalls or other flowing water sources can be calming. As an added bonus, water is associated with cash flow and career success, so you might find both peace and success in your workspace.

Employing feng shui may seem a bit hokey, but many of its principles have withstood the test of time and are simply common sense for bringing tranquility into a space that can be anything but calm.

Elizabeth Newell covered management, human resources and contracting at Government Executive for three years.

(Image via Richard Griffin /

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.