As a feng shui consultant we often get inquiries for office analysis. Recently, an associate moved offices from the suburb to the city. He was excited to be moving to a hip, tall, glass contemporary office building. It’s location is surrounded with variety of amenities and is convenient to trendy shops. It definintely has that “wow” factor. But, as time wore on, the initial excitement began to wane. It had become a regular commute to the office. Although a fair distance closer to his home than his previous office, he noticed a drop in his energy level as well as a loss of enthusiasm toward his work.
Tall, modern, glass clad office buildings are impressive with expansive views from their floor to ceiling windows. Looking down at the city from high above gives a sense of empowerment. You definitely feel at the “top of the world“! All these glass walls also allows for lots of natural light. In feng shui terms, this open, active, and stimulating environment is very yang. But as we have learned, in every yang, there is yin. You see, from a feng shui perspective, balance is key to providing an environment with good chi. Too much of one thing creates imbalance of another, which affects our overall well-being.
So, back to the office. You see, of the four walls in his room, only one wall isn’t transparent glass. Yes, this is close to being a “glass box”. Although it gives him visual access to his team of workers, it also means everyone else can see him. There is just no privacy. Modern and cool looking? Yes, maybe. But how does it rate for productivity?
A good working environment should have balance. You need times to interact, communicate, and meet with others, which are all yang activities. At the same time, you also need the time to digest, analyze and be introspective, the yin activities.
The Issues with a Glass Office
1. A visually busy environment. With glass walls, inevitably everyone can see everyone else’s movement. It’s a distraction. Also, in conjunction to this, with the full sized windows on the façade of the building, the movement from the activities outside the building is also a distraction. Of course office location and the floor level is a factor too. Not everyone gets to be on the upper floors where there is less distraction. Views closer to the ground, are busier with traffic and city activity. I call this visual pollution. There is no place for your eyes to rest and it can subconsciously drain your energy.
2. Your actions are visible to everyone at all times. You are working in a glass bowl. Even though we are all conscientious, we do need time to relax and lean back. We need time to be alone to think. But, knowing that a very large number of people can see you at all times can be quite stressful. Unlike being in a small office, you really don’t know who’s watching you.
3. The form of the space is chaotic. With all glass walls, the office is really similar to being together in one big room with no walls. It’s like working in a hall. As Master Hsu always reiterates, Form Defines Energy. With no solid walls as barriers to the forms in the environment, the forms go on and on and on. This creates visual chaos. And this can be interpreted as energy chaos. Although there may be much activity in the office, there may be less productivity.
With the move to the new office, although the commute is shorter and the work load is the same, there seemed to be a drop in energy. From my perspective, the modern glass office is a cause to the fatigue. Unfortunately, this environment has many conditions that point to what I call subconscious stress. This is not something you can tangibly understand, as it’s caused from being in the space.
What would be my recommendation? The simple yet effective solution would be to block the views on the side walls. This would allow some much needed privacy. As we learned from Traditional Chinese Medicine, 80% of illness stems from stress. You must be proactive to improve your working environment to decrease your subconscious stress. If you have been feeling low on energy, take a new look at your working environment and see if you can improve your well-being. This is not only for commercial offices, but for home offices too. Remember to think balance.