Filing for productivity

The gray cubicles that surround your IT staff are high and closed off. The fluorescent lights illuminating the windowless basement space shine harshly on the code-inscribed whiteboards, the only adornments on the dingy walls. Excess hardware, outdated software manuals and tangles of power cords haphazardly reside in the common areas.

If your IT department functions in such a grim environment, and you’ve noticed that your staff’s productivity is suffering, it’s no coincidence. Your group could be suffering from negative flow and might benefit from a little feng shui (pronounced fang schway): the ancient Chinese design philosophy that asserts that personal happiness and well-being are directly affected by environment, including the proper placement of objects. Sharon Mann, an organizational expert for Esselte, an office supplies manufacturing company, says your employees’ surroundings “might be stifling their thinking process.”

Mann believes feng shui can play an important role in reenergizing your employees and unleashing their creativity. Setting up your surroundings in line with the natural forces of the universe creates harmony and harnesses the energy around us.

To get started, Mann recommends getting organized, a key element of feng shui. Set aside a few hours to tackle the task. One rule to go by: Keep half your desk visible at all times and take advantage of whatever storage options are available, including desk drawers, file cabinets and pen holders. And if you need more storage, Mann’s company would be more than happy to sell you some office storage products. Color-code your filing system and put everything you need within reach.

Second, take a look at your workspace. If you sit with your back to the entryway, change the direction you face to eliminate that unsettling feeling that someone can sneak up on you. If you can’t move your chair, place a mirror strategically so you can see when someone is approaching. Cubicle-dwellers can replace a section of their wall with a transparent panel so they can see what’s going on around them.

Mann also recommends decorating the walls with paintings of outdoor scenes or flowing water — anything that calms the mind. In addition, color plays a key role in feng shui. For example, red has energizing properties that are perfect for salespeople; blues and greens inspire those writing software; and warm desert colors — such as orange, pale yellow and taupe — stimulate collaboration.

Think feng shui is bunk? Mann, who does double-duty as president of the I Hate Filing Club, a group of organizationally challenged individuals, offers her own, more modern advice for improving your work environment: Keep your calendar in view, set time aside every week to organize e-mail into folders and use step files for active documents.

More suggestions are available at And while modern organizing tips may not infuse your workplace with positive flow, they may make you more productive.

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