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Feng shui for your desk

Peter and Maria Hoey for The Boston Globe

Out with the balance ball chair and in with the plants.

So say Kathryn Wilking and Linda Varone, two feng shui practitioners who maintain that applying the traditional Chinese system to your work space can improve your finances, your career, and your well-being.

“By doing some physical changes in your space, you can subtly shift energies in your life,” said Varone, owner of Nurturing Spaces Feng Shui in Arlington.

People generally think of feng shui as a method for arranging furniture for optimal energy flow, said Wilking, who recently wrote a book on the subject, “Practical Feng Shui for the Office.” But the philosophy can be applied to a space as small as a desktop.


The most important step to improving your office energy is to place your desk in the proper spot, what Wilking calls “command position.” From your desk, she advises, you should have a clear view of the door and most of the room, creating a sense of control over your space.

“When you’re in command, you don’t get as stressed out, you make sound decisions, you are more confident,” Wilking said.

Ideally, a desk should also be placed at a right angle to a window, allowing natural light to fall across the work surface, Varone said. This positioning also lets you look out at trees, water, or even just the sky to take restorative “nano-breaks” throughout the day, she said.

Clearing clutter — especially papers and decor left by earlier occupants of the space — is also essential.

“You can have the best feng shui in the world, but if you have too much clutter, it’s not going to work,” Varone said. “There will be no room for good energy to come into your space or your life.”

How things are arranged on your desk is also key. Each workspace has nine regions, in a three-by-three grid, connected to different components of life, such as relationships, creativity, knowledge, and travel.


The back left corner represents wealth and abundance. To enhance your success in that area, Wilking suggests placing a plant in that sector or an image of something that would make you feel prosperous: a sailboat or a travel destination, perhaps.

The front center of your desk is the section connected to career. A representation of water — even a postcard of a river tucked into your pencil drawer — is appropriate here, Varone said. Marking that sector with a blotter can also help draw focus to the area, Wilking said.

To ensure free flow of energy in this area, your feet need a clear space and your chair should roll, giving your body space as you work, Wilking said. Avoid balance balls and stools that have you perching tensely at your desk.

Trying to enhance all nine areas could be daunting, so Varone tells her clients to pick three to focus on. Consider displaying diplomas centered on the wall directly in front of you, in the area associated with reputation, or a photo of you and your partner in the back right corner, which connects to relationships, Wilking suggests.

Feng shui can provide ideas and guidelines, but it is also important to think about and express your own personality and objectives, Wilking said: “You need images and details that remind you of your goals and where you’re going.”