Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Nonergonomic! That Cubicle May Drain Your Energy

Nonergonomic! That Cubicle May Drain Your Energy
[人因工程 ]

That Cubicle May Drain Your Energy

BOULDER, Colo. - Hate your job? Blame your cubicle. While that may sound too easy, it has some validity, says the executive director of Boulder's International Feng Shui Centre.

Feng shui (pronounced feng SHWAY) is an ancient Chinese philosophy that, in its simplest form, says your surroundings affect your energy. And in the modern Western world, that translates to bottom-line issues such as productivity and absenteeism. "There are economic benefits to organizing work space in a way that supports people's energy to do work," said Linsey Franklin, in a discussion about applying feng shui to the workplace.

Take those cubicles. While they may make for good fodder for Dilbert, they are sucking your energy away from work. Why? For one, people usually sit with their backs to the entrance, a definite no-no in feng shui because it drains energy and creates uneasiness. It's much better to have your back to a solid wall, which increases your feeling of being supported, Franklin said. (emphasis added)

Franklin once worked with a telemarketing company that was experiencing high turnover. One look at the place and she knew why: cubicles.

She changed the workers' positions in the cubicles, added plants and posters of outdoor scenes such as waterfalls to bring the outdoors' energy inside and "Voila - lower turnover, lower absenteeism and higher productivity."

"Just simple things," Franklin said. "The great thing is, you don't have to believe (in the philosophy). You just have to do it to get results."

While you may not have to believe, you do have to understand the principles behind feng shui rather than simply trying to apply some rules, Franklin warned the group. But she did hand out a few tips:

* Don't box yourself into a corner. It creates limitations.

* Never place your desk opposite a mirror. It doubles your workload.

* Organize your paperwork horizontally rather than vertically. Stacks of paper make you feel like your work is endless. Likewise, keep your desk clear for the free flow of energy.

Editor's Comments:

Quite frankly I never expected to run across an article like this. Feng Shui fundamentals are universal principles that apply every bit as much to modern office cubicles as they do to traditional closed offices. Nevertheless I have never come across any articles dealing explicitly with the Feng Shui of office cubicles -- until now. This article was first published in 1998, five years ago. No matter. Any independent affirmation of ones' own design judgments is always gratifying, particularly the author's blunt observation about seating position:

"For one, people usually sit with their backs to the entrance, a definite no-no in feng shui because it drains energy and creates uneasiness. It's much better to have your back to a solid wall, which increases your feeling of being supported."

If I had to name the single most valuable lesson I have ever learned from my study of Feng Shui, this would be it. The need to protect ones' back is not frivolous, it is primordial. This is why traditional high-backed restaurant booths have remained immensely popular with restaurant patrons and have never "gone out of style". In an old-fashioned restaurant booth no one is forced to sit with his back to the open, vulnerable to unseen, unanticipated harm from behind, either accidental or intentional. See Illustration: Traditional Restaurant Booth.

Now if this is true for a restaurant table that one occupies for only an hour or so while dining out, just imagine how much more true it is for ones' workplace, where one labors 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year. If a Feng Shui skeptic takes away nothing more than this realization from a Feng Shui website, his visit will have been amply rewarded.

Now take a look at the high dollar office system. See Illustration: High Tech Cubicle. This office system appears to have been manufactured with high quality materials, to exacting standards of workmanship, in accordance with ergonomic principles, at least in the narrow, "anatomically-correct" sense of the term.

But so what? The quality materials, the exacting workmanship, the ergonomic features were all wasted, squandered on a woefully inadequate seating layout.

Look at where the hapless end user is forced to sit -- with his backside hanging in the wind, utterly exposed and unprotected. He would literally be better off in a jerry-rigged, homemade enclosure assembled from hollow-core doors purchased at your local discount lumber warehouse -- provided he is protected on his backside and at least one of his flanks.

Back to the drawing board, fellas.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: That Cubicle May Drain Your Energy
Illustration(s): Traditional Restaurant Booth. High Tech "Cubicle"
Author: Unidentified
Affiliation: Rocky Mountain News
Source: http://www.azstarnet.com/public/packages/star200/085-2893.html
Publication Date: March 15, 1998
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

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