The client Kawasi Computers simply wanted to optimise their work space, and had heard about me from one of their employees whose house I had surveyed a year previously. After the initial email and a phonecall, I learnt that they also had issues with a high turnaround and far too many sick days, and I surmised that staff morale was low.
Before the day of the appointment I did what I always do, checking any data they had sent, such as floor plans, and examining their location on Google Earth. I quickly ruled out any major issues with the location – the office was well-supported behind, had plenty of space in front and was in a healthy, thriving part of town. However, I could also see that the front door was facing north-east. In my experience, this often led to trouble. In Feng Shui it is called ‘the devil’s front door’, yet my solution to understanding it further was through the Indian practice of Vaastu Shastra where it is known as ‘the gateway to the gods’. It is a powerful direction, and one needs to know how to live with it for it sets the tone of the whole building when it is the main entrance.
There was an issue also in that my client Mike Kawasi, the head of the firm, was clearly a nuts-and-bolts man. At first the situation seemed technical and fairly straightforward which would have made communication easy, but now I would need to bring in a more subtle, esoteric element as well and I wasn’t sure how I was going to do that.
Talking with Mike on the day, I could hear a shouting quality in his voice. This is one of the indicators of a Wood imbalance in Chinese medicine, so I questioned him discreetly to be certain that this was the case, asking him for instance if he found himself getting impatient easily. A subordinate co-worker on a nearby desk overheard and I could perceive a reaction. As I suspected, Mike had issues with his temper, and he admitted yes, he often found himself getting irritable. One aspect of the Wood element is to know when to advance and when to retreat in life, and those with a Wood imbalance often have boundary issues.
In addition to the Wood issues, Mike’s desk was so close to his employees, this was resulting in micromanagement and low morale – the message being that he didn’t trust them. This was exacerbated by his back to a window facing the street, a position resulting in a sense of not being in control, and his ‘back not being covered’.
Another thing I noticed was the quality of the air, which had a stifling unsettling feel to it. There were a lot of machines in the room – as well as computers, there were printers and copiers which would result in a lot of positive ions in the air, that despite their name have a negative effect on people. Machines also often interact with our body odours and chemicals such as aftershave, shampoo or cleaning solutions, resulting in volatile organic compounds that are detrimental to health and to the machines themselves.
This was despite the ceiling being so high and far from claustrophobic, the office once having been a warehouse. Which presented another problem. When ceilings are too high, the air – and therefore the ch’i, the lifeforce – becomes stagnant. Symbolically this means the higher principles of the occupants can tend to corruption. I didn’t need to mention this to Mike as he wasn’t that open to esoterica, but I could easily bring up the subject of air quality.
Again, not surprisingly, the room had particularly high readings for microwave levels. The twist to the story was that this wasn’t from wi-fi. Mike had himself become concerned that there might be health issues from wi-fi that had not yet come to light. When the German government removed wi-fi from schools due to health concerns in 2010, that was all the excuse he needed to do the same. The computers were using ethernet cables. The problem was not from computers therefore, but the cordless phones which transmit continually. (Ironically, while people protest against phone masts outside, they have effectively invited masts inside through cordless technology.)
The Wrong Lights
The dominant lighting was from fluorescent tubes. While these were of the quality high-frequency CAT 2 type, and therefore didn’t flicker, most of the windows were facing north and therefore exposure to sunlight was minimal at best. This could result in depression and be particularly difficult for those suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder.
With Mike and the relationship with his employees, the solution was to get him to move his desk diagonally away from the door, back to the wall and facing the rest of the office. This took him to a respectful distance from the others, yet still gave him a sense of being in command of the room, something known in Feng Shui as the Superior Position. Regarding his Wood imbalance, it was the total absence of that element from the office that informed me how best to proceed: by suspending particular plants known to absorb volatile organic compounds, from the ceiling, that would A. Nourish the Wood element B. Activate the ch’I in the higher levels of the office and C. Revitalise the air. The overall health of both people and machines would be certain to improve. In addition, I recommended they installed an ioniser.
The electrosmog was easily dealt with by replacing the phones with cord-phones or certain cordless models that didn’t transmit between calls. The lights needed replacing with full-spectrum bulbs, which stimulate cortisol, the wake-up hormone normally activated by morning light. There were problems with posture relating to all the work at the desks and computer stations. Although I don’t myself have employees, I do have an unofficial network of people I call upon when certain specialist knowledge is required, in this case that of an ergonomics therapist who lived in the area.
With most of the health and well-being aspects addressed, the remaining main issue was that of the north-east door. This was partially remedied by painting the walls a light blue – this, the Water element now combined with the Wood element of the numerous plants, created a stunning harmonious feel to the office totally in keeping with the north-east direction, one normally reserved for temples in India. I still didn’t feel Mike was open to anything too esoteric, so I brought in the subject of meditation by recommending a programme of mindfulness for himself and his staff. By presenting it as a way of combatting stress, this was taken on board.
The office started to pick up almost immediately. This often happens, that even before the cures are installed, the very act of addressing the problems creates a sense of well-being in participants. Kawasi Computers became a recurring client, particularly once Mike learned that I had a Masters in Environmental Science and Architecture with a particular interest in ‘vernacular’ or ‘organic’ architecture. They were talking about expanding into the adjoining warehouse and wanted my input on the plans. It became a very worthwhile and fulfilling project for all of us.