Credit: GG Photographer Ioanna Chrysanthakopoulou (@joan_chriss)

A guide to harmonising with your home study space

By Hannah Hughes

How the ancient art of feng shui can help you organise and optimise working from home this year. 

Students are working from home this semester as part of the slightly perplexing “new normal.” The term the new normal refers to the state into which an economy or society settles following a crisis that differs from the situation that prevailed prior to said crisis. But what does this mean in relation to the current Covid-19 pandemic? In 2020, the new normal is the human behaviour associated with, during, or after the pandemic. For students, this means a dramatic change in the way we learn and work. The university has started online teaching and, for many of us, the notion of Zoom calls while sitting at a makeshift study space is daunting. How we choose to separate work and relaxation to maintain a healthy work-life balance during this new normal is crucial. With the aid of the traditional Chinese practice of feng shui, this transition can possibly be made easier.

Known also as Chinese geomancy, feng shui focuses on the use of energy forces to harmonise individuals with their surrounding environment. Perhaps somewhat lost in translation in western new age ideals, the term feng shui might arouse ideas of the growing popularity of wellness and self-care and of course, the products that are sold along with it. However, symbolic feng shui, popularised by best-selling author Lillian Too, offers a less expensive form of feng shui which is easier to implement and cost-effective for students. It involves the arrangement of furniture, the placement of your bed and the colours you use.

The following is guided advice inspired by feng shui on how to organise and optimise home study spaces, on a budget.

Lighting has a great impact on our general well-being and motivation. Due to the lack of sun in Scotland, it is essential for us to have access to natural lighting, as without it we can suffer fatigue and experience mood changes. When working from home this semester, be sure to take into account the amount of natural light that your study space has and try to optimise this.  

Where you place the chair at your desk is also significant. A feng shui commanding position means you should not have your back to the door. Your desk should be positioned further from the door and not in line with it. This might not be possible for those of us without a separate study or office. While feng shui regards the bedroom as an oasis and advises against having a full working office in the same room, many – myself included, do not have the option of a separate office outside of the bedroom. Ways to separate your office from your relaxing sleeping space include physically placing your desk as far as you can from your bed, and having your sleeping space out of sight.  This will help to disconnect the two areas, despite them being in the same room. If you’re unable to separate the two and must have your bed in sight, ensure your bed is made every morning before starting your work for the day. Working in bed will confuse your studying time with relaxation and you will subconsciously find it difficult to differentiate between the two, so this should be avoided. The feng shui tradition also advises that you maintain space on both sides of the bed and try not to store anything other than fabrics under the bed as it can create tension in one’s life. Furthermore, if you have to study in your bedroom, take steps to limit other screens in the area such as televisions, as these will only keep you more engaged and will not promote restful sleep.

Finally, the most important thing to remember is to create a study space that you feel comfortable in but also one in which you can detach yourself from. In order to avoid feeling stuck inside, make sure you open your blinds or curtains every day, as well as your windows. Step outside at least once a day, even for a short walk to get some air – not having classes doesn’t mean you have to spend all your time inside. If you are spending extended periods of time at home, then take regular breaks. Hot baths with a bit of lavender oil certainly helped me during lockdown exams.

Having previously experienced challenges with remote teaching and learning towards the end of last semester, specifically dealing with the lack of a sophisticated and separate study space, I found myself thinking of my small university bedroom as my office. Turning to feng shui helped me work from home and I hope this guide will help you too.


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