Enhance your Home Office

With Five Things you Already Own

It doesn’t matter if you run a public company, have just been laid off, or you're a writer accustomed to working from home - you need a dedicated space to focus on your work. Chances are, you are camped out in a suboptimal location that is serving double duty or is compromised in some way.

How would you like to create a beautiful home office that makes you feel good as you sit down to do your work?

The Big Idea

We don’t have control of what goes on outside our home, but we do have control over the spaces we occupy inside them. Lets refine how you present yourself to the world and create a personal workspace that you will love. After you’ve cleaned and decluttered your office, it's time to integrate these Five Elements and raise your energy levels, improving your productivity and relationship to your work. 

Where do the Five Elements Come From?

The Chinese see life as the interplay of opposing forces “Yin” and “Yang” and The Five Elements. The idea is rooted in Taoism and built on the idea that all matter and sentient beings have life force, or energy, called “Qi.” All matter and beings are in a constant state of transition from one extreme Yin (dark, cold, female, restful) to the other, Yang (bright, hot, masculine, lively).

The process of transition from Yin to Yang is controlled by The Five Elements 

What are the Five Elements?

The Five Elements are drawn from the laws of nature and include:

  • Earth = Mountain, rocks, bricks, stones

  • Wood = Plants, trees, flower, grass, bamboo

  • Metal = Sword, axe, jewellery, gold, iron, silver

  • Fire = Sun, candles, red, lightning, electricity

  • Water = Streams, pools, lakes, seas, fountains, aquariums

The Five Elements have a certain relationship with the other elements and can be productive, destructive, or controlling.

This article focuses on introducing elements into your workspace to take advantage of its productive cycle. 

  • Water nourishes Wood. 

  • Wood becomes fuel for making Fire. 

  • Fire produces ash creating Earth. 

  • Earth condenses to form Metal. 

  • Metal is formed in the presence of Water. 

The Five Elements are more than physical; they are energies with distinct attributes. I invite you to beautify your home office with the attributes of these energies described in detail below.

How to Introduce the Five Elements to Working from Home

Water Element 

Water is a complex element. It is deep and the bottom is unseen. Even in a still state its particles are still moving. Just like a person's thoughts cannot be seen. Water is deep and infinite. It can connect us to stillness and tranquility - it helps us reflect, isolate, reduce stress, and gain insight. 

Its energetic properties are that it runs downhill, you will find Water gravitates to the lowest point, it is free, and unbounded. 

To introduce Water to your home office, look at shapes that are wavy and hold a curve, materials that are transparent, and colors that represent Water energy such as black and dark blue.

How Oprah Winfrey Incorporates Water Energy 

Oprah Winfrey’s Home Office

Look at Oprah Winfrey’s home office. What do you notice? There are no fountains or fishbowls, but there is an impressive curved desk and huge reflective mirror - both symbols of Water energy. Aside from this media moghul, they are the dominant objects in the room.

See how Oprah positions herself on the inside curve of her desk, like the inside bend of a river that brings trade to the community along its waterway. She draws the flow of energy into her from the outside sweep of the desk. The outside bend brings her business opportunities.

The surfaces of the desk and the mirror behind her are highly reflective, like Water, magnifying her significance and effectively doubling her presence in the room. 

How will you use the shapes, colors, and attributes of Water to put yourself in the power position when you work from home?

Water is controlled by Earth (it contains Water) and weakens Metal (it rusts). In its productive cycle, Water feeds Wood.

Wood Element

From the magnificent redwood tree to a delicate potted house plant - Wood will always find a way to reach the sunlight. The energy of Wood is all about outward growth and endurance. Ideal if you are running a startup company or need a new start, its presence encourages new ventures and career growth. 

Introducing the Wood element to your space could be quite literal. A solid wooden desk is wonderfully supportive. How will you use Wood energy to support your personal growth? What do you already own that is tall, green, or cylindrical in shape?

How Lynne Twist Incorporates Wood Energy 

The Home Office of Lynne Twist

In this screen grab from a recent webinar, Lynne Twist, co-founder of the Pachamama Alliance and founder of the Soul of Money Institute uses Wood energy in the form of bamboo and lilies to support and screen her workspace, creating an appealing and vibrant place to do her public and private work.

Wood is controlled by Metal (an axe cuts Wood) and weakens Water (Wood soaks it up). In its productive cycle, Wood feeds Fire.

Fire Element

The Fire element is all about illumination, spreading out, creating warmth, and bringing out the best in people. It encourages passion, fame, new ideas, and sociability. It is always helpful for overcoming shyness or feeling a lack of inspiration. 

The Five Elements correspond to industries, and Fire is the energy of technology. If technology is your domain, the electronic devices on your desk are all symbols of Fire and supportive to your endeavors. Fire energy comes from the color red or objects and patterns that are triangular.

How might you introduce the Fire element? Try different lighting sources, for example, a halogen spot light, salt lamps, and candles. Being able to raise and lower the amount of light is important for being in sync with the tasks you need to perform and the time of day you are working.

Fire is controlled by Water (by extinguishing its flames) and weakens Wood (through burning). In its productive cycle, Fire produces Earth from its ashes.

Earth Element

The Earth element is the only element that is unmoving; for this reason it is associated with strength, stability, and trust. I bring this stabilizing energy to my desk with a ceramic tile by potter Steve Baranowski. When I put my coffee cup down and see the California coastline etched into it, I am reminded of where I am. 

Earth energy encourages steady progress toward your goals. Its properties are attractive, dense, and stable. 

You can introduce Earth energy with shapes that are flat, broad, and cubic. The colors are browns, rusts, beiges, and yellows - all the colors of soil from darkest loam to the brightest yellow sand.

Earth is controlled by Wood (roots tightly grip Earth) and weakens Fire (diminished by Earth). In its productive cycle, Earth is mined to produce Metal.

Metal Element

Metal energy is sharp, pointed, and piercing - it is both strong like a sword and fragile like the finest piece of jewelry. Hidden deep in the ground, it takes resources and hard labor to extract its full value. 

Feeling disorganized or lacking self discipline? Metal energy is supportive to planning, business organization, and leadership. 

Metal is controlled by Fire (melts under heat) and weakens Wood (cuts through Wood). In its productive cycle, Metal is melted, producing Water.

How will you introduce Metal to your home office? Do you have things that are spherical, rounded shapes or colored white, gold, and silver?


Nature's patterns repeat everywhere: on hills, on trees, in the landscape, on our bodies, on our hands. The principles of Yin and Yang and the Five Elements are literally written all over us. It’s why these principles are foundational to the science of Chinese Metaphysics and include acupuncture, yoga, astrology, face reading, geomancy, music, military strategy, and feng shui. 

Introducing the Five Elements will have a profound impact on your relationship with your work and productivity. There are no rules for how to choose or place these symbols from nature in your space. There is nothing to buy; you probably own everything you need. 

I invite you to create a beautiful personal signature for your home office. Surround yourself with a clean clutter-free workspace and a balance of Five Elements that raise your energy levels and inspire your well being, creativity, and greatness.

Equipped with this knowledge of laws of nature, how will you enhance your home office today?

If you would like to learn more about what it takes to radically change your relationship to work in all its different aspects, let's chat over a complimentary coaching consultation. Together, we can discuss how you want to achieve your personal and professional objectives and a roadmap to getting there.

Suggested Resources

  • Overview of the Five Elements by Joey Yap 

  • The Five-Element Solution a book by Jean Haner (pre-order)

  • Taoist Feng Shui a book by Susan Levitt

  • Feng Shui for Health book by Nancy SantoPietro

  • The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine a book by Maoshing Ni

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About Sally

Sally Grisedale is an executive coach for leaders working for the world’s leading technology companies. Before coaching, she was a product designer, design manager, and executive who built products for companies like Yahoo!, Facebook, and Apple. 

Sally is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC), a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (UK), a student of Chinese Metaphysics and Neuroscience in Leadership Development. 

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