By Susan Johnston
You spend 40-plus hours a week at work, so why not take the time to spruce up your office or cubicle? True, the length to which you can do so will vary depending on your company and industry, but in some cases an empty work area may be interpreted as a lack of commitment.
"By about month two-and-a-half or three, employees have personal stuff up there," says Chana Anderson, director of human resources for Casa de las Campanas. "It could be a picture of their kids or a favorite mug. If employees don't have that, it makes others wonder. It appears as if they're not engaged."
Here are some suggestions for creating a personal yet professional workspace.
Choose a Few Conversation Starters
Whether you're crazy about the Red Sox, your kids or your recent trip to Brazil, you can bring some of that passion to work with a few photos, postcards or other items. "We have a person who travels extensively and when he comes back from vacation, he has a plethora of photos," Anderson said. "People look forward to his pictures. It's a good conversation piece for him and the other staff."
Caution: Anderson says most employers will draw the line at photos of people in bathing suits: "Whether it's that employee or their spouse, that has potential to offend somebody in the workspace."
Add a Dash of Color
Sometimes upgrading those items you inherited from your cubicle's previous occupant can make your space more interesting. Think: a new mouse pad or a memo board in a tasteful design or your favorite color.
"I've seen people use nice little upholstery pin-boards," said Caralyn Goeldner, who owns Tribeca Design and has designed office interiors in the US and Australia. In terms of color, "Yellow is an energy color, and green is a soothing color," Goeldner says. "Typically I see offices with a blue base." The great thing about those office basics is that you'd have them on your desk anyway, so they add color without adding clutter.
Caution: Too many knick-knacks, picture frames and personal items may make your space look disorganized, so choose extra items carefully.
Most Importantly, Use Common Sense
If you work at an advertising agency, you will probably have more creative freedom with your space than someone who works at an insurance company. If you greet clients and hold meetings in your office, you may need to keep it more presentable than someone who answers emails all day and never interacts with people face-to-face. Look around the office and see how other people are using their spaces.
Jeremy King, business development manager for human resources consulting company FlashPoint, says he's seen his coworkers put up "pictures of family, awards, poems, football schedules, motivational items and books. Our marketing manager's area has more flair than the rest of ours, but it is definitely fitting with her personality." See? Your workspace really can send a message about the type of person and employee you are.
Caution: "If you question whether or not to bring something to the office, don't," King says.