Your Office Needs to Grow Up Too

Your Office Needs to Grow Up Too

When you were a teenager, you probably had a bedroom that reflected your teenage interests. Maybe you had movie and concert posters and pictures of your favorite singer and of all your friends. Your college dorm room may not have been too different. Perhaps you switched to travel posters, playbills from shows you had seen, and memorabilia that related to your college or university.

Now you have an office. It might be an 8 by 10 cubicle or a regular office. There may be two desks, or if you are lucky, you might have a single office to yourself. Regardless of its size, you would like to personalize it, but want to keep it looking professional. How can you achieve that goal?

First and foremost, a neat,  organized office shouts professional. In contrast, if every flat space in your office is covered with papers, file folders, notebooks, and magazines, you appear sloppy. Empty coffee cups and food containers are even worse. Dead plants make you look careless, as do water stains on desks and carpets due to overwatering.

If your company permits the hanging of personal artwork, pictures, and certificates, comply with the request to avoid taping things to a wall or hanging things yourself. Anything taped to a wall looks like your college dorm room.

Before you start to decorate, observe the offices of others. What appeals to you and what doesn’t? You are usually better off with a few tasteful pieces than trying to fit in an entire collection. Also, keep in mind that there generally are rules about any pictures or objects that have the potential to cause discomfort among coworkers or clients. In many workplaces, depending on your organization’s mission, this includes items of religious significance or anything of a sexual nature. Political items may also be discouraged, particularly if your organization is state or federally funded.

Think carefully about what personal items you choose to display. Each picture or object will invite a conversation with colleagues and visitors. Do you want others to know where you went to school, what you majored in, and when you graduated?  If not, hang your diplomas at home. Are you comfortable talking about your partner and children in a business setting. If not, keep their photographs and your wedding pictures at home or on your laptop or phone.

If you have received an award or trophy for being the outstanding employee or the highest grossing salesperson, these may be appropriate items for your office. However, trophies from high school and college or intermural sports simply appear juvenile. You have moved beyond that age-related activity and you can no longer rest of your collegiate laurels.

If your computer screens are visible to visitors, keep the screen savers neutral. A collection of travel photos invites comment and moves you into the personal realm once again.

Your office is an extension of your life and your personality, but more importantly,  it’s part of your professional brand. Its decor may shout recent college graduate, or a home away from home, or a professional on her way up. Decide what message you are trying to convey and decorate accordingly.

Photo Credit: Jill Erickson

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