Before you joined the professional workforce, you probably had dreams of a nice office with lots of windows, plenty of privacy and ample space to think. But the reality is that companies large and small learned long ago that they could fit more people in the building by breaking up the middle of the floor into cubicles. Today, the cubicle has become a real symbol of the corporate world, and is the place where many of us spend a good part of our waking hours.
Just because you have been assigned to a cubicle with no personality doesn’t mean your space has to stay that way. There are ways you can spice it up to make the hours you spend at work more enjoyable. In fact, just how you decorate — or do not decorate — your cubicle can send messages to others in your company about your personality, your work habits and your priorities.
For example, if you have piles of papers, folders and files strewn about with no rhyme or reason, you’ll look disorganized, even if you know where everything is. If your cube is plastered with pictures of puppies, kittens and other cutesy images, you’ll look more like a pushover than a hard-core professional with dreams of upper management. And if you put no decorations up at all, colleagues may wonder whether or not you really have a personal life — or a personality.
Because your office space can say so much about you, it is important to think before decorating. Here are some do’s and don’t to follow when it comes to personalizing your turf.
DO give yourself some visual breaks.
You probably spend as much time in your cubicle as you do in your bedroom, so it makes sense to personalize your space. In fact, decorating your cubicle in a way that mirrors your own style will make it easier to put in the hours in the office. Bring in a couple of items from home to make your cube feel more like home. Good items to start with include pictures of family or friends, a favorite coffee mug or paper weight, or inspirational quotes to hang on your bulletin board.
DON’T display inappropriate pictures or messages.
While it is acceptable in most offices to show off pictures of loved ones, you still need to think carefully about what images you display. Raunchy photos of your bachelor or bachelorette party are best left at home, as are any intimate or revealing photos. And leave the Chippendales and Hooters calendars at home.
DO bring a bit of nature inside.
One of the best ways to get started in your cube decor is by buying a plant that does well inside. Having greenery around is actually good for your health, as they soak up pollutants and give off oxygen. Don’t choose a plant that is high maintenance; consider a small ivy or a petite bamboo plant.
DON’T forget about lighting.
Adding some extra lighting in your cube can brighten your day. There are lots of affordable choices ranging from professional to fun and funky desk lamps and clip-on styles. Consider using full-spectrum light bulbs to bring in a feeling of natural light that is easy on the eyes.
DO consider your company’s standards.
If you work for a conservative company, you will probably have less leeway in how you can decorate your space than those in creative industries. While your own personality may be different than the company’s, you need to follow the company’s lead when it comes to decorating. Take cues from your manager and other senior executives. If their cube decor is kept to a minimum, it is probably best to leave your oversized sombrero from your last birthday bash at home.
DON’T let your cube become a pig sty.
Sure, you might be a complete slob at home and have the organizational skills of a newborn, but that is no excuse for letting your office space be a disaster. Remember that you are a professional, and that your privacy in a cubicle is limited. That means that any senior executive from your company could pop into your cubicle at any time. Make sure that you are always prepared for surprise visitors by keeping your space tidy. Look for desk-top accessories and small containers in all types of materials from colorful plastics or metal to wire mesh, wood or bamboo from an office supply store like Staples, The Container Store or Target.
DO have a little fun.
There are numerous gadgets and props to make working in a cubicle more enjoyable. CubicleDecor.com makes faux windows especially for cubicles. Called Cubicle View, these “windows” can be personalized with different scenic pictures. So now you can be in your cubicle and gaze at the ocean or another pleasant scene. Other companies, like Sharper Image and Brookstone, make fun gadgets that can be used to decorate your cube and help you pass the time while you are hard at work.