If you are sitting at your desk now, take a look around and ask yourself: "What is this desk saying about me?"
For example, what messages does a three-day-old apple core send to your co-workers, or the photo of your ex-girlfriend, or the novelty postcard from Uncle Bob’s big summer holiday?
Ask a psychologist and, unsurprisingly, they’ll tell you that just like the clothes we choose to wear or the meal we take at lunch, our desk is often perceived as an extension of our personalities. Nothing ground-breaking there – but certainly worth bearing in mind.
Recent studies have revealed that desks can be useful to managers attempting to understand and motivate their staff. Vice versa, if you are interested in the way you are perceived at work – and perhaps you are thinking of modifying that perception – a desktop makeover is a great place to start.
When considering the state of your desk and what signals it sends about you, keep in mind the following stereotypes:
The motivated workspace. Strategically placing work targets, charts, graphs and deadlines in plain view of passers-by is likely to make them think you are ambitious and goal orientated.
Family, friends and pets. Lost that human touch? Littering your space with pictures of these will give the impression that you are a “people person”, motivated by the relationships around you.
Hedonist’s shrine. Adventure calendars, holiday postcards and lively screen savers: sprinkling these around says, “I like a good time.” You could well be perceived as the “work to live” type as opposed to the “live to work”.
Fashion hub. Need to say: style over substance? Or rather, style with substance? A few well-placed fashionable gadgets or accessories can raise your style stocks. Be careful though: like beauty, what is fashionable changes between beholders.
The naked desk. Often thought to be the workspace of more introverted types. Other introvert signs are building a wall of office files to hide behind or facing your desk in a position where you avoid eye contact. However, with the rise in desktop interpretations perhaps the bare desk is just a clever workplace poker face.
A talking point. Football team memorabilia, pictures of you hugging your favourite band or a model of your dream car – build a beacon like this to invite workplace comments.People who are happy to reveal their interests are usually seen as extroverted – which can be great, depending on your job.
Controlled environment. Need to show your manager that you are better organised this year? The tidy desktop just might help you take a step in the right direction. Workers with an ordered space are usually thought to be conscientious and punctual … but then appearances can be deceptive!
Chaos theory. Looking to appear capable of high-risk multi-tasking? Consider spreading your stationery across your desk at random, throw in a few half-empty coffee cups, and style a few rough piles of documents. The messy desk can be associated with the flexible multi-tasker able to switch between jobs quickly and without stress. On the other hand, you could just appear disorganised and unreliable...
The next time you walk across the office, take some time to analyse your colleagues’ and manager’s desktops. You might find a new friend, or realise how your desk needs to look to make your boss smile.