Desk Decor: Creature Comforts or Creativity Crunchers?
Albert Einstein once said: “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” You might disagree. But would you really argue with a genius?
Look around – what’s sharing desk space with you today? We’ve all got our favourite photograph, fluffy pen or novelty coaster that takes pride of place on the desk.
Some of us think these personal possessions are a bit of home comfort, a reminder of who (or what) is waiting for you at home past 5.30pm. It’s also a conversation starter and a useful way to break the ice with colleagues.
However others think differently, believing that those photographs and novelty phone holders belong at home. You’re at work to work, not to wax lyrical about Mrs Tiggy the cat or your pet goldfish. A cluttered desk is disorganised, untidy and probably unclean too. What’s more, a desk full of personal items looks unprofessional and potentially sends out the wrong image.
You’ve probably got a very clear idea of which desk camp you’re in, but do you enforce it as rigorously as Vodafone UK?
At the company’s UK campus in Newbury, there’s a stern policy on desk usage. For a start, employees do not have their own desks. Everyone from executives to assistants work in the same open-plan space, hot-desking in relevant ‘zones’ and moving their personal possessions around with them every day. As such, possessions must be portable and employees work solely from a laptop and mobile devices.
You can guess what’s coming next. In an environment like this, there is no room for creature comforts. When it comes to office space culture Vodafone UK has only a few rules, but those that exist are enforced rigorously. There is a clear-cut clean desk policy which means that anything left on desks past 10pm is dumped in the incinerator, even if it’s a treasured photograph of Mrs Tiggy.
The system works and along with various other hierarchy-flattening rules, internal processes have accelerated as a result – along with company revenues.
But on the flip side, isn’t all this lack of personalisation a little… cold? Surely one little photograph won’t hurt. Can employees really feel connected and engaged at work without a few home comforts around them?
Author and career expert Alison Green says that an empty desk that’s barren of personal possessions can leave employees feeling like they’re passing through, rather than being a permanent member of the team. If you’ve ever left your usual desk to work from the company HQ or a satellite office for a day, you’ll know how vaguely unsettling it can feel without that sense of familiarity around you.
In some companies employees have the freedom to decorate their own desks, and to some extent, even their office space. Yet in a company like Vodafone UK it is necessary to overcome these sentiments to fit into the company culture. It’s all down to company culture and what works in each business.
What’s worth noting is that workspace is changing rapidly. We are moving from traditional one-person-one-desk layouts to fluid designs that encourage employees to move around every day, meaning there is little room for desk-hogging personal possessions. So clean desk advocates take heart – there’s a growing number of workplaces that you’ll love, springing up in major firms all over the country. And with clean-desk giants like Vodafone UK leading the charge, those with a penchant for creature comforts should watch out. Your days of cluttered chaos could be numbered.
Do you prefer a clean, clear desk with minimal possessions, or a cheerful clutter to keep you company throughout the working day?
Image by Toniosky2 via Wikimedia