Sunday, November 19, 2006


The Hazards Of Personalizing Your Workspace

According to a recent survey conducted by the office furniture manufacturer Steelcase, only 40 percent of companies encourage workers to personalize their work areas, down from 56 percent a decade ago. Only 59 percent of office workers decorate their cubicles whether they are encouraged or not, down from 85 percent in 1996. One reason is that many of those who once had offices now have cubicles, and those who've always had cubicles have to content themselves with cubicles that are even smaller than ever. Workers don't have the space they once had. Also, presumably due to increasing pressure from management, they avoid personalizing their workspace because it might be construed as unprofessional.

Some corporations actively limit or even discourage workspace decoration. The Hearst Corp. recently e-mailed their 2,000 employees in the new Hearst Tower explicit restrictions on the number of personal items, including non-corporate lighting fixtures and furniture, allowed in their cubicles and workspaces. In 2004, Calvin Klein forbade the display of photographs, toys, mementoes, plants and similar items in employee workspaces, replacing them with a mandatory minimal style featuring a lot of black. At another corporation, an employee who emblazoned his cubicle walls with Dilbert cartoons was ordered to take them down because they created a "negative and depressing atmosphere". At an Oregon accounting firm, a female employee was compelled to ration her display of family photographs to a single group portrait.

Corporations start to question a worker's professionalism once the display of personal items covers more than 20 percent of his or her workspace, according to Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks, a business school professor at the University of Michigan. He concludes that there is an "unwritten law" requiring workers to keep their personal and professional lives separate.

One the other hand, a cubicle graced with too few personal amenities might raise doubts about a worker's sense of commitment. "In a Denver insurance company, one exec did nothing to personalize his space at all," said one organizational psychologist. "It was completely sterile. His boss worried that he wasn't planning on staying."

"The Dos And Don'ts Of Personalizing Your Workspace" from Taipei Times

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