I’ve worked in a menagerie of cube environments. The closely packed closet-sized bullpen, the waist-high pens, the shoulder-height screens, the office with an actual DOOR, the glorified conference room with an “open plan”…. and at different times, I have made all of the choices discussed by Ceren Cubukcu over at PersonalBrandingBlog.
So what’s going on in your cube? Is it the image you want to project to your office?
The Blank and Bare Cubicle
Maybe it is a haven of Zen-centered calm, maybe you’re just on the quiet side, but also maybe you’re a serial killer. Or as Ceren puts it much more nicely, a bare space may be sending the message that you’re new, not planning to stay long, or halfway out the door already (impending departure is the only reason I have ever had a clean desk, ever).
If you’re easily distracted, or prefer to keep your personal life separate—I get it! But perhaps there’s a picture or two you could hang up just to give your eyes somewhere to rest and reassure your neighbor that you’re not a flight risk.
The Fun Cubicle
This was ALWAYS me. At once point, at my first job, I had an entire wall of Mets paraphernalia, a zen rock garden, a candy bowl that I had painted, a ninja turtle, two modern art calendars, a slinky, a couple of beanie babies, and pictures of my family, my cat, and the Manhattan skyline (which could be seen from any conference room window). At the time I thought it showed coworkers that I was fun and friendly and encouraged people to stop by and chat. Also it kept my easily distracted brain moving forward, somewhat counter-intuitively, by giving me things to fidget with.
But in retrospect it also made me look immature and unfocused (plus, after a few months, the candy bowl’s presence was seriously compromised by the coffee breath of the office rambler). So by all means, make your desk a reflection of who you are—but a gentle, tasteful reflection.
The Post-It Notes Cubicle
This is the high-powered cube of a person with a plan. Or an action-packed schedule. Or a workaholism issue. To avoid a cube that looks like the shed of a conspiracy theorist, consider breaking up your organizational tools with more personal photos or restrict the planning to a whiteboard or bulletin board. There are also some great apps that may help you translate your paper clutter to digital clutter—and integrate it into your calendar too!