We have always been told this….it's all over the internet…..every stress management trainer hollers the same….. Yes, personalising your work space with some personal knickknacks can really cheer up the otherwise drab cubicles and depressing workstations.

These personal touches not only make a pleasant and inviting place to work, but also paint you in a friendly and balanced light. What's more, at times all you need is a glance at your cute, smiling daughter (even if only in a picture) to lift your spirits and refocus your energy in the face of the looming deadline!

But, its time for a rethink, as recent studies indicate to the contrary. Employers and managers actually feel that your scattered plants and photos reflect poorly on your professional image!

The arguments:Employees may reason till they are blue in the face that their personal bric-a-brac does not in anyway interfere with their work (if at all it actually improves their efficiency), but fact is that many organisations no longer appreciate seeing personal stuff in the cubes.

Managers consider that the personal decorations spell incompetence as employees are prone to lose focus and become preoccupied with things other than work. They argue that workspaces should ideally look like professional offices and not an extension of the ‘home sweet home'.

They expect employees to put aside personal matters and concentrate exclusively while at work. Moreover, the personal clutter can distract others as well as co-workers are bound to stop and comment/chat over the pictures.

In fact, the move is to standardise personal decor so as to maintain a more professional atmosphere. The rules pronounce what and how much can be displayed ranging from 3-5 personal items to complete ‘ sterility'!

Go easy:Well, as your personal items can pull you down, it clearly is time to redecorate your workspace. While you don't really have to totally clear your desk (unless it is express company policy), prudence dictates toning down the personal stuff even if the management has not dictated it as yet!

This in turn begs the question how much is too much? Fortune magazine's senior writer, Annie Fischer throws some light with, “Too much is about 22 per cent: If more than one in five objects in your cubicle are non-work-related, others may regard you as less than serious about your job.”

Well, it's true that some people really do go overboard and cram every inch of their already tiny cubicles with everything from personal photographs, funny posters, cartoons, paintings, certificates, paperweights and plants to their children's artwork, souvenirs, hobby collections, cookie boxes, stuffed animals and even sports equipment.

Not only does this look tacky and unprofessional, but there really is no ‘room' left to work.

Instead, redo your work area in a more tasteful manner with just small touches here and there. Moderation is the key; so you display few family photographs (preferably in frames) and take the rest home.

Also, ensure that what you do put up is not objectionable or political in nature. Nor should it be an eyesore!

Keep in mind that your desk is really your workspace and it should look like one. Messy and cluttered desks are taboo as an organised and neat cubicle/office alone can present a professional environment to clients and project the right image of the company.

What matters:Bosses also need to rethink as performance is what actually counts in the end - as long as an employee is turning in quality and timely work it really should not matter how his cubicle looks. After all, the cubicle decor reflects only on his personality and is no way related to competence!

Moreover, totally banning personal artefacts and making offices sterile will only create unmanageable tension and disconnect leading to burnout and increased turnover.

On the other hand, it is true that some personal touches adorning the walls is quite motivational, especially on a bad day!

Payal Chanania

faqs@cnkonline.com

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