We spend so much time at work that sometimes it feels like we live there. But what’s worse is when it looks like we live there. Here’s what to avoid, in my view.
Excessive clutter. Some adhere to the clean-desk philosophy. Others find inspiration and serendipity in more free-form surroundings. But too much is always too much. When piles of files threaten to topple over onto passersby, when your pen collection is comprised mostly of dried-out ballpoints, then you need to do some serious tidying up.
Leftover food. It’s amazing how fast formerly delicious-looking food turns into a disgusting sight. Half-eaten plates of lasagna, chunks of gnawed-on sandwiches — they look bad and probably smell bad too. They don’t belong on a desk or worktable, and might even attract pests.
Overly casual pictures. Yes, it’s nice to display a personal photo or two of loved ones. But choose appropriate images you wouldn’t mind showing your grandma.
Political paraphernalia. Like so many of us, you may have turned seriously obsessive in your attention to politics. At work, however, you’ll want to project an inclusive, bipartisan image. The ability to collaborate with people with differing opinions and outlooks is an essential skill that will benefit you on the job and beyond.
Grooming supplies. It’s smart to keep items such as a comb, fingernail file, lotion and toothbrush at work, but please tuck them away in a desk drawer or backpack. Work is work. Home is home. They should look and feel different.
Items whose main function is to distract. Your personal cellphone, little puzzles or games, signs with clever sayings, bowls of candy — these things take up space, both literal and mental. Worse, they can attract the interruptions of procrastinating co-workers. It’s OK to clear your mind or jump-start your energy level with a few rounds of Words with Friends or a couple bites of an energy bar, but the rest of the time, keep distracting items out of sight.
Personal paperwork. Getting a divorce, buying a house, looking for a new job — someday you’ll probably choose to share these exciting developments with co-workers. But you’ll want to do so when you’re ready, not by accident because someone spots a contract or resume you’ve left lying around.