Just as the way we dress speaks volumes about our tastes, personality, grooming habits and socio-economic class, the items which we surround ourselves with in our homes and work space also have a story to tell. Whether we are re-organising our homes or work space, our choices and subsequent upkeep of these spaces give off strong visual cues which influence our friends and colleagues' opinions of us (Gosling, Ko, Mannarelli & Morris, 2002; Swann, 1987; Goffmann, 1959).
When it comes to our professional lives, it is important to be the best version of ourselves at the office. This includes the quality of work we deliver, whom we associate with at work, our appearance and attire and of course, how we maintain our workspace. These behaviours impact other people's perceptions of us (Brunswick, 1956) and knowing this allows us to exercise more self-awareness whilst at work and identify possible areas for improvement.
Although most of us do not have the luxury of choosing our own office furniture and general decor, employees do exercise a degree of autonomy in how they maintain their workspace (Baumeister, 1982). Irrespective of whether you are new to working in Malta or whether you have had a job for some time, here are a few tips which will help you positively control the non-verbal cues your workspace is conveying to your peers and superiors:
Keep your work space tidy
We've all read research suggesting that an untidy desk is indicative of a creative and innovative thinker (Vohs et al., 2013). However it is important to consider the other non-verbal messages this is communicating about your personality. Simply put, untidy desks look messy and this may reflect negatively on how you and your work are perceived at the office (Chae & Zhu, 2015). Additionally, it is unsafe to leave confidential material exposed. It is best practice to keep all work related documents securely locked away when you are away from your desk and at the end of the day.
You can be sure that your office management team have an arsenal of resources to help you get organized. Perhaps you need more storage space, shelving, desk organizers, a cork board or a filing system? Figure out what you need and ask for help.
Keep your personal life personal
You may be in love and that's great but does everyone need to see your latest loved-up selfie on screen saver? Maybe not. Also consider keeping souvenirs and other personal mementos at home as these all contribute to unnecessary clutter (Sanchez-Burks & Ashford, 2013).
Lunch away from your desk
We are all guilty of this at some point and due to the occasional deadline we may have no choice but to eat at our desk. Generally speaking though, your desk should be used for producing good work, brainstorming and reaching work objectives. Enjoy a quick lunch break outside or in the kitchen with your colleagues. Not only will you go back to your desk feeling refreshed, but you won't need to waste time fishing out crumbs from your keyboard. Constantly eating at your desk may also make colleagues suspect that you are not making effective use of your time at work and are struggling to reach your goals.
You may also be interested in:
Baumeister, R.F. (1982). A self-presentational view of social phenomena. Psychological Bulletin, 91, 3-26.
Brunswick, E. (1956). Perception and the representative design of psychological experiment. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Goffmann, E. (1959). The Presentation of the Self in Everyday Life. Garden City, NY: Doubleday Anchor
Gosling, S., Ko, S., Morris, M. & Mannarelli, T. (2002). A Room with a Cue: Personality Judgements Based on Offices and Bedrooms, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 379 – 398.
Swann, W.B., Jr. (1987) Identity Negotiation: Where two roads meet. Journal of Personality and social Psychology, 53, 1038 -1051.
Vohs, K.D., Redden, J.P., Rahinel, R. (2013). Physical order produces healthy choices, generosity, and conventionality, whereas disorder produces creativity. Psychological Science, 24, 1860 – 1867.