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Should we bring back the office in 2017?

Research suggests messier desks promote better ideas and creativity. Image sourced from

It’s been quite a year. This in fact may be the understatement of the decade. As you returned to work in January, wondering what surprises lay ahead, there’s a fair chance you wouldn’t have picked many of the changes that have happened in some particularly key offices around the globe.

Fast forward to December, surrounded by piles of paper, empty coffee cups, tangled cords and Christmas cards as you wait desperately for 23 December to roll around, you would be forgiven if your thoughts haven’t turned to how this might help you in 2017.

Is there a correlation between your workspace and your career progress? What does your desk say about you? Is it time to make some changes and land that big promotion in 2017?

Firstly, there is a pretty good chance you don’t have your own office. If you have missed the research on the open plan epidemic and its effects, then it’s fair to say your office is a cave in Tibet. If this is the case, it’s probably very quiet with a nice view of greenery. In fact, this may sound preferable to the tinsel cascading onto your desk from your cubicle neighbour’s over zealous Christmas decorating.

While Sheryl Sandberg and Mark Zuckerberg have their desks right next to each other in open plan, many employees are less enthusiastic and inpsired about their workspace colleagues, with the impact of noise and loss of privacy now well documented.

As Donald Trump’s prepares to take over the one of the most photographed offices in the world, his own office in Trump Towers in New York has been the focus on increased interest. A recent article on Trump’s office notes that the President Elect sleeps only four hours a night, wakes at 5am and heads into the office at 8am.

The Wall Street Journal highlighted that Trump’s desk is cluttered, piled high with papers and stacks of magazines that feature him on the cover. The walls are adorned with framed photos of more magazine covers, photos with presidents, and sporting memorabilia. In August 2015, Trump posed for a photo in his office with an enormous bald eagle named Uncle Sam.

Whether it be desk gnomes, signed sporting photos or photos with presidents, decorative symbols have long been used to convey an employee’s identity in the workplace and to establish status and distinctiveness. A bald eagle might be a bit much, however you may want to consider if the 12 mouldy coffee cups and empty donut boxes are conveying the image you want. A study found that 57% of employees admit to judging their coworkers on the state of their desks.

Some research even suggests that the state of your desk may influence your demeanour, with research finding that a clean desk promotes healthy eating, generosity and conventionality. It seems there is a balance to be had however, with messier desks promoting better ideas and creativity.

While Trump is unlikely to forgo a desk altogether and embrace hotdesking to save costs, if the focus is on productivity, he may wish to adopt a stand-up desk to increase activity and energy.

As you prepare to head out the door for a well earned break, without access to magazine covers of yourself or bald eagles, you may be wondering what you can do to make your desk more aligned with your career aspirations in 2017. It remains to be seen what 2017 will bring for the workplace, however clearing the coffee cups and replacing them with a simple plant or some art will at least reduce your stress.

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