Your Office Furniture Speaks Louder Than Words
According to the British Psychological Society we spend an average of 5 hours and 41 minutes per day at our office desks. And whether you are set up in the backroom of a 3 bedroom ranch in a cul-de-sac or in a corner office on the 9th floor in the business district, your office--your desk in particular--is an extremely personal space.
As such, you should think of your office desk and your other office furniture as integral parts of your personal brand management. Sam Gosling, professor at the University of Texas at Austin and author of the book Snoop, says “The places that we select and craft are rich with clues of what we’re like.”
In order to help you control your professional narrative, here are some tips to consider when outfitting your office space.
The pervading attitude seems to be that any desk will do. I’ll personalize it with a family portrait, a Newton’s Cradle, a black mesh pencil cup, and one of those bird-shaped paper weights. That oughta do it, right? Wrong. The choice of the desk itself should be deliberate and communicate something about you.
It is true that hard wood furniture has the traditional feel of corporate authority, and contemporary designs have made hardwood furniture more versatile and able to occupy modern spaces. No one is saying that you have to get the old money Wall Street desk with the ornate facade. If that’s your personality, by all means get that desk.
But if you want to communicate a more welcoming tone, you may want to try a desk that is more open in design. If you want to express the classic and the modern, maybe your desk has a hardwood body with metal feet. Whatever materials or combination of materials you choose, your desk and other office furniture should promote your character, it should be durable, and it should be functional for the amount and quality of work that you do.
We all know that sitting for hours can wreak havoc on a person’s back. And as a person making decisions about the layout of his or her office and their furniture, you not only have to consider your own lumbar needs but those of potential partners and clients.
A balance ball chair might be good for you, but unless you’re a fitness trainer and all of your clients are Jillian Michaels and Terry Crews, it might not be the most welcoming choice to outfit the entire office as such.
There’s nothing wrong with playing it safe and choosing to have the official two chair standard just past the horizon of your office desk. That option still presents limitless possibilities—from the ergonomic adjustable to the metal tub seat to the classic upholstered button back. However, if your space allows, you could also opt for additional, less formal seating elsewhere in your office—a futon, a sectional, and if you have a lot of child or gamer traffic why not consider bean bag chairs. Still, whatever look you choose, it should be consistent in tone and speak the character you want to communicate.
Everything cannot, will not, and should not fit in or on your desk. Clutter is not a good look. You’ve seen the trope play out in movies. A potential client walks into the office and is greeted by a frantic, disheveled human flanked by piles of bursting manilla folders. And no matter how much this character assures the client that he’s trustworthy, the client leaves nervous and unconvinced. The nonverbal cues are too loud.
To impart personal competence and inspire consumer confidence, you’ll need to invest in and utilize storage drawers and cabinets to keep everything neat and organized. Additionally, mobile file cabinets provide flexibility as well as additional workspace.
Moreover, you shouldn’t neglect verticality in your office furniture. A solid, hardwood bookcase can provide important clues about who you are as a professional and as a regular person. Populate the shelves that are most likely to be at eye level with literature that communicates the past and present of your industry.
The remaining shelves can be outfitted with personal touches—a Kareem Hunt autographed football, a 10k medal, a picture from the time you ran into Betty White in the Denver airport. Help those who enter your office space see enough about you that they leave without any of the presumptions with which they entered.
You are going to be spending 75% of your work week in your office at your desk. It will define you. You will literally become one with it. Choosing office furniture that reflects your style helps you control the nonverbal narrative. A well planed office space has the potential to welcome partners, assure clients, and create connections before you even say a word.