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What Does Your Office Space Say About Your Work?

Your workspace says a lot about you – and it should say a lot to you. Better mind the message.

(Image: ThinkStock)

Renowned interior designer Sheila Bridges insists that it absolutely should! She says she thinks of her office, housed in her elegant Harlem apartment, as a sort of three-dimensional vision board.

“First of all, your office should be organized and functional so you can get the best results possible in the most efficient way,” Bridges says. “But it should also speak to you and be unique to you. It should inspire you and remind you of why you’re there and what you’re trying to achieve.”

Bridges’ office features paintings by her favorite artists, quotes from some of her favorite writers and framed personal notes she’s received throughout her 20 years in business, and throughout her life. A note of congratulations from a client is displayed alongside a decades-old birthday card from a dear friend. “My office walls are pretty much a collage of things that reflect the journey I’ve taken in my career,” she says. “It helps me and anyone who comes in here to understand where I’ve been and why I do what I do, and it inspires me.”

Here are some tips on making sure your office speaks both of you and to you in the most positive ways:

  • Color counts: Blue is proven to help people focus. Light to medium shades of it are also soothing. Red, on the other hand, will increase your blood pressure—not a good idea at work where that’s bound to happen on its own.
  • Organization is key: Some people actually thrive in chaos, but most of us do not. Smaller spaces can be easier to organize than larger ones, but spending some real time (and money if necessary) making sure you have the necessary boxes, baskets, files, folders, labels and systems to have a place for everything will make things not only look better, but run better.
  • Inspire yourself: Bridges constantly pulls and pins magazine clips of designs she loves to her wall. As a writer, I have words—famous quotations, motivational expressions—on my walls. You should prominently display whatever it is that inspires you and keeps you engaged in your goals and the effort of reaching them.
  • Keepsakes trump showpieces: Personal photos of people and places you love, notes of encouragement, fan mail, awards, that “sculpture” your child made in kindergarten… These things cost almost nothing but will mean far more to you than almost anything you’ll buy. So lack of funds is never a reason to ignore your workspace. It might just be the best place for that painting no one at home likes but you!
  • A little effort goes a long way: No real “space” to speak of? No real interest in design? Corporate guidelines that won’t let you change the position of your penholder? Fine. Just find one thing you love and place it where you will see it every day as you work. I defy it not to make a difference—in how you feel, in reactions from others, and in how you work.
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