Ask the CHO: Spruce up your workplace

QuestionAllengirl4 saw my post on 10 seeeeeriously cool workplaces, and wrote this in a comment:

What a beautiful, and inspiring environment to work in! However, some of us are not so fortunate – so I pose the question, If you live in a fairly regimented pod-based cubicle world, how do you make your own space creative?

I guess you could always hang up some Dilbert cartoons, though that is probably more an expression of desperation than an actual attempt to create a better looking, more inspiring workplace.

So I’ll pass the question on to you, dear reader: What would you do to a perfectly ordinary office or cubicle to make it more creative?

11 thoughts on “Ask the CHO: Spruce up your workplace”

  1. Well, I’ve never done this (too precarious as a contractor), but I’d love to pad my cubicle walls like those chairs in diners. Bright red vinyl, not too deep. Excellent.
    Makes pinning up notices etc more difficult, but then that’s what Post-its are for.

    That’s just me.

  2. I’m notoriously known for loading my cubicle up with lots of odd little items that are indicative of my personality and my playful attitude. I have two plants (bamboo and unicorn grass), a mini-zen garden, several toys and items procured at trade shows, my own mugs (in my favourite colour, of course), a box full of tea and a few other odds and ends. In the end, as long as you’re with that company, it’s your space, and you spend more time there during the work week than any where else – it should be comfortable!

  3. In my office basically everything has to be as it was when I moved in.

    That means that physically I can not change anything. So most everything I do to get creative relates to my own attitude or the way I use my strictly standardized office.

    Creativity, I insist, is all about attitude – but can of course be promoted by the surroundings.

    The standard and evident: Pictures of non-business stuff on my desk – like my beloved wife – is possible.

    I occasionally fill up a basket of fruits or sweets which make a lot of people pop by my glass-walled office.

    Furthermore I often sing semi-loudly when going to the copier – often songs that relate to the situation I am in – and that is sure to always make some people shake their heads and others in a better mood.
    The headshakers often soften up when they get used to it. I have even heard one or two begin humming – but that is extremely rare.
    Psalms make for a particularly interesting reaction.

    I often picture the whole office spontaneously joining in on the song and the whole floor turning in to a scene from Moulin Rouge – which is never the case.

    Sitting in new ways on the chair is a very powerful way of thinking differently in an uncreative environment: For example, sit on your knees, chair backwards. Sit on the table for a while. Or find other places to work in the office! If you have a laptop, sit in the canteen for a bit. If you don’t – then take the opportunity to stand/walk around when you have material to read.
    This definitely works for me when I want to change perspective, corny as it may sound.

    Meetings can be held by taking a walk or inviting for a cafe nearby.

  4. My co-workers and I used to put some dolls around our room (they were all given by people in the work-place). But about a month ago, our supervisor basically told us to remove them because they are “unprofessional”.

    I can kinda understand. But I still got really pissed off and removed every single non-work item from my desk so now my work-space is just purely work. (Imagine what would happen if decorated my desk ala that Simpson’s desk at Google…)

    My boss is notorious for her…err…opinions? We can wear a dark shirt and skirt to work and she can still can that “casual wear” when it actually is the most formal wear that I have. We can be eating Disney-themed chocolates and she’ll call us childish.

    So forget it. I’m not risking it again. I’ll stick to my grey old desk decorated with post-its.

  5. Well, I only found this blog last week – link from Kathy’s blog – the item about cool places to work. I immediately took some film posters in and a few of us decorated the walls. Made us happy. We’re thinking lava lamps and a bead curtain. Simple things can make a difference. :-)

  6. I gues that I could start with just keeping the desk clean :)

    I feel sorry for people that have to work in conditions described by Office lady. I know that I could not do it, keep it up and hang on there!

  7. I work in a lab and I have my desk next to my bench. Thus my surrounding is a bench, “decorated” with pipets, tips for the pipets, vortexer, glove boxes, lots of chemical solutions stuffed into the cupboards above the bench and generally things you would expect to find in a lab. I need the little desk space I have for all the paper stuff like notes, protocols, files etc. So there really isn’t much room for decoration.

    However, whenever I sit at my desk I usually stare at the “monitor” of my computer. And since it’s the “monitor” of my very own laptop I have the freedom to at least make that one a nice feature on my desk. I change my wallpapers regularly, I have a litter-free desktop, i.e. all the icons are stored in a drop down menu at the top border, there is a functional and beautiful calendar on my desk which I can hide easily, I applied a different theme to my operating system and I use several other special tools to speed and lighten up my work process.

    So if nothing else, at least get a nice Wallpaper. I recommend pixelgirl’s webiste [].

  8. Sorry I just don’t get this!! Work is work play is play. I cannot stand it when people “decorate” their cube etc. this is not kindergarden it is a place of work treat it as such.

    Grow up! This constant moaning from people really annoys me. If you are not happy at your Job leave. How about this for a motivation to do your job, your SALARY!!

    Look at people in the third world and their plight and get some perspective! Be glad you have a Job!

  9. Mack: I spend upwards of 15 hours per day in my cubicle. I see my house for about an hour a day and on the weekend. I am not going to spend my life sitting in a drab gray box.

    Fortunately, my employer understands this too and allows us to make the work environment a place of play as well. Older generations don’t seem to “get it” like the Gen-Xers and the Millenials do. But then, too, the older generations also didn’t work 12-18 hours per day. Times have changed, work has become the central focus of life for many software engineers and other IT professionals. We deserve to be in an environment we enjoy if we’ve agreed to trade in our waking hours for a paycheck.

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