Professional Dress

A blog in support of the Terry Professional Women's Conference and to discuss issues women face in the workplace while balancing all the rest

If you’re like many employees today, you work in a cube regardless of your title. Companies are increasingly moving away from walls of offices and towards smaller workspaces. So if you’ve never encountered an issue involving cube decor, you or someone you know probably will. Considering this, it might be worth a cube audit. You do spend a lot of time in this space, so you’ll likely want to add some of yourself to it. While companies vary on policies, below are some general guidelines and points to consider:

  • What does everyone else’s space look like? Use others’ cubes to help set the tone for what’s appropriate for yours. If there are a lot of pictures in some and bare bones in others, you should feel comfortable having your choice in that range. Regardless, your cube shouldn’t look like a teenager’s wall.
  • What industry are you in? If you’re a designer, bulletin boards and inspiration pieces are probably a must-have. If your work requires high concentration, it would be a good idea to steer clear of distracting photos, etc.
  • What are your company’s HR policies? If your company prohibits the displaying of religious items, for example, you may have to pick your battles. Your beliefs are part of you, but you are on company property. 
  • Who sees your space? Will clients see your space? Your superior(s)? If you have direct contact with clients, it may be a good idea to err on the side of conservative.

As for specific items…

  • Signage: A great quote can be a conversation piece and attract people to your space. But this is a tricky area- many framed or professionally mounted quotes are not productive. A sign that says "I can only please one person per day. Today is not your day & tomorrow doesn’t look good either." does not produce a positive affect. Consider the messages you’re sending with whatever you display.
  • Plants: Plants literally add life to your work area, so consider a few if they’re permitted. But if your allergies are a problem, silk plants can produce the same effect. Be mindful of co-workers’ allergies as well.
  • Religious material: A lot of guides will advise you to steer clear of this area altogether, and maybe it doesn’t matter to you anyway. But if this is an important issue for you, educate yourself on HR policies. Additionally, look into your rights. A basic internet search can reveal some of your rights in the workplace. Read up on your rights on religious expression in the workplace under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act here:
    (Disclaimer: No, seriously. I’m not a lawyer).
    Regardless of what you decide and what you pursue, it’s a reasonable expectation that you keep it minimal, as with all cube decoration. People are likely familiar with your convictions already anyway. 
  • Photos of family/pets: This one is not controversial and quite common. But only display pictures you’d want your boss to see. Keep the wild partying pics for your securely protected facebook page (or better yet, don’t post those anywhere).
  • Toys: These may stimulate you, but consider leaving them in a drawer. Too many on your desk may give the impression that you aren’t working.
  • General feel: Don’t take it too far. Cubicle decoration should always have a “less is more feeling”. Items should improve your morale or inspire you.

As is true for most other debatable topics (like work attire), you’re welcome to do what you’d like, but if you color outside the lines of reasonable guidelines, you’ll likely lose points where it counts.

And remember: all bets are off if you go on vacation…

2 years ago