Kate Lorenz, CareerBuilder Editor
Think it’s entertaining to watch MTV’s “Pimp My Ride” turn a beater car into a showpiece? Imagine seeing a 10 x 10-foot cubicle transformed into a vehicle for productivity and advancement! Better yet, try it out for yourself. Here are nine easy and affordable ways to make over your cube and improve your image and outlook at work:
1. Place Yourself in a Position of Power
According to feng shui expert Karen Rauch, author of Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life, the most important thing you can do is place yourself in an empowered position. If you cannot see the entrance of your cubicle while working at your desk, place a mirror somewhere in front of you so that you can see the reflection of the opening.
2. Look Organized and Productive
Keep things generally neat and clean. Organize your current projects into files and keep them in vertical file holders on your desk. Office supply and specialty catalogues have a variety of fun, funky and functional organizing accessories. Find ones that fit your personality.
Put any supplies or files you don’t use daily inside your desk or credenza to reduce visual distraction. If you are hanging on to old invoices or other records, see if you can get them out of your workspace, into a central filing or storage area. The key is to look busy, capable and in control. The only thing worse than too messy an office is too clean a desktop — which may indicate you don’t have enough to do, or worse yet, aren’t needed.
3. Add Plants
Plants brighten up any office. Not only do they project energy and life, they also soak up indoor air pollutants. A Washington State University study even showed that plants help reduce stress, increase productivity and improve attentiveness. Design experts suggest using an odd number of plants. And of course, before choosing a plant, consider the amount of available light in your workspace. According to the experts at Leichardt Garden Center, the best plants for cubicles with no direct sunlight are: Rhoeo or Moses in a Cradle, Pothos, Corn Plant, Pepperomia, Boston Fern and the Peace Lily.
4. Brighten Up
Good lighting alleviates eyestrain, increases energy and brightens your mood. If you are working under fluorescent lighting, see if you can replace the tubes with healthier full spectrum ones (also called “grow lights”) you can buy at the hardware store. And because working solely with overhead light is uncomfortable for the eyes, add a desk or table lamp.
an added bonus: Leaving your extra lighting on will send the signal to your boss that you’re hard at work — even if you’re not at your desk. From brightly colored contemporary styles to classic brass or silver tones, you can find an appropriate and affordable lamp to fit any cube configuration.
5. Bring the Outside In
Most cubes don’t have windows, but don’t let that stop you from gazing at your favorite scenery. Many art print and home decorating sources offer “window scapes” that use trompe l’oeil techniques to create realistic outdoor views.
6. Avoid Kitsch
Leave the stuffed animals and crafts for your bedroom. Always keep in mind that you are at work. A few bold accessories, like a decorative vase, paperweight or framed print can express your personal style. Even though it’s your cubicle, it is still a workspace and place of employment, so you want to project professionalism and good taste.
7. Shun the Offensive
Along the same lines, be careful that the any posters, signs or cartoons you display and even the screensaver you choose are consistent with the values of your company, and will not be seen as sexist or distasteful or cause others discomfort. For instance, if you’re striving for a tropical theme, look for tropical fish and waterfront scenes, not swimsuit-clad bodybuilders or bathing beauties.
8. Picture This
One of the best ways to add a personal touch or conversation starter to your area is with framed pictures of your family, friends or pets. But before you bring in your photos, consider how they reflect on your professional image. Avoid shots that show you and your buddies drinking or any intimate photos. The best photos are candid ones that show joy and spontaneity. Good choices include photos of you and your loved ones at a favorite vacation spot or engaged in a sport. Anything showing water, nature or your pets can bring energy into your workspace, while also giving you an emotional boost.
9. Add Soothing Accessories
Placing a small bowl of potpourri or aromatherapy petals or sachets can transform your emotions or invigorate your senses. If your co-workers have sensitive noses, there’s even aromatherapy for your desktop — downloadable wallpaper with scenes of lavender and sunflowers (unscented, of course)! Desk-sized feng shui fountains can keep your stress levels down and help harmonize your work world.
Following these tips will make you more comfortable on the job and may even land you that corner office with a view.
Kate Lorenz is the article and advice editor for CareerBuilder.com. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues. Other writers contributed to this article. ©CareerBuilder, LLC (reprinted with permission)