The average American spends about 40 hours a week at work. That’s 2,080 hours a year! That may be more hours of work than sleep (if you’re a parent to a kid under 2!). If you were to ask anyone if their work environment affects their mood, I’m betting you’d get a resounding yes! Whether it’s a disdain for a certain co-worker’s alt-rock music flowing over your cubicle wall, a lack of windows/natural light, or mountains of paperwork piled up around you, your work surroundings have the ability to affect your productivity as well as your mood.
Unfortunately, most businesses in corporate America come with a standard grey or beige desk, matching cubicle walls, and fluorescent lighting. There’s little you can do to change the ambiance except whip out some neon post-its and frame a picture of your puppy to sit next to your phone.
Just recently, I began the process of becoming a minimalist in my home, and one of the mantras worth repeating is, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Read it again, and let that sink in for a minute. Now, sub-in “work station” for “house” and this can be mind-blowing. Like did you even know you don’t have to surround yourself with ugly, soul-sucking furniture and clutter? You don’t have to stick with something just because, “that’s how it’s always been,” or “everyone keeps xyz on their desk.”
After five years of working with the same drab backdrop, I decided to do something about it, and accept the challenge to make everything in my workspace either useful and/or beautiful.
Assess the situation. Start brainstorming what things you can realistically do to your workspace that would be budget-friendly and non-disruptive towards your co-workers or overall office “look.” Make a pinterest board, cut out physical magazine photos, or pull ideas from your memory bank.
I decided I wanted to go with something a little modern/edgy. I wanted it to feel like I’m working at the businesses of “The Intern,” “The Devil Wears Prada,” or “The Dilemma,” etc. The “start-up/techy” feel….which coincidentally my company is like the OG of start-ups (way back to 1976) and is still small and run by our founder. So do I really want my desk to keep feeling like I sell insurance for a fortune 500 company? I THINK NOT!
I decided on my main 3 goals for aesthetic transformation:
- Butcher Block desktops
- Industrial metal cubicle walls (which would still be highly usable for posting notes to myself with magnets)
- Clutter-free work space
Ask for permission from your supervisor to make improvements to your work area. Try to be as specific as possible about your plans ahead of time so you don’t have to deal with undoing your hard work when your boss is suddenly upset that you painted your desk hot pink. Do not expect your company to pay for any alterations you make, so be sure that they’re temporary and could be taken with you should you leave the job (if it’s coming out of your own pocket).
If you’re lucky to work for amazing people like I do, my supervisor(s) approved of me doing whatever I wanted (within reason) AND offered to pay for some of the permanent changes I wanted to make — DOUBLE SCORE!
Throw away as much unusable stuff as you can; any outdated papers, broken paper clips, old business cards, etc. Deep clean your desk! Use swiffer dusters, lysol wipes, vacuum, etc. I found a small-ish hand held vacuum in our storage closet at work. It looked pretty 80s/90s and probably used to be white. You could sling it over one shoulder and walk around with it sucking up dust bunnies. IT WAS AWESOME. I literally felt like a ghostbuster and told everyone that passed by that I was ghostbusting my desk. See, cleaning CAN BE FUN.
Reorganize your filing cabinets, drawers, cupboards, and any other storage space you have at your desk. Try to put the majority of your desktop clutter away into a closable home.
Proceed with turning your minimalist dreams into reality! I bought butcher block patterned adhesive contact paper to cover all of the top surface area of my horseshoe shaped work station. It warmed up my whole zone and made me feel instantly more important! Important people have wood desks, am I right?! This took several hours, and a lot of explanations to my co-workers as to what I was doing (I work in the fishbowl of the office and everyone walks past me everyday); it doesn’t seem that anyone has redecorated their desk even though this furniture’s been around for 20+ years.
Next up I tackled the walls because grey fabric cubicles are not my jam. I ordered sheets of metal from Jet (real magnet boards are super expensive, so gotta go the rugged industrial route!) then attached heavy-weight velcro to the backs of them. The velcro sticks to the cubicle fabric, and is tested to hold up to 10 lbs! These metal sheets are functional and also temporary/easy to take down.
Complete the finishing touches; place only extremely necessary and/or beautiful items on the desktop! Framed pictures of your family, flowers, computer monitor, phone, and an organizer for writing utensils. I also discovered I had an under-cabinet light hovering over one of my desk spaces. I turn it on everyday now, just to brighten up the area!
I’m so thrilled with the results and have had many requests from co-workers to makeover their desks too….although for now I’ve suggested I’ll totally take imitation as flattery, but won’t be putting in the hard work myself! 😉 Happy desk decorating friends!