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What does your desk say about you?


Are you a fan of potted plants, personal framed pictures and novelty desk mascots or do you prefer your desk to remain free of personal clutter? Do you thrive with a tidy desk or are you more efficient when your desk is untidy?

Online office broker, which works with 97% of the UK’s serviced office space providers and landlords, has joined forces with leading business psychologists Pearn Kandola to find out what your desk really says about you. Is a messy desk really the preserve of the creative genius or does creating your own ‘nest’ at work give a sense of belonging and settlement?

“Walk into any company and the chances are you will find people whose desks are all very differently organised,” says Andy Haywood, joint Managing Director of “While some companies might in fact employ a policy or have a culture of desk etiquette, it seems the majority simply leave desk decorating decisions down to the individual employee.”

“So can you really be efficient if your desk is messy? And can employers determine what best motivates an individual by the state of their desk?” asks Andy. “We thought it was time to find out!”

Louise Weston is one of the business psychologists working with Pearn Kandola. She says: “You can certainly gain some insight into an individual’s personality and what motivates them by looking at how they organise their desk. In fact, it can even give Managers a quick snapshot into how to best motivate members of their team.”

Pearn Kandola and offer the following examples:

 A person who displays targets or project charts on or around their desk is often highly motivated by achievement and by setting goals for themselves.

 Those with pictures of their family or friends on their desk and an array of personal paraphernalia tend to be more people focussed and are motivated by their relationships both inside and outside of the work place.

 Employees who have screen savers or calendars depicting tropical beaches tend to be more hedonistic – for them motivation is all about the pleasure principle. They seek pleasure in every opportunity, perhaps preferring to meet clients over lunch at a nice restaurant, for example.

 People with ‘stylish’ desks, perhaps with an Apple Mac on it because they ‘like the design’, or with stylish flowers or plants tend to be motivated by culture and the environment in which they work.

 Desks without any personal objects are often the preserve of the introvert – these people might even use files to create a barrier around themselves and their work. They prefer their desks to face into a wall rather than out into the office.

 Conversely, people who use their desks to display their personalities tend to be more extrovert and may even have joke calendars or desk top toys to draw people over to their work space and create a talking point. These types of people prefer desks facing out to the rest of the team.

 A neat and tidy desk is often a sign of a highly conscientious individual – someone who is well organised and prefers to focus on one thing at a time.

 A more spontaneously organised desk shows someone who is good at multi tasking and can switch between different tasks quite quickly and easily. They tend to be flexible and creative in their approach to work.

“People’s desks can give employers and Managers an insight into what makes individuals in their organisation tick,” explains Louise. “And changing the position of a person’s desk might seem trivial to a manager but can in fact have a profound effect on some employees, making them feel sidelined for example or creating a different environment which may take them time to adjust to.”

“From a motivational perspective, Managers should look at a person’s desk to determine how to get the best out of that individual,” she continues. “If someone has certificates or trophies on their desk, the chances are they need regular pats on the back and recognition for their achievements, perhaps by sending round an office email declaring what a great job they have done on a particular task. Pleasure seekers can be motivated by the offer of bonuses such as weekend breaks or trips to a top restaurant if they reach their targets, while those displaying lots of family photographs may be motivated by the offer of flexitime or time off in lieu for example.”

Andy Haywood says: “Everyone’s desk is different and we can all find out more about what makes our colleagues tick by taking a look at their desks. It is a fun and fascinating, but actually quite serious, way for employers to determine how to improve performance or productivity and realise that there is no such thing as a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ desk – each individual performs best when they are allowed to express themselves and their personality in the work place and their desk is often one very easy way to do this.”


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