Springfield, MO

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Office Equipment & Supply

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by Jan K. Allen

SBJ Contributing Writer

Sometimes office space for a single employee may be limited to a small cubicle. Often, more than one person shares a designated space.

How much of the allotted space should an individual be allowed to personalize with such items as photographs and mementos?

Caryn Pollock, sales representative for Grooms Office Systems, said, "I think it's a good idea to encourage personalization."

But, she added, it should

be carefully planned, tasteful and not overdone.

Many employers have learned the value of allowing employees to personalize their workspaces, but the key is to keep it within reason, Pollock said.

Pollock has worked with several companies whose walls are covered with children's drawings and other clippings, mixed with yellow Post-It Notes stuck everywhere. This creates clutter and confusion, she said.

Grooms Office Systems deals in padded dividers designed to separate work spaces and provide an acoustic buffer. Too much stuff on the walls can affect the sound-catching ability of the material and even damage the covering, Pollock said.

To strike a happy medium, Pollock often recommends that her customers take advantage of vertical space by adding tack boards where pictures and messages can be placed without harming the walls. She also sometimes suggests adding a personal-effects shelf to the decor.

The shelves available are small enough not to interfere with work space, yet big enough to accommodate a few choice mementos and perhaps a small plant.

From the CEO down, people always manage to drag keepsakes to the workplace, Pollock said.

Karen Gold, interior designer with

Thomas Brothers, agreed that personalized space for employees is good for morale, but should be kept within reason.

Companies are becoming more aware of individual needs. The trend in the office atmosphere is toward more interaction, encouraging communication and becoming more involved on a personal level, Gold said.

This open atmosphere sometimes contributes to management's responding to an employee's need to lay claim to the workspace with his or her treasures.

Companies have responded to the need for employees to find comfort in self expression by adding such items as shelves, tack boards and bulletin boards.

"I don't think clutter is good for productivity," Gold said. "But companies can reach a happy medium."

From the management standpoint, Dial US is one local company that encourages employees to be creative in the decor of their personal workspaces.

"We trust people to use personal responsibility not to go to the extreme," said John Wagner, head of marketing and human resources.

Wagner said Dial US has designed its workplace with comfort and maximum efficiency in mind. Even in the few open areas where people share space, most employees have at least a photo or two, a plant or a memento. In a couple of these areas with more floor space, people were able to bring in some large plants, Wagner said.

The outer walls of the office complex are decorated with motivational posters to add to the positive atmosphere, Wagner said.

Owner Jim Hedges does his part with a unique display in his office. He has hung photos of each employee on one wall of his office. "I've never seen that before in any CEO's office," Wagner said.

So far at Dial US, in giving employees free rein to decorate, there have been no abuses by employees and no grumbling from management.

"I think we're a little ahead of the curve in the way things are generally done," Wagner said. And it is working out well, he added.


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