I’m a new associate in BigLaw. My very experienced assistant tells me I need to put some personal things in my office. Right now there is a single framed print and that’s it. My diplomas and bar admission are getting framed, so they’ll go up soon. Books are all firm-issued. But there’s a large (5 foot wide?) space between my desk and the door. What goes there?? A small sofa or cushy chair?? Coat rack? Something else? Nothing? It would be nice to have something to nap on for an all nighter but the guys don’t have those…
What about photos? Plants? Other?
There aren’t a lot of women at my firm (surprise!), so I can’t really copy what they did. Help is appreciated!
This can be a tricky subject for anyone — we all know that guy who has far too many toys in his office. We’re going to go out on a limb and say that as long as you keep it professional, it doesn’t really matter how personal it is. You can personalize your office, obviously, in a variety of ways. Our thoughts, after the jump:
There are big ways you can personalize your office:
- Extra furniture. For our $.02, we say if you have room for a couch, go for one — even if it’s just one of the cheaper ones Ikea has to offer. First, now you have a welcoming place for meetings in your office; second, when you’ve been working at the office for 20+ hours you get REALLY sick of your desk chair and need someplace else to work that’s comfortable.
- Rugs. We’re not a huge fan of rugs — they always seem to make people trip — but you may want to consider a floorcloth or a floor mat.
- Lamps. We know a number of people who got different lamps for their office — it certainly adds a touch of elegance to the room, plus then they don’t have to use overhead lighting.
- Plants. Every year for your birthday, ask your family and/or your significant other to send a plant instead of flowers. Yes, it’s something to water and take care of, but having something alive and green tends to cheer you up. Flowers are another great way — we once knew a lawyer who would buy flowers every week for his office. (And no, he wasn’t gay.) It added a lot of color and vibrance to his office.
- Paintings. Whatever you do, get the painting framed — we once knew someone who had a poster taped to her wall. It looked like the kind of thing that she’d had with her through college and law school — tattered edges and such — but it always struck us as odd. If you DO have something sentimental that you’d like to have in your office — maybe it’s ugly or in bad shape or an “inside joke” that doesn’t look like a normal painting — put it where you will be the primary person looking at it: the wall behind where your visitors would sit (which also is hopefully a wall that isn’t visible from the hall).
- Photos. This is another way to personalize your office, definitely, but be very careful what you display. A picture of you and your friends on Spring Break could be interpreted by someone who dislikes you as “party girl.” Not all innocent photos are great, either — a picture of you and your parents at your graduation, or of you and your husband at your wedding, could prevent others from seeing you as a woman to be reckoned with. (See our updated thoughts on this, below.)
Finally, there are some functional ways to personalize your office that probably SHOULDN’T be displayed, but will make you much more comfortable in it. For example: If you have space behind a door, consider getting a full-length mirror. We noticed an older male colleague had one, and so we spent the $10 at BB&B and got one — $10 we’ve never regretted. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve been saved from going to a meeting with our skirt twisted funnily. Other things we’d recommend as functional life-savers include a shoe rack for beneath your desk, and a refrigerator.
Jan. 2010 Update: This author has thought a lot about this post since my own wedding — the suggestion that one shouldn’t display a wedding photo in your office created quite a stir from the commenters. A) Display it if you want to. It’s kind of like Facebook privacy settings — it’s how much you want to reveal about yourself to the people you work with. I don’t plan to hang up a huge picture of us on the wall, but when I get around to it I fully intend to add some of our framed wedding pictures to a shelf in my office that faces my desk (not outwards). And/or, perhaps, create a collage for a mousepad. (I’m a bit behind on the wedding photo tasks, so right now the pics are limited to the screensaver and background screen image.) B) I laugh at the thought that I wanted to be “soft and romantic” on the wedding day (see my comment below) — particularly during the cocktail hour, I felt more like a manager than anything else, trying to arrange various group pictures. YOU, come here, picture time! GRANDMA, SMILE! Brother, get me FOOD! (Anyway….)