What constitutes internal communications? Emails? Certainly. Intranet articles? Of course. Memos? Sure.
But what about that rock collection you keep in your office, or your desk full of paper airplanes? According to a new study from design and marketing recruiting firm The Creative Group, employees and
businesses communicate a lot through their office décor.
"It's important for hiring managers to understand, when they're trying to recruit top talent and bring them into their work environment, the work
environment really sends a message," says Donna Farrugia, executive director of The Creative Group. "You spend so much time in your workspace. A good
workplace design can really be the closing factor in whether this top candidate says yes to your offer."
Weirdest of the weird
The Creative Group interviewed more than 750 marketing and advertising executives to ask what the weirdest bits of decoration they've seen in workers'
offices. Among the responses were a wall of empty soda cans, a live pig, drawers full of clothes, a mermaid sculpture, a skull-shaped flower pot, a
tombstone, old magazines, and an extraordinary number of paper dolls.
The survey also asked about some of the weirdest snacks employees ate or had hanging around their workspaces. One respondent mentioned pickled pigs' feet,
another said his boss ate a banana every day and left the peel on the floor until quitting time.
Other survey respondents discusses co-workers' animal friends. One had a bug-eating plant at his or her desk. Someone brought in a huge black rat. One
person had a stuffed, pink gorilla.
Farrugia says weird may not be so bad, however, as long as it's within bounds. Toys and souvenirs can help employees feel comfortable and at home.
"Creative people like to surround themselves with things that are inspiring," she says. "If it doesn't violate that company policy and it's not offensive,
I think it's probably best just to let it go."
Of course, it all depends on the type of company. A marketing firm is quite different from a bank, Farrugia notes.
Office accoutrement tips
In its press release announcing the study, the Creative Group offered four tips for acceptable office décor:
1. "Play nice." Follow company policies regarding what you keep at your desk. If there isn't a policy, follow the precedents set by your co-workers. "It's
really important to observe what the norms are in the office you're working in," Farrugia says. "You have to take cues from how colleagues or management
have customized their offices. That's part of being a professional."
2. "Don't offend." Posters or calendars that have racy pictures, off-color humor or political statements on them could turn off clients or alienate other
3. "Be a minimalist." Keeping a few souvenirs on your desk is fine, but cluttering up the space with them just makes them obstacles.
4. "Keep it neat." Clutter doesn't only obstruct your work, it also gives other people the impression that you're not an organized person. "You want your
office to be a place where other people feel comfortable coming into and working," Farrugia adds.
Worth a discussion
Farrugia says companies should consider setting aside some time, maybe once a year, to talk in a meeting or over the intranet about its workspaces.
"It may not be a priority to generate revenue today, but given how much time people spend at the office, I think it's only a natural part of business to
make the space feel good and right for that company," she says. "A fresh coat of paint feels good once in a while."
If employees really love where they're working, it can feel like a benefit of the job, Farrugia says. On the flipside, an unappealing work environment can
make a job feel like torture.
"Do people want to stay there or do they just want to get out?" she asks.
Matt Wilson is a staff writer for Ragan.com.