How to Upgrade Your Cubicle 

Here are 5 ways CPAs can create a more productive, comfortable, and stylish workspace. 
by Samiha Khanna 
Published March 21, 2017

Whether you use your desk as a shrine to your favorite sports team or to display photos from a memorable family vacation, desk decor can act as more than just a conversation piece.

Customizing your workspace can improve your well-being and even make you more productive.

University of Michigan–Flint management professor Gregory Laurence, Ph.D., who has researched workspace personalization, has found that when employees customize their workstations, they suffer lower levels of “the emotional exhaustion associated with burnout.”

Sprucing up your desk or cubicle, Laurence said, is a “relatively simple exercise” that can have positive results—such as helping you focus on your motivation for working.

Here are five ideas for making your workspace more livable. (For photos, demonstrations, and printable art for your cube, check out our Pinterest board.)

Clear the clutter. The key to productivity is organization, said Marianne Canada, a host of HTGV’s YouTube channel, HGTV Handmade.

“If my desk isn’t organized, my brain isn’t organized,” Canada said. “For starters I focus on cord clutter—hiding cords where possible and having an attractive box to house various chargers, headphones, etc. Drawer dividers are also helpful for corralling smaller items.”

Beautify. Once your desk is organized, there’s room to put a personal touch on the space. It doesn’t have to break the bank, Canada said.

“The first thing I advise people to do (if allowed) is bring a lamp from home,” she said. “A decorative lamp personalizes your space and adds light—so important if you aren’t near a window already.” Other ways to personalize your space, she said, include “layering with a small area rug, a stack of colorful books or magazines, and inexpensive art.”

Incorporating some greenery is also a must, she said. Her recommendations include snake plants, ZZ plants, ivy, pothos, philodendron, and ferns, which all can survive with little light.

Get inspired. Among the millions of accessories to adorn your desk, consider the ones that inspire the person you want to be at work—dedicated, creative, flexible, or pioneering?

Grab a few frames from a craft store and take advantage of the multitude of “printables” on the web: PDF files of art you can download and print yourself. Many are available free. They’re a quick and easy way to add art to your home or office. You can also group prints of varying sizes to create an eye-catching display.

Reduce distractions. Although open-concept workplaces allow employees to communicate more freely, one of the downsides of being in a cubicle or open workspace is the lack of privacy and, often, the noise.

If you find yourself distracted at work, try headphones as a buffer for background noise. For workplaces that don’t allow noise-canceling headphones, an inexpensive white noise machine can also help, Laurence said.

Bothered by co-workers and visitors who frequently walk by? Place a small mirror on the wall in front of you so you won’t be tempted to turn and see who’s walking up.

Get comfortable. As ergonomist Jon Paulsen, president of office furniture companies The Human Solution and UPLIFT Desk, pointed out, “You spend a third of your day at your workspace,” so why not make it as comfortable as you can?

Take measures to avoid the neck, eye, back, and wrist strain that can occur with sitting at a desk and making repetitive motions. Support your lower back with a lumbar pillow, and don’t rely on a laptop as your primary device, Paulsen said.

“Laptops are designed for portability, not ergonomics, so using one for an extended period of time can cause strain in the neck, shoulders, and upper back from hunching over to look at the screen,” he said. He recommended using an external keyboard and mouse when seated for long periods, as well as a larger external monitor, preferably mounted at eye level.

Inspired? Show off photos of your own desk makeover by tweeting us at @YoungCPANetwork or posting them on Instagram (@theaicpa with #deskrefresh).

Samiha Khanna is a freelance writer based in Durham, N.C. To comment on this article, contact Courtney Vien, an associate editor at the AICPA.

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