Office Space - help me improve it?
January 18, 2009 7:03 PM   Subscribe

How do I make this office (cubicle) more functional and look better at the same time?

This is where I spend most of my workday. It's where I'll likely be for the next two years because our main offices are under renovation.

I basically do three things in this office.

1. I use the computer for e-mail, word processing and online research.
2. I read and review 2-3 open files (need desk space).
3. I need a chair for people who visit the office to talk.

The current setup is from a previous employee. I'd like to make the space more comfortable for tasks like reading and interviewing witnesses (I'm an attorney). Decorations that express my personality are okay, like this lampshade.

Any ideas or examples for clean, organized and comfortable office spaces? I can move things around in the office but if I want new furniture or equipment it would be coming out of my pocket.
posted by abdulf to Work & Money (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'd consider covering the cube wall with some fabric to make it less dreary. Maybe put the desk diagonal to the window so that you can look outside and make things seem a little more welcoming. The chair can go where the shelf to the left is. Also, perhaps stack the shelves to make one tall one to make the place seem less cluttered?
posted by youcancallmeal at 7:11 PM on January 18, 2009

Oh! And plants in the windowsill will help things look more homey as well.
posted by youcancallmeal at 7:12 PM on January 18, 2009

You need another desk (to create an L-shape), for your phone, and perhaps to assist with keyboarding.

The place looks pretty cluttered, so perhaps a cabinet of some sort would be good.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:12 PM on January 18, 2009

You are constrained by the heating unit under the windows, so I wouldn't put your desk facing the window (reduce heat flow, screen visible to all). Turning it 90 degrees might work, but it will make interviewing folks a little more awkward.

It doesn't look like you have enough room for a little table and chairs to converse with interviewees. If you can get a second desk or table, putting an L shape desk arrangement (1 against the wall, under all the paper you have pinned up, the other perpendicular) is optimal, because you can keep the outward facing L clearish to meet with people over.

If you can't add more furniture, I'd clear space off your desk by putting the file cabinet between the desk and the wall in its current location. Move the bookcases out and place them against that same wall near the visitor chair to create a wall'o'knowledge look (and put pictures over the bookcases, framed, preferably to make it look polished), and to give yourself walk-around room on the left. It will make you look less hemmed in and may help interviewees to feel like you are more approachable (or this may be a hat I'm talking through).
posted by julen at 9:30 PM on January 18, 2009

You could put some interesting surface decals on those white columns between the windows. Seconding the plants too.
posted by furtive at 9:38 PM on January 18, 2009

Definitely move the computer off the desk so that only the keyboard and the screen are on the desk... put the "box" on its side between the desk and the wall or under the desk. You'll be amazed at how much more space you think you have.

Also, those papers on the divider.... when's the last time you looked at any of them? Take all those down and put them in a lookup file, or turf them and keep digital versions instead.
posted by furtive at 9:43 PM on January 18, 2009

Filing cabinet should be within arms' reach according to GTD practices, book shelf might be similar, or it could be near where guest sits so they can easily peruse your books.
posted by furtive at 9:48 PM on January 18, 2009

Move the black file cabinet to between your desk and the wall. Get rid of a bookcase but place the remaining one where the one is now by the guest chair. This empties the left wall and gives walk-around room needed after moving the desk out for the black file cabinet. Put the vertical inbox/outbox on the file cabinet (this puts it between the monitor and the wall which sort-of hides it and gets it out of the center of the cube). Put the computer on the floor and get rid of the mouse pad (they're not necessary). Find a place to hide the trash can. Then maybe (as said above) some nice framed pictures on the bookcase, nice looking knick-knacks on the shelves, maybe a small piece of framed art for a wall, and maybe a little bonzai tree. Maybe try to take down the papers on the wall too.
posted by atm at 9:52 PM on January 18, 2009

Maybe a calendar that you like? One year I got a big one (Stendig, offered at various stores & on sale here) and I liked how it transformed the look of my small room and offered room for notes, post-its, business cards, etc. on the days.
posted by PY at 9:54 PM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

2nding the diagonal idea. I'd put your chair area approx. where the black filing cabinet is and move all the cabinets and shelves against the far cubicle wall (with all the shit on it). Black filing cabinet against the heater, meeting the 'hinge' of your desk (perfect 45 degrees), then both shelves forming the other side of the wedge your visitor will occupy. Their chair should be able to fit into the 'room' more then. More private.

As for making it look nice, get rid of all the clutter. Post-its, tacked papers, etc. on the cube walls can all be digitized -- just link to them from the computer desktop to keep them at hand. All the inbox-y containers like on the desk and window ledge should be removed and replaced with a brutal discipline for keeping things filed away until absolutely needed. Hang some photographs or whatever art you like on the cube faces, and then keep a stash of drinks to offer to visitors. Nice pictures to look at instead of clutter, and sipping a free drink, would make me the happiest witness person in the world.
posted by cowbellemoo at 9:59 PM on January 18, 2009

The first thing I'd do is return unwanted furniture and file boxes to storage. I'd probably spring for a nice, modern, solid-colored rug from IKEA to kill that depressing cheap hotel vibe.

A L-shaped glass desk angled to look out the window would be nice, as would replacing both bookcases and file cabinet with a slim, tall sideboard. Instead of that boring guest chair, why not pick up something you can use yourself when you want to read or take a break?

Also, think of what would really make your day happier. A mini-fridge full of ice-cold diet cokes? Your own private espresso maker? Slushy machine? You name it.

Don't forget about the wonders of Freecycle and never know what might turn up.
posted by aquafortis at 10:03 PM on January 18, 2009

Um, I don't want to squash your creativity, but that lampshade might express different parts of your personality than you'd really want on display at your lawyer job.
posted by amtho at 4:25 AM on January 19, 2009

The big problems I see with the current setup is that you must get bad glare on your computer monitor and you can't look out the window. Rotate your desk 90 degrees.

Apart from that, buy a very good office chair, even if you have to pay for it yourself. Save for a few months if necessary, then spend $600-$1000 on a good Herman Miller or Steelcase desk chair. You'll be surprised at the difference it can make to your health and happiness.
posted by paulg at 8:28 AM on January 19, 2009

Late to the party here, but I think the number one thing you can do is declutter. Seriously, your office is a mess. Specific suggestions:

Someone else suggested losing the files on the desk: do that. Even if you do actually use them, set up an urgent/active file section in the front of one of your desk drawers. But you have to get rid of that file sorter.

Clear off the cube wall - I bet you don't need any of those papers, and if you do, you can add a reference file to your desk drawer. Not much is urgent enough to need to be posted on the wall. The calendar can come down, you can use a computer calendar for reference, or if you need a paper one get a planner that you can keep in your desk drawer, it's more professional anyway.

Tidy, tidy, tidy. Get cord keepers at Staples or wherever and coil up the extra cords behind your computer. Get rid of that empty file box. If you don't need reference books in your cube, get rid of those bookshelves. Clean out your desk drawers and keep them neat!

Can you get a keyboard drawer for the keyboard and mouse? And put the computer under or to the side of your desk? Then all you'd have on your desk is the monitor and speakers. A clean desk is soooo important.

If you can't move the phone or run the phone wires any other way, get some wire guards and cover them up.

Get a coat hook for your jacket and designate a small box or bin for your hat and mittens. Or put them in your drawer. Stop leaving stuff everywhere.

Once you've cleaned everything up, then you can think about style:

-Get a new mouse pad.
-Get a few plants (some small succulents in the window would be nice).
-I think the Ikea rug suggestion was right on, or maybe some Flor tiles.
-I'd buy myself a different trash can, and I would probably also spring for a new interview chair.
-I loved the suggestion to get something that would make your day happier.
-DO NOT get that lampshade. Pick out one at Ikea, or wherever. It can be unique, but it should be professional.
-Add other small touches as desired: a framed print, one or two photos, etc.
posted by robinpME at 9:02 AM on January 21, 2009

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