The Importance of Personalized Workspaces

Letting employees decorate their workspaces plays an important role in building relationships within the company — without them there aren't any icebreakers.

Personal decorations for your office cube are seen as “territorial markers,” writes BPS. But more than that, researchers have found from a recent study that these trinkets help build relationships within a company by creating visual icebreakers.


Researchers Kris Byron and Gregory Laurence interviewed 28 people across a number of professions in various workplaces. The study was a deep dive into the items these people left in their workspaces from Star Wars figurines to MBA certificates, going through each piece that stood within their cubes asking about its significance.

They found that the trinkets acted as ambassadors for workers, helping workers express their personalities to others within the office.

Byron and Laurence photographed each of the participants' workspaces, examining how these spaces looked from an outsider's perspective. They found that most conversational pieces were displayed where they would be noticed most. When the researchers spoke to the participants about these conversational trinkets, they expressed how important they were to building relationships within the company.

In a Big Think interview, Sam Gosling, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, explains the important psychological comfort we gain by personalizing the space around us:

"People tend to be happier, healthier, and more productive when they can bring other people's view into line with their own. ... They want to be known. It provides them with more predictability. They know you know how to react to them, and the interactions go more easily when everyone has a good understanding of who is who."

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