Working in an office can be pretty annoying, can’t it? The meaningless buzzwords, the annoying noises people are making: annoying. Good job you have your desk then, eh? Your domain. Your castle. Your safe space.
And whether you keep your desk messy, tidy or somewhere inbetween, there seems to be evidence that it’s productive in some way: some studies say that mess helps creativity flourish, others say that it’s distracting and harms productivity.
But the real question we’ve all been asking: what does my desk say about me? Well, luckily for you we’re here to tell you.
You definitely know someone with a horrifically messy desk – or you have one. Coffee cups, books, paper, pens that don’t work, business cards you’ve never looked at, food wrappers, empty glasses, phone chargers, sunglasses: you name it, you have it on your desk.
According to psychologist Suzy Green, some people thrive on mess and are even “inspired by chaos” – so if your desk is a big ol’ mess then there’s a definite chance that you might be a creative soul.
Or: you might be lazy. Green also notes that it’s important to differentiate between a “creative mess” and a normal, bog-standard mess. Dirty plates on your desk? Clear ‘em up, mate. It’s gross.
Conversely, you might have a super-tidy desk that you’re incredibly anal about. Everything goes in the bin immediately: cups are returned to the kitchen as soon as you’re done with them.
This probably means you’re a “conscientious person”, Green says, who “dislikes clutter and can become stressed if people place items on their desk when they’re not there”.
What this says about you? You’re probably really hard-working, but you can get overwhelmed easily. Have a break.
Think you’re pretty cool, do ya? Desk covered in rose-gold holders and cacti? You probably have what Green describes as a “highly styled workspace”.
What this means in practice, apparently, is that you have an “appreciation for beauty and excellence, and an eye for beauty”. You like beauty so goddamn much, in fact, that you value it “over productivity”.
Desk covered in mementos, personal photos and artwork? You’re a personaliser.
What this means in practice? You’re open to new experiences, creative and friendly. Well done.
Probably the most annoying of all desk-havers, you let your stuff expand over not only your desk BUT ALSO THE DESK OF WHOEVER IS NEXT TO YOU. Your papers are on someone else’s desk; so are your books. Your coat is probably on the back of someone else’s chair. Your coffee mug is currently making rings on...yes, on someone else’s desk. Obviously.
According to Lily Bernheimer, an environmental psychology consultant, people who like to spread their shit all over the office are more likely to be “dominant personalities” as well as, ironically, incredibly defensive of their space. “They may try to mark more and more territory for themselves by moving their coffee cup and their sandwich out further to claim more territory,” she told the BBC.
You might also like a “spot in the centre of the room” and be “more aggressive about carving out physical space”.
In short? Annoying, mate. You’re annoying.
According to Bernheimer, others like to be “isolated” and “feel insecure” if their desk is in a high-traffic area. If this is you, you probably also value how tidy your space is – too messy, and you get distracted.
“Evolutionarily, it would have been advantageous to us to situate ourselves in places where we had a good view of potential threats,” she said.
Bernheimer also said that surveyers can “even be a little grumpy” – but you’re also “highly creative and productive” too. As long as you leave them alone, anyway.