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Desktop Decor: Should Employers Have Rules?

Our HR Pros take the time to answer your employer questions and help you set up a workplace culture that aligns with your goals and values.

Q: Can you provide guidance on what personal items are appropriate for display on employee workspaces? We’d like workstations to look professional and organized, and we’re concerned that some currently displayed items (small toys, etc.) give the office an unprofessional and cluttered feel.

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Answered by The HR Pros

Employers typically decide what amount and type of personal items are appropriate based on the culture of the organization. In a workplace that needs to maintain a formal and professional image — perhaps because it has frequent visitors — the employer may want individual workspaces to look neat and tidy. Casual workplaces probably don’t need the same restrictions. Basically, it comes down to what you’re comfortable allowing.

Unless there is an ongoing problem with what employees are putting in their work areas, I recommend against having a specific policy on the matter. Flexibility is often best as it allows employees to be creative and make their workspaces their own. For what it’s worth, when there are things in the workplace to psychologically interact with (like plants, personal photos, and art), employees tend to be more productive and engaged.

Of course, you’d want to prohibit anything that is harassing, offensive, or causes a workplace distraction. These prohibitions, however, should already be covered in your code of conduct and harassment policies.