What Does Your Workspace Say About You?

BETH SWORDS looks into the anthropological implications of your desk space. Read and adjust your behaviour accordingly.

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We all bemoan our workloads, pretty much incessantly. There are some who seem to work quite hard here, possessive of brows tight after hours of desk-looming. You probably see your desk more than you see your friends.

Your desk probably is your friend.

In that sad case, let’s take a moment of introspection to understand what each one of our desks says about us – the most exciting method in up-and-coming psychometric analyses.

The Seemingly Emotionally Stable Desk Space

You’ve got yourself some photos, a bit of work, a Moleskin notebook (a necessity), mugs and doodlings in front of you? You’re seemingly normal. Good work. You’ve lived a worldly life but you also are a dedicated student – commendable from you. Your use of post-its charmingly indicates a haplessness with technology but your prime minister mug shows a fine intellectual curiosity. Nothing really to say other than you’re a wholesome, well-lived person.

Note: decoration can go too far though. ‘tis all about moderation. Too many fairy lights and you’re too girly. Too many dirty coffee mugs and you’re slovenly. Think this through.

A leather bound notepad – a sign of stability

The ‘Shadow of Your Former Self’ Desk Space

We all love a good photo collection. Got a photo of your mum? You’re the family-type. Sports team? You’re…sporty. However, at the same time, photos also smack of a yearning for a previous Golden Age. The best I’ve ever seen is a photo of someone holding their A Level Results in a frame on their desk. You’re a shadow of your former self and you know it. Staring at these photos won’t turn your life around, mate.

You will never attain 100% in anything ever again

The Surgeon’s Table for a Desk Space

Cleanliness is really refreshing and oft neglected. However, sterility is creepy. A desk as a vast expanse with no crumbs, neatly aligned papers and hand san, although admirable, is also perturbing. Indeed, they say tidy house, tidy mind, however, there are messy elements to life. There will always need to be an outlet for that somewhere. If your desk is overwhelmingly tidy, chances are you have clearly just transferred your complicated messes elsewhere. Who knows where or when those will surface.

Or perhaps, more simply, you’re obsessive and that’s creepy.

The ‘I don’t like people’ Desk Space

Are you that person with a desk covered in papers, books, pencil rubbings and with photos of a small cat or of inanimate objects? You, my friend, are the proud owner of what we call in the industry a ‘hostile working environment’.

Imagine the scene. You invite a romantic interest over and all they have to work with is piles of problem sheets. The divergence and curl of a function can be used as conversational stimuli, sure. Maybe in the ways that they have analogous links to the divergence and curl to the hairdo you are currently sporting. However, this conversational fodder will run its course. Mess made of only academically related material saps any vibrancy from your working area and perhaps, implies it has been sapped from your life too.


“Those triangles remind me of Doritos. Did you know, I like Doritos?”

The Person Who Lives Life

Maybe your desk is empty. Maybe you’re just too busy living. In that case, you’re probably not reading this.

This person probably doesn’t even have a desk

Studying your workspace is a necessary form of self-inspection that everyone should undergo. Studying this instead of Descartes, Disraeli or Differentiation will provide you with life lessons of much greater value…