Office Decorating


Dear, Anita,

Our company is moving our offices from our cramped location to a spacious new building. I guess because I am one of the few women in the office, somehow I am now in charge of decorating the new space. I have to pick carpet, paint colors, furniture – and I’m no decorator! The only direction I’ve received from my boss is to choose a color scheme that is relaxing since we are in a high-stress business. Do you have any advice?

Dear, De Facto Designer,

Take a deep breath… but not near the paint fumes! We spend approximately 40 hours a week – sometimes more – in our work environment. Office surroundings can influence our business’s image and our employees’ productivity.

blue modern office spaceColor
As a general rule, cool tones – blues and greens – are more calming. Blue and gray have the benefit of improving productivity… but I don’t advocate a drab prison palette. (Interesting side note: In the 1970s, it was discovered that pink reduced aggression, so a few correctional facilities experimented with rosy walls!) While financial services companies and law offices tend to keep their palettes more conservative and neutral – beige,  tan, taupe, cream – creative industries can get away with adding bigger splashes of brighter hues.  Hot colors – red, orange, bright yellow – are more stimulating, but beware of overdoing any strong color. Your company’s logo and branding should also play into the office color scheme. To explore more about the psychology of color, check out the Demesne site.  To read about NASA’s color research on color in office environments, check out this interesting link: http://www.informedesign.org/_news/jan_v05r-p.pdf. And keep in mind, the way a color looks on a chip in the hardware store could change dramatically in your office light.

Lighting
Proper lighting to perform tasks is essential to any office.  Fluorescent lights can be harsh; have you ever noticed that unbecoming green cast to your skin in a phosphorescent fitting room? You may not have much choice, as overhead fluorescent lighting is still widespread in office buildings, so adjust your make-up accordingly. Augment overhead lights with task lighting – adjustable desk lamps positioned behind or pointed away from computers to avoid screen glare.  Natural light is highly valued by employees, but be sure to position your computer to avoid reflections from windows. Stuck in the cubicle farm? Consider a full spectrum sunlight desk lamp so you won’t get SAD.

BlindsWindow Treatments
Desks positioned by east, south, or west facing windows may heat up for a portion of the day. Shutters are an elegant but pricey option to control light, hide unsightly views of the neighbor’s dumpster, or maintain privacy. Horizontal blinds, cellular shades, or solar roller shade options are available in every budget range. Vertical blinds are best suited for taller windows and sliding doors.

Furnishings
Form follows function when it comes to office furniture. The type of computers, number of monitors, and amount of file storage may dictate your desk selection. Clutter may lead to stress, so be sure that employees have enough storage space for their needs. Keep ergonomic issues in mind when arranging offices and cubicles.

Light deskGenerally, the darker the wood, the more visual “weight” the furniture has. Massive mahogany desks quietly announce importance and professionalism, while light maple with stainless steel may indicate a more modern, youthful vibe.

Carpet
While hardwood floors are sought after in our homes, carpet is king in offices, primarily because of the sound absorption benefit. I like to keep the carpet a multi-toned neutral – it helps hide dirt! You can always bring in color on accent walls and with artwork.  Be sure to select a commercial grade stain-resistant option. Carpet tiles may cost more up front, but you can replace one or two damaged or stained tiles rather than an entire office, saving money in the long run.

Extras
Think beyond motivational posters when choosing art for the walls. Perhaps someone in your company is a great artist, or knows one. A plant or greenery can be a nice addition… as long as someone remembers to water it. If you go the route of a faux plant, be sure to keep it dusted. My dream office would have a calming aquarium, but who would feed the fish on the weekends?

Readers: What would you change about your office decor?

 

Creating a Résumé from Scratch


Dear, Anita,

Recent graduate here. I have filled out job applications in the past but I’ve never had to create a résumé before, and I don’t know where to start. It seems intimidating. Can you point me in the right direction?

Dear, Résumé Newbie,

Person Holding ResumeAccording to Dictionary.com, a résumé is a brief written account of personal, educational, and professional qualifications and experience… prepared by an applicant for a job. With your recent school report-writing experience, this should be a snap. Think you don’t have enough to fill a page? C’mon, I’m sure you learned to stretch your thoughts to get to the word requirement for all those English essays.

I think Dictionary.com has the order backwards, though. If you have had any work experience at all, lead with that, followed by your education, with personal details at the bottom.

For your employment history, list the company name, date range of employment, and your job duties and responsibilities. Include summer jobs, babysitting gigs, stints as camp counselor, unpaid internships and yes, working in a family business even if paid only with your room and board.

What to do if you have absolutely zero employment history and are looking for your very first job? Beef up the education areas and mention classes that relate to your desired field (include grades, if they are stellar), outline any projects or reports that may be relevant, as well as any useful skills that you picked up along the way.  In fact, if you are particularly tech-savvy, break out “Computer Skills” as a subhead and list the programs in which you are well-versed.

Woman holding resume for a job interviewYou can bulk up a beginner’s résumé with personal information, such as skills, clubs, interests, awards, and community service. See my “Including Volunteer Work in Your Resume” post for more tips along these lines.

Another section to consider adding is References. “References upon request” is often seen on the bottom of jam-packed résumés, but for those without a “grip” of employment history, including the name and contact information for past teachers, bosses, church elders, or family friends who will give a glowing testimonial about your character is worth the space.

As for the format, keep it simple. Tempting as it may be to pimp out your résumé with a graphics program, many companies and job search sites such as Monster.com may require you to submit your résumé as a Word document. Word has dozens of résumé templates that you may download to give you a clean, professional look.

If you find you are not having success landing interviews, consider a professional résumé writing service such as CareerPerfect that can polish your rhinestone in the rough.

Readers: Readers, remember your first résumé? Did you learn anything about résumé-writing that can help our recent graduate?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Make Team-Building a Picnic


Dear, Anita,

After years of coming up with team-building activities for our company’s annual summer picnic, I’m brain-dead. Do you have any new, creative ideas?

Dear, Rah-Rah-Rachel,

Tired of trust falls, huh? This video from Outrageous Games includes the traditional sack race and water balloon toss, but has a few unique twists on company picnic favorites.  I particularly like the different interpretation of a “soapbox derby” and the race with participants wearing swim fins.

Here’s a twist on the three-legged race – a team-building caterpillar game (although this video is uploaded from the Netherlands, it doesn’t really need a translated explanation):

Spend a little time browsing for ideas on YouTube, but be forewarned – you’ll likely run across some LOL moments, so you may want to close your office door.

Perhaps a theme could jump-start your creativity. I could “arrr-gue” for a pirate motif (even though International Talk Like a Pirate Day isn’t officially until September).  Think of all the activities you could do with a rope at a western-themed picnic.  With a carnival concept, adapt traditional fair games into team trials. Or bring your three-ring circus out of your office; you’ll need to find a venue or event company to facilitate employees getting out of their comfort zone by walking a tightrope or swinging on a trapeze.  Businesspeople playing tug of war outdoors.Wacky staff Olympic Games can promote teamwork with events like pool-noodle javelins, Nerf archery, tricycle races on the grass, or creating a landlubbing synchronized “swimming” routine (remember to bring a video camera!). If you host the summer games on a beach, there is an added level of difficulty slogging through the sand.

I’m a fan of the TV show The Amazing Race. You could create a team scavenger hunt in your city with silly “pit stop” and “road block” challenges along the way. BONUS: You can get your company name out in the community when you cooperate with local businesses to hide items or host challenges at their locations. Survivor is another show that can be adapted if you flip the objective to keeping teams together rather than voting someone off the island. Maybe winners of the “immunity challenges” could receive a break from an onerous task back at the office next week.

Send me an invitation, will you?

Readers: Tell us about the most convivial activity at one of your company picnics.

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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