Our workspaces say a lot about us. This post will focus on what your desk says about you.
Due to the intense interpersonal nature of our job, clients are often curious about us. It’s usually about establishing trust: are we mentally healthy ourselves? Do we have the life skills we try to teach our clients? Do we have the life experience to be able to relate to their problems?
If you have a desk in your office, you may not have given much thought as to what goes on it. You probably figured that as long as the rest of your office looks nice, who cares what’s on your desk? But…since we are limited with what we share with clients, clients have to look elsewhere for information about us. One place they may look is our desk.
What You Should Have on Your Desk
- Updated technology. If all of your technology (laptop, cellphone) is either outdated or non-existent, and you rely solely on paper to get things done, clients may wonder what else is outdated? Your counseling knowledge, perhaps?
- Photos. It can be beneficial to clients to see that you are a real person. Photos can also serve as natural icebreakers. However, if you do choose to have photos on your desk or in your office, be judicious. Photos of you drinking beer in a bikini? Out. Photos of your pets? In.
- Business cards. I could probably write a whole post on this topic, but for now I will just say that your cards need to be professional-looking. Avoid the freebies with the Vistaprint logo on the back. They say, “I cannot afford business cards,” which could translate to, “I don’t have many clients.”
- Papers. Keeping a notepad at the ready says, “I care enough about your problems to write them down.” Too many papers could say, “These could be client records and I am not protecting them.”
- Lighting. Florescent lighting is harsh and cold. Clients will respond to you much better if they are entering a warm, inviting atmosphere. Consider using desk and floor lamps instead of the overhead florescent.
- Books. Clients expect you to keep up with the field. They expect that you will read the self-help books you recommend. Therefore, keeping this material where clients can see it (e.g. bookcase) is a good idea. Again, be judicious. Only keep books that are useful and relevant, and reflect your specialty or your theoretical orientation.
- Whimsy. Having one or two silly items can help some clients feel comfortable because it shows them that you are human and have a sense of humor. But be authentic. If you don’t have a silly side, don’t display silly items.
- No food. Clients shouldn’t see it or smell it. If you do eat in your office, avoid foods you have to heat and don’t leave empty wrappers or other packaging lying around.
Yours in the Joy of Knowledge,
Dr. Barb LoFrisco
*Adapted from “Advertise with your desk,” Tampa Bay Times, October 20, 2016.