THURSDAY THOUGHTS: Creating Place Identity and Bringing “Home” to Work

This week, I’m training for a client in Charlotte, so “home” is a hotel room for a few nights. When I arrived, I did what I always do…immediately unpack my suitcase, put away my clothes, set up my bathroom stuff on the counter, put my snacks somewhere accessible, and most importantly, put out the picture of my family I carry when I travel. I prefer to feel organized, settled, and surrounded by things that make me comfortable; I like to create a space that reflects me, personally and professionally.

Through every job I’ve held, whether it be a cube, corner office, or shared space, my desk includes things I feel inspired by and make me smile; pictures of family and friends, favorite quotes, a fake plant (because I kill the real ones), and at one point in my career, a red wig (long story, but I was one of the only non-red heads on the HR team, and I wanted to blend in.)

My husband is the complete opposite.

When he travels for work or leisure, his suitcase stays in the corner of the room; he pulls out what he needs when appropriate, piles it somewhere when he’s done with it, and then repacks to go home. He displays no sentimental items because, who has space for that anyway? Same with his home office; the only reason he has things hanging on the walls is because I snuck in and put them up when he was out of town. He doesn’t feel the need to personalize the space for himself; give him a laptop, and he’s good to go.

Which scenario sounds more like you?

If my hotel and office “home” style resonates, you may very likely care about your “place identity”. If you are a people leader, it’s important to recognize the importance and level of emphasis your team members place on their “place identity” too, especially if they are returning to in-person work, at least part of the time.

In a 2020 article by the US Chamber of Commerce, the author shares research, explaining that when employees have “place identity” at their work station (whether of not individuals feel their office space aligns with their self-image and enhances a sense of belonging) they are more comfortable, collaborative, and enthusiastic about work.

Especially in today’s hyper customizable culture, understanding each team member’s needs and motivators is paramount, and that includes allowing the freedom to personalize “their” space with plants, pictures, Troll Dolls, trophies, etc.; these items may very well help your employees feel safe, innovative, and focused. What may feel like useless clutter to you, may be exactly what that person needs.

For instance, if someone recently joined a team, a unique desk object may be a great conversation starter that encourages relationship building with new coworkers. Maybe the eight ball sitting on the book shelf helps get creative juices flowing when the brain is blocked. Or, if the day is going sideways (not in a good way), looking at an “Employee of the Month” certificate hanging on the wall is a reminder of capabilities and successes.

Encouraging and creating a personalized “place identity” outside of the home offices we became accustomed to during the pandemic is a great way to help employees feel welcome, comfortable, and productive.

So which “place identity” are you? Memorabilia or simplicity?

Looking for new ways to engage, empower, and inspire work teams? Contact WNY People Development for a free training needs assessment! We offer in-person and virtual service contract and a la carte development options for organizations of all sizes.

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