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dot life Tuesday, 12 November, 2002, 09:33 GMT
Listen, your desk is speaking for you
It's the start of the working week - welcome home. Britons clock up more hours in the office than anyone else in Europe. Your workstation is your new home and it says a lot about you.

Are you the thinking or the feeling sort; tough-minded or tender-minded; more of an introvert or an extrovert?

The clues to help answer these questions are right in front of you - on your desk.

This week, is inviting you to find out more about yourself and your colleagues by understanding what your workstation says about you.

Colynn Kerr
Colynn Kerr's minimalist set-up at home
You can also send a picture of your desk, for everyone else to see.

The idea came from BBC News Online reader Colynn Kerr, who works from his home in Canada and has a very enviable set-up.

Colynn, a graphic designer, has adopted a "minimalist" approach to his workstation to craft what he calls a "simpler lifestyle".

Introvert v extrovert

He's not alone, says corporate psychologist Ben Williams, who claims that an uncluttered workstation points to an introverted personality.

Mackenzie Crook
Cookie jars are for extroverts
"Extroverts set out their desks like a showcase. For them the workstation is a megaphone, shouting about the things they like and dislike."

The need to personalise, be it our desks or our homes, is deeply held, says Mr Williams.

"There's a tremendous strength in the human spirit that standardisation cannot vanquish. As more of us have come to take up office jobs, the workstation has become an expression of who we are as individuals."

Thinking v feeling personality

Cuddly toys
Cuddly toys say "like me"
"Thinking types like to display things to create an impression," says Mr Williams. They are keen on showing off certificates, professional awards, books and manuals that are important to their job and photos of family members in "ostentatious surroundings".

Feeling types put their emotional side on show, displaying what might seem like more trivial items, such as holiday mementoes and "family snapshots of cute, snotty kids".

"Instead of a certificate, they will display a group photo of the people who were on the course where they got the qualification."

Tough v tender

Squash rackets
Highly strung?
The tough-minded set out rigid boundaries to their workspace. Their chair will be between the desk and the window, their workstation may be elevated, their office door closed. A squash racket may be propped up against the wall, indicating their fondness for competitive sports.

Tender-minded are more welcoming. Meetings will be held away from their desk and if they offer you a coffee, they will make it rather than their secretary.

Other things to look out for

Some things crop up again and again in the office and nothing can escape the analytical eye.

Mouse, calculator and keyboard
Ahh, the old blue mouse mat - speaks volumes
Fruit lined up on a desk says "I'm a healthy child of the Universe. I drink bottled water. You don't see people lining up Mars bars in the same way," says Mr Williams.

Cuddly toys denote a "childish, amenable" character, someone who is "warm and friendly".

Novelty toys point to someone who wants to have a laugh; be matey with their colleagues.

Money, keys, wallets left on a desk point to a trusting personality.

Mouse mats are "not really necessary, but people like them because they can be used to make an upfront statement".

And don't be fooled by a boring mouse mat which advertises the stationery supplier and came free with a bulk order of biros. "That's saying something in itself. It's saying, I'm here to work not decorate the office."

What does your desk look like? Click here to send us a picture

We will post a selection here throughout the day.

Toys, mini-skyscrapers, etc
Clockwise, from top left: Clare Swain's reference books and Bagpuss; it is toy-a-rama on Toby Dunn's colleague's monitor; Sully and baby photos on Steve Hill's desk; and Matt Whitby favours the New York skyline in miniature.

Hoobs, autumn leaves, bacon sarnie, etc
Clockwise, from left: how Ben Levy's desk looked before the Hoobs were strewn about; Barbara Niermann sits before a panorama of autumn leaves; a milkshake and bacon buttie start the day right for Mark Anderson; and order is everything for software engineer Richard Hart.

Cat Protection League mousemat, Boba Fett, etc
Clockwise, from left: scientific artist Debbie Maizels tries to keep her desk clutter-free; Dave Francis has a life-size Star Wars figure guarding his desk; "horrible, isn't it?" asks graphic artist Rob Davidson of his minimalist workstation; and Ross from Sheffield opts for true Brit beer ads.

Rear-view mirror, Halloween ganster, etc
Clockwise from left: a rear-view mirror warns Darren Greaves when colleagues approach; pot plants adorn Nick Baker's window at Durham University; Mark Kiernan has yet to get out of his Halloween costume; and Jonathan Young is well set up with broadband, two phone lines, three computers and an espresso maker.

Clockwise, from left: "We've just moved offices, this is about as tidy as it gets," says Tim Latham; computing lecturer Nik Whitehead's favourite item is the globe of Mars; Nikolai Kulow says junk is the norm; and Matthew French uses his computer to makes radio programmes. He says: "My desk just has a life of its own. I clean it up once a week and an hour later it looks like a bomb has hit it."

Clockwise, from left: Isaac Sibson works under watchful eyes; artwork adorns the walls by games developer Lisa de Araujo's desk; Eamonn Jasim goes for a symmetrical set-up; and Andy Royston opts for flash speakers over cuddly toys.

Weely guide to getting buttoned up

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