How personal is too personal for work spaces?

Most full-time employees spend more of their waking hours at work than at home,and it's natural that they'll want a work space that reflects their ownpersonalities. But is that practical?

The answer is yes--if it's done in moderation. "If employees work in an areawhere they feel comfortable, they'll be more productive," says B.J. Miller,owner of Visions Design Group in Johnson City, Tennessee, and the nationalspokesperson for the American Society of Interior Designers. "Butpersonalization of work areas is hard to control."

Miller believes excessive amounts of personal items--including desk toys,knickknacks, pictures and plants--can create clutter that hinders productivity,distracts other workers and has a negative impact on your company's image.

Some suggestions:

* Provide customizable screen-saver programs for computers to display personalphotographs. They not only clear the picture frames from desks but are alsofairly easy to change.

* Decide on a style for office artwork but allow employees to select thespecific posters or prints to be used in their areas. "It allows choice yetprovides continuity," says Miller.

* Set clear policies, and apply them uniformly. A good time to create a policyis when you're moving or redecorating, Miller says. But you may want to writesomething into your employee manual sooner to avoid problems you may have inthe meantime.