“A simple and clutter-free office can make a world of difference”, we posted on Instagram this week.

Now it’s time to back this up with some facts. The debate on if it’s better to have a clean or a cluttered desk has been going on for years, and even the science around it is contradictory.

You’ll find the benefits of a clean and organised workspace below, but some people are habitually messy. That’s usually the creatives. The University of Minnesota has published a study that found interesting benefits to working at a messy desk. Researchers conducted several experiments on participants split between a messy environment and a neat one.

As expected, the people in the tidy room made more standard and healthy choices. However, the people in the messy environment outshined them in one important aspect. They were more creative. A clean desk appears to influence a person to conform. Although that is usually positive when working, an untidy desk seems to lead to more diverse and original thoughts.

Some professionals have bought into the idea that a cluttered desk demonstrates working hard. It was Albert Einstein who said: “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” Some may say that the Nobel laureate was on to something.

Everyone has different working styles, and that includes how clean or messy they keep their workspace. While some workplaces enforce a strict clean desk policy, it’s not the norm. Workspace cleanliness comes down to a couple factors: the type of job you have, how much paperwork you’re
dealing with, your personality, and common sense.

Coworking do’s and don’ts

In office life, we’ve all experienced co-workers who get on our nerves. They pound their keyboard too loudly, clear their throat endlessly, talk too much, or are oblivious to how pungent their fish curry lunch is. At some point in our careers, we all work with an annoying individual. Forbes has published an article by Maria Minor that explains on how to deal with this issue effectively. [https://www.forbes.com/sites/mariaminor/2021/02/09/workplace-behavior-working-with-people-that-annoy-you/?sh=3b94a6103757]

In a coworking environment where space, amenities and services are shared, it’s all about mutual respect and community. The most important thing is to be mindful of others, whether they are colleagues, complete strangers or even competitors. It’s key to leave the areas the way you found it, take sensitive or personal calls in private, and to not microwave your seafood chowder in the shared kitchen.

When working from a Hot Desk in a shared office space, it goes without saying that you keep it clean and tidy for the next person. It’d be rude not to. Shared desking requires rules and guidelines to make sure everyone on the same page and acceptable standards are set. When you have a permanent desk, you can add a bit of personality to it such as a small artwork or a photo of your family. Since you’re in a shared workspace, you still want to keep it organised and clean. If you don’t, your disorder can be distracting and unpleasant to others. You don’t want to be that person.

According to science

There are plenty of scientific studies done on the importance of organised workspaces, and most of them conclude that cleanliness and order produce positive effects on our health and wellbeing. The main benefits, according to psychology, to a clean and uncluttered workspace are:

  • Increased productivity
  • Improved focus
  • Less stress and anxiety
  • A sense of accomplishment
  • Less germs = better health
  • Improved morale

How to keep your desk clean and organised – 7 tips

1. Create a system.
Organise all paperwork for projects by keeping them in file folders. Label each file and store them in a way that works for you. It’s a great way to avoid piles of files and allows you to visually see everything you’re working on.

2. Designate specific places for you stuff.
Make sure you have a secure place for important documents. It could be a drawer or a filing cabinet. Immediate paperwork should have a place on your desk but in a way that it doesn’t overcrowd you. Organise it with clearly labelled folders or trays.

3. Create desk work zones.
The items you use most should be within easy reach and the rest can be kept further away. Place the files you need today on one side of your desk and as you work on each item, move it to the centre. When done, move them back to their designated place.

4. Get rid of distractions.
Remove all excess personal items, including things that should be taken home. Also pay close attention to the space under your desk as that is often an easy hiding place for clutter. If an item has been unused for more than a month, dump it.

5. Schedule cleaning tasks.
Make time to clean your desk regularly. If you let the dust pile up again, you will fall back into that dreaded mess trap. Straighten up after each working day and designate a specific time when you will clear off your desk completely to clean it and wipe it down.

6. Sort your cable clutter.
Organising cables is an effective and inexpensive way to give your workspace a fresh and clean look. Unplug each cable and examine your current setup. A cable tray or zip ties are perfect to keep all cables neatly together in one place.

7. Go minimal & digital.
Consider the minimalist approach and consider what you can you store digitally. Get rid of any paperwork you don’t need. If it’s important, scan it and save it on your computer or in the Cloud. Just make sure to keep your digital files organised, too.

Make cleaning a habit
If you feel things are out of control and you’re overwhelmed by your desk or work environment, now is the time to do something about it. Clutter accumulates quickly, so cleaning and organising your workspace should be done consistently. Don’t wait until things pile up to then tidy up as that’s where the stress comes in. It’s much easier if you straighten your desk at the end of each day and make it part of your routine. Setting good habits can be a powerful way to achieve your goals, and keep you focused and organised.