|IN BRIEF: For most, having a clean desk usually results in you feeling energised and inspired. Your workspace is clear, so you can focus on the work you need to get done. Some people are lucky to have large work surfaces whilst others are confined to smaller, shared space but regardless of the amount of desk surface space you have, here are some guidelines to help keep your workspace manageable.|
A 2010 survey by Brother International Corporation found that 87 per cent of employees felt less efficient in a cluttered workspace, and 66 per cent spent up to 30 minutes per week looking for misplaced items. This translated to about 76 hours a year for every employee which added up to billions annually.
However, many employees are anti-clear desk and co-author of A Perfect Mess and professor at Columbia Business School, Eric Abrahamson, says there is good reason to feel this way instead. “People deal very, very differently with their messiness. In our society, organisation is considered good and mess is considered bad but this sometimes makes people feel guilty about being disorganised, and that shame can either lead to a more orderly or chaotic office.”
Abrahamson swears by an untidy desk because it spurs innovation. “Order separates things that could have been put together in new creative ways,” he says. “If you put different things on your desk, you can see new connections between them.”
It’s often your call whether or not you want to keep your desk in shape. But experts in both messy and clean camps agree on these ways to improve your workplace efficiency:
1. Find a place for papers
This might involve investing in a filing cabinet or stackable letter trays for incoming and outgoing, or ‘most important’ to ‘least important’ papers.
2. Use the space around you
If possible, attach a calendar and pin board to your wall and invest in a good shelving unit to store folders and books. Make sure you have an office bin next to your desk to throw out, rather than collect, bits of rubbish.
3. Don’t forget the little things
Stationery and other typical office items, like tissue boxes, can clutter your desk if they don’t have a place. Allocate a specific area on your desk for these materials, making sure you invest in a place for pens, pencils, scissors, highlighters, etc.
4. Don’t forget your water bottle
Dehydration can contribute to headaches and fatigue – not a good combination when you’re trying to keep a tidy workspace. Make sure you allocate a specific space on your desk for a water bottle and other drinks. A coaster might help. Also, make sure you have one coffee cup that you wash after each use, rather than letting them collect on your desk.
5. Avoid eating at your desk
Eating at your desk can lead to a collection of crumbs, spillages, rubbish, and dirty cutlery that make for a very messy and unhygienic workspace. Make an effort to leave your desk to enjoy your lunch – it’ll help recharge your batteries and give you a much needed break from work.
6. Swap post-it notes for notebooks
Are you guilty of writing on post-it notes that remain on your desk for weeks, if not months? Rather than decorating your computer monitor with a mountain of these colourful notes, use one A4 notebook for your to-do list and a telephone message book for documenting incoming calls. When you’ve used up all the pages in each book, you can file them away for future reference.
7. Manage your virtual workspace
If you work in front of a computer, try to keep your virtual space tidy. Clear your desktop regularly, establish specific folders (e.g. clients, staff meetings, reports, etc.) and develop an email-checking system that works for you. This might involve sorting your inbox into sender folders, creating archives, and regularly clearing out your trash.
8. At the end of the day, do a quick tidy-up
Before you leave work for the day, spend five minutes cleaning your workspace – wash any dirty coffee cups, neatly stack your paperwork and put away any loose stationery. Every so often, you might like to give your desk a wipe down with an antibacterial cloth. This can help eliminate germs and dust.
Even if you’ll never be a ‘clean freak’ you can still act the part when it counts. “People make snap judgments by looking at your space but it’s the perception of being organised that matters more. So when you know you’re having company, clean up!” Abrahamson suggests.