Is your computer monitor layered with post-it reminders? Is your desktop lost under stacks of papers? Is your guest chair buried under a pile of coats and jackets? Beware! Your co-workers are judging you!
According to a recent survey of 1000+ workers by staffing firm Adecco, a majority of Americans (57%) say they judge coworkers by how clean or dirty their workspaces are. Almost half of those say they have been shocked by how messy a colleague’s office is and attribute it to laziness.
With more open office plans these days, more people can see into your workspace, and they do judge. Sometimes it’s personal. They figure you must be a slob in your real life.
Office clutter undermines productivity and motivation. Your performance is tied in with your workspace. When it’s organized and precise, you have the mindset and motivation to work better.
If you’ve let your clutter spiral out of control, it might be time for some late spring cleaning. Below are 5 tips to streamline the mess and keep your office neat all year.
1. Create Piles and Zones
Making piles does not reduce clutter…but it’s a good start. Then start purging and archiving, pile at a time. Whatever is left is presumably current and actionable and should be put in a project folder.
Then set up zones for different functions: a workspace for the computer, a library area for books, a storage area for supplies and a filing area for archives. Give everything a place, and then set limits on the amount of items in each. Once the book shelf is full, remove a book for every new one you add. When you’re filing cabinet starts to overflow, throw out or digitally archive anything older than a year.
2. Clean Every Week (and that includes disinfecting!)
Coworkers will associate a messy office with your organization skills and assume their project or proposal will get lost in the landfill that is your desk. Stay on top of clutter regularly, so that it doesn’t accumulate and then become too scarey to tackle. Set an alert on your calendar to tidy up your workspace for 15 minutes each week. Toss trash or items you no longer need, take personal items home, and sort loose paperwork.
You also need to prevent the buildup of dust, dirt, food stains and fingerprints. Give your desk, phone, keyboard and monitor a wipe down with disinfectant wipes. Most workers think people are most productive when their workspace is clean. Your coworkers will judge you positively by your workspace if you have gotten rid of visible clutter, can easily find things and your space looks and smells fresh. And you will feel more productive!
3. Clear Your Desktop
Flat surfaces should be kept clear. Rid your desk of visual clutter by reducing the items to the essentials -- monitor, keyboard, phone, pens, notebook, coffee cup, lamp and a family photograph in your most-used workspace. That’s it! Keep additional office supplies in desk drawers and place other items in their designated zones.
4. Clear Your Floor
Like a clear desktop, a clear floor will instantly lighten up the feel of the office space. Gym bags, purses, outerwear and extra shoes quickly overwhelm the space and look chaotic. Hang hooks in your office or cubicle to gets coats, umbrellas and bags off the floor. Designate a drawer or shelf for large bags or extra shoes. Don’t overload the walls! Cluttered bulletin boards and crooked pictures will cancel out the effort of clearing your floor and desk.
5. Eliminate Digital Clutter
Digital clutter can be as stressful as physical clutter. Most people spend 30-60 minutes a day looking for things. Instead, organize digital files and your email inbox just as you would paper files – with a system of logical and clearly labeled folders. Also, keep the icons on your screen to a bare minimum, and replace sticky notes on your monitor with calendar reminders.