Everyone has their own personal definition of cleanliness. Some people keep their homes spotless, while others can go months between cleanings, allowing clutter to accumulate on tables and floors.

When a person's space is shared with many others, though, those cleaning habits can become a nuisance. This is especially true in an office, where clients and colleagues occasionally pass through. Keeping a professional, uncluttered environment can be difficult when you have employees whose definition of cleanliness differs from yours. Here are a few things you can do if you have employees who never clean up their workspaces.

Uncover the Real Issue

When expressing concern about a worker's messiness, many leaders say it harms productivity. Interestingly, studies have contradicted those claims, with one study finding that for some people, clutter can actually make a person more productive. Forcing those employees to adhere to a cleanliness standard that works for other employees may actually hamper them.

Keeping that in mind, it's important to pinpoint the specific problems with that employee's messiness and address those. For example, have you found the employee has a difficult time locating needed documents? Are other employees complaining? Does the workspace represent your organization poorly when you have visitors? Each of these issues merit a different approach.

Reduce Paper-Heavy Processes

Some employees are perceived as messy because their desks are covered in paper. By closely examining the processes that are creating such a large amount of paper, you may be able to find an easy solution. These employees may be tasked with dealing with an overabundance of purchase requests, invoices, or contracts on a daily basis, requiring a level of document management other employees aren't required to handle.

Many software solutions are available that can replace paper and make employees more efficient. By taking employees away from the filing cabinet and keeping them closer to the computer, you'll eliminate a large portion of clutter in their offices. For employees that must be mobile, a tablet equipped with the proper software can replace the need to carry around a clipboard and pencil all day.

Relocate the Employee

If the primary issue is the impact the employee's behavior has on co-workers or office visitors, consider relocating that employee to a different part of the office. Today's open-office environments make this more challenging since there are no walls to hide behind, but a private corner or area away from elevators and lobbies is ideal.

If an employee is creating an issue in a shared work area, first start by addressing the entire staff about the importance of keeping those areas clean. If that effort doesn't resolve the issue, pull the employee aside and have a one-on-one discussion about the complaints you've been hearing about his or her failure to clean up.

Host an Office Clean-Up Day

Sometimes an employee's lack of cleanliness can impact the health of others in the office. If the messiness extends beyond clutter and includes old food cartons and spilled substances, the issue must be addressed immediately. Explain to employees that such behaviors can attract bugs, as well as cause unpleasant odors that affect everyone.

If one or more work areas has fallen into disrepair beyond what can be handled with a small amount of work, plan an office clean-up day. Play music, bring in food for lunch and allow all employees to wear casual clothes. At the end of the day, you'll have a clean office and everyone will have fun memories.

Messy employees can disrupt the office, causing complaints and potential work hazards. With tactful handling, you can deal with the issue without offending employees or further disrupting productivity.

Published on: Nov 12, 2014
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