For decades, businesses have spent considerable resources trying to discover ways to maximize the productivity of employees in the office. And while there's no cure-all for every situation, there are some tried and true strategies that tend to render successful results in most cases.
Surprisingly, one of these solutions may be as simple as maintaining a clean desk.
How a Messy Desk Impacts Productivity
Reliable Plant points to a number of studies and data points that show just how devastating office clutter and disorganization can be. Their research shows that the average person wastes 4.3 hours per week searching for paper, which increases stress and reduces concentration and creative thinking.
Furthermore, the average executive loses an hour of productivity every single day searching for missing information. And, finally, the biggest burden that small businesses face is the inability to service customers in an efficient manner as a result of mishandled paperwork.
While there are a number of culprits for disorganization and mishandled paperwork, one of the leading causes is a messy desk. A disorganized desk leads to misplaced documents, lost information, and increased stress. It also impacts how people view you, which can lead to heightened levels of self-consciousness (which can detract from focus on work-related tasks).
"According to a new survey of over 1000 workers by staffing firm Adecco, a majority of Americans (57%) admit they judge coworkers by how clean or dirty they keep their workspaces," Forbes contributor Jenna Goudreau reports. "Meanwhile, nearly half say they have been 'appalled' by how messy a colleagues' office is and most chalk it up to pure laziness."
In other words, a messy desk isn't trivial. If not dealt with in a prompt manner, it can actually have a detrimental impact on productivity and output. So instead of claiming your messy desk is part of your personality, maybe you should be looking for ways in which you can get more organized.
3 Tips for Keeping Your Desk Clean
Thankfully, maintaining a clean desk doesn't have to be a monumental challenge. Even for people who are naturally messy, keeping a clean desk is as easy as implementing a few of the following tips:
1. Reduce Your Dependence on Paper
"Yes, a messy desk can be a sign of a creative mind, but it also means you might not be able to find critical bits of information when they're needed," explains Insightly, a leader in CRM and project management solutions. "Being ultra-reliant on paper (you don't need to PRINT emails) or even saving too many electronic files to your desktop can leave you scrambling while clients are waiting for an answer."
By keeping documents on your computer, you not only keep your desk cleaner, but you also make it super easy to search for information. The result is less wasted time and more productivity.
2. Don't Let Clutter Build
The problem most people have is that small messes tend to breed large messes. In other words, you may start off with one pile of documents on your desk, but that first pile makes it easy to form a second pile and so forth. Before you know it, one pile has turned into a cluttered mess that's totally out of control.
The easiest solution is to clear off your desk at the end of each day. By filing documents, throwing away trash, and making sure everything returns to its intended place, you won't have to deal with extra distractions when you return to the office in the morning.
3. Use a Smaller Desk
The larger your desk, the more likely you are to fill it with stuff. If you're really struggling to keep your desk clean, you may need to use a smaller desk. By limiting the amount of surface space you have available, you'll force yourself to cut down on clutter.
Instead of coming in from a meeting and plopping a stack of folders down on your desk, you actually have to consciously think about where those folders should go. Many people have used this simple, yet effective strategy over the years.
Reclaim Your Productivity
The margin between being productive and distracted really isn't that big. All it takes is a couple of little issues to prevent you from maximizing your output. And while something like your office desk may seem insignificant, studies show that it has a clear and direct impact on productivity. Don't take it lightly!