There are many studies that show that everything becomes much easier when you clean off your desk. A clean desk means better focus, productivity, and health.

The work environment can have an immense effect on the way workers feel, behave, and work. If the environment, including the desk, is messy, people become disorganized, stressed, and unproductive.

Having your desk clean and functional can have great benefits, not just for you as an individual, but for the entire office and all the people who work there.

There have been many types of research that show that cluttered desks and disorganized environments have a great influence on workers’ wellbeing and performance. Their psychological reactions to the messy or clean environment affect the way they think, feel, and behave in creating work relationships and making decisions.

In addition, a messy environment doesn’t have a positive effect on employees and, as a result, people lose their focus, productivity, time, and tend to procrastinate. Because of that, they become stressed, anxious, indecisive, and insecure and the efficacy deteriorates.

It can also affect their health, both mental and physical. One survey put 10 workplace stressors on a test (among which low job control and organization)  and showed that 120,000 deaths a year in the USA and 5-8% of healthcare costs are in relation to how companies manage the workplace.

On the other hand, the dirty and paper-piled-up desks become a perfect surface for bacteria growth. They may become a real health hazard. Thus, adequate and regular cleaning is a necessary and essential step in maintaining your desk.

1. IT KEEPS YOU FOCUSED

It is Monday morning, you look around at your desk and see there is nothing unusual.

Actually, there are the usual piles of papers and overstuffed surfaces. It doesn’t seem to bother you because you are used to the sight.

However, it may become overwhelming with time as scientists found out that our brain likes order and organization.

The chaos, which you think is nothing unusual, constantly reminds you, like an alarm in your head which gives you no peace, that something is not right, making you feel restless and on the edge.

This distraction causes cognitive exhaustion and reduces focus. These distractions have the capacity to take your concentration away from the task you need to do, so focusing becomes more and more difficult.

Decluttering your desk and removing all the paperwork spread around, will help you better process any information you come across, increase effectiveness, focus, and get your concentration back. If you want to focus оn your tаѕk, you have to focus your vision first. Once the picture in front of you becomes more clear, you can move on with the task you decided to pay attention to.

Studies have also shown that complex tasks are easier to solve when your desk is clean. Your concentration is on the rise as the surrounding becomes more and more decluttered.

2. NO MORE PROCRASTINATION

Procrastination can be another problem that originates from cluttering. Some studies show that a messy and disorganized environment leads to procrastination. Having too much stuff around you affects the employee’s personality and emotions which leads to disappointment, exhaustion, and procrastination.

All these factors make workers delay workload and decision making. They clutter papers and materials at a hand reach so that they can easily get them when they decide to go back to working on them.

Actually, they create an even bigger mess which consequently leads to procrastination, and procrastination inevitably leads to mess and delay. Eventually, workers get stuck in a vicious circle.

Luckily, there is always a way you can help yourself and work on decluttering. You have to find a real place for every project or workload on the desk and make a prioritizing list. That way you clean both the physical and mental clutter. Putting your life back on track can lessen emotions and increase working efficiency.

3. IT BOOSTS PRODUCTIVITY

Procrastination issues lead us to productivity. If we clean our desk, we manage procrastination which subsequently leads to better productivity. We have to find a way to support ourselves in the whole process and find the techniques to organize things better.

The first thing to bear in mind is to make the difference between being busy and being productive. Those two things are different and we have to be sure we know that. John Jantsch explains that very neatly. He says:

“Busy is checking email, reading Facebook posts, and listening to podcasts… …real productivity is probably more like focusing on important strategic relationships, finishing that new product, or completing the proposal …”

Jane Saruwatari explains what mental clutter is as opposed to physical clutter. It is when all the information, papers, and to-do lists are kept in the brain. It is when you put your messy desk inside your mind. Your brain becomes overwhelmed and stops working productively.

She proposes the so-called “mental dump” by creating to-do lists of a prioritizing order, which might be reorganized as the day goes by if needed. We cannot deal with the clutter on the desk if we cannot deal with the clutter inside our heads.

4. IT SAVES TIME

How many times have you tried to find something on your desk and you couldn’t? Saving time so that you can spend it efficiently on productive activities is one of the most important things in workplace management.

Americans waste at about 12 days per year trying to find something. Saving time is precious in trying to achieve effectiveness at work. There is research that shows that people lose up to 5 hours per week in searching for documents and even up to 2.5 hours per week in searching documents, but not being able to find them.

This accounts for both paper and digital documents which leads us to the conclusion that a cluttered desk nowadays is not only a physical item.

Cleaning up your desk helps you find things faster. A messy desk is one of the biggest time-wasters in people’s professional life. It is considered that if more than 20% of your desk surface is covered with materials, then the desk is cluttered.

Actually, if you leave all the necessary items on your desk (a phone, a pen holder, and a computer), you already have 20% of the desk surface covered! Everything more than that creates a mess.

5. IT MAKES YOU LOOK PROFESSIONAL

Having a clean and neat desk creates a picture of a person that takes care of their work and the environment where they work. People assume that cleanliness and tidiness are echoing their competence and professionalism.

What happens if someone stands in front of your messy and dirty desk and talks about serious matters? He gets distracted and communication becomes more difficult.

Actually, relationships with the co-workers can be affected by the clutter on your desk, or at least by the notion that the image represents.

A study suggests that employees look at other employees with messy desks as more neurotic, less conscientious, and less agreeable.

This picture creates negative feelings and it influences how co-workers interact with that person. If the other person is a senior official, it may cost you even a career progression.

6. IT PROTECTS YOUR HEALTH

We already know that a dirty and cluttered desk can damage your mental and physical health.

Earlier in this text, we got familiar with all the mental and emotional benefits when you have a clean desk, from being able to stay focused on the task, to controlling your procrastination and increasing your productivity.

But there is one very important question that you have to ask yourself after all: When was the last time I cleaned my desk surface? Took a piece of cloth and wiped it up? How often do I have a snack or a sandwich on my desk?

Some of us do the cleaning regularly, let’s say at the end of the day or a week, while others think that this should be done by the cleaning services. Cleaning services do their job professionally, which means that they often don’t clean the desk surfaces. They don’t do that simply because employees don’t like their staff moved around.

There are other reasonable reasons for that too. The cleaning service doesn’t want to be accused of losing or stealing something either.

There are so many bacterias or microorganisms that grow on the crumbs and left-overs of your snack. Many of these feed on dust and paper as well. You don’t want to put your health at risk, just because you didn’t want to, didn’t need to, or had no time to clean it.

Some researches show that there are many more germs on the desk than on the toilet seat. They say there are 20,961 germs per square inch on your desk and about 3,295 on the keyboard. The same research claims that ⅔ of the employees working in an office have the risk to get ill from the germs found on the desks.

7. MAKE YOUR DESK DIGITIZED

We live in a world full of many electronic appliances and gadgets that ensure access to your documents from everywhere (if the company’s security policy allows you to do it).

So, paperless offices with more and more digitalization, set desks free, and keep them clean. In addition, it allows you to be mobile and, if needed, work from home or another place, which, in return, increases employee’s efficacy.

Digitally stored documents save time because finding them, if properly managed, takes seconds. The information can be found relating to keywords or topics depending on your personal method or company practice. It saves precious time and increases employee’s efficacy and productivity.

On the other hand, paper documents take up space and special working skills in keeping and archiving them. If not managed properly, they may even get damaged or lost, which is every employee’s nightmare.

Many companies have a clean-desk policy that contains all the rules of leaving the workplace clean after you finish work. It applies to personal working space and common working areas.

All of these rules make employees feel more comfortable in the implementation of their own rules. The policy helps them modify their own rules and keep track of the general good in the company.

IF YOUR DESK IS MESSY, IT CAN BE A SIGN OF CREATIVITY

Many people struggle to clean off their desks because they are used to this constant state of messiness. But, don’t worry, many famous scientists like Albert Einstein and Alexander Fleming or influential CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs used to have or have their desks disorganized and messy and they showed nothing else but creativeness and productivity.

Under the papers and piles of every cluttered desk, there is an order that suits its creator’s needs. Cleanliness and messiness are not always the conventional, well-known images defined by the norms of society.

They are rather a system of settings corresponding to our needs. As such, we can function perfectly well within the personalized system we created for ourselves.

Some studies show that people with messier desks are more creative and less conventional. They are ready to take risks and tend not to follow the rules and keep going outside the box.

This state of mind gives them the opportunity to be free and thus be more creative and innovative. As Einstein once said: “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk?

On the other hand, people who stick to clean desks tend to be more conservative and play safe. They don’t show the same imaginative and creative skills and abilities as messy-desk employers.

So, if you are the manager or the policy creator, be careful about insisting on having a clean desk. The situation can create an unnatural and impersonal environment that can make a sterile and organized environment that leads to a lack of creativity.

There are things that we should bear in mind though.

While a clean desk may become a symbol of uncreativity, the messy desk may send signals that the employee is not professional or ethical.

We have to keep things at our reach while we need them, but we also have to be careful not to hoard when everything is finished.

In other words, when we need to be creative and innovative, the messy desk can help. Saves your time in cleaning and keeps the things you need around, However, if efficacy is needed in favor of time or precision, cleaning off the desk should not represent a problem.

SOME IDEAS HOW TO CLEAN OFF YOUR DESK

One of the ways to clean off your desk is by hiring professional services that organize every day and periodical cleanings of your office premises. All of these services offer professional help and experts who can clean your environment and desks and implement a cleaning-desk policy in the company.

When it comes to your personal space i.e desk, you can make use of some of these tips.

  • Prioritize. The first thing everybody needs to do is go over all the projects and items and decide which are the most important ones. It is difficult to choose, but you have to make a list or something like a list of which one goes first or second because you can’t do everything at once anyway. This should not be a one-time activity. It should become a  scheduled task built in a system that reacts itself again and again.
  • Get rid of unnecessary items from your desk surface. Some of those may be grouped and put in drawers or pen holders. Old magazines and articles may be recycled. Pictures or books may be put aside on a shelf and food should be packed and taken out of sight. You can have your food back only when needed.
  • Put current projects in boxes or drawers. Many people work on several projects at the same time and putting all of them on the desk will definitely create a mess. You can put all the documents in drawers or boxes appropriately labeled so that you can easily refer to them when needed.
  • Documents and papers can be stored digitally. There are many widgets and programs that can help you organize and digitize documents, bills, and notes. Using a simple calendar with reminders or Outlook Express can help you get rid of all those sticky notes from your screen so that you can get focused easier.
  • Make it a daily routine. If you don’t clean your desk routinely, it will get cluttered no matter what you do. You can leave your last five minutes of the working day for cleaning your desk. Just clear away the coffee mugs and plastic dishes. Put aside documents in the pile from where you took them in the morning and put all the pens and pencils back into their pen cans. So when you come back to work the next morning, you can find a clean and clear desk.

CONCLUSION

Having a messy desk can be a big distraction for you. It can take away your focus and time. It can leave you anxious and inefficient and diminish your productivity.

Cleaning off your desk, on the other hand, can make you more efficient and productive, save your mental and physical health, and make you look more professional.

However, don’t get frustrated if you cannot keep your desk clean all the time. Sometimes messiness is a sign of creativity and innovation. A clean desk in the process of creation may not be a priority and postponing its cleaning for later should not raise issues.

There are always ways and methods that can be used to clean off your desk if you feel you are not that good at it. One of them is to ask for help from professional services or create a routine on your own.

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