Do clean desk policies boost productivity?
24th October 2019
They say messy people have creative minds. However, being messy in an office environment might be considered socially unacceptable.
It’s all very well putting up with messy family members at home, but it’s completely different having to tolerate colleagues’ who refuse to keep their personal space in order.
Your work environment can have a big impact on productivity and creativity. Whilst some people might be happy to work in a tip, for others this could be detrimental.
Businesses are wise to consider what their policy is, and be clear to employees exactly what is expected of them in terms of how their desks should be left at the end of the day.
Here we look at the pros and cons of a clean desk policy, and whether having one really can boost productivity.
You might wonder what the link is between data protection and messy desks. However, if reems of paper with sensitive information, important documents or company files are left lying around at the end of the day, it leaves a business vulnerable to information getting out which shouldn’t.
If you watched the UK ITV drama Cleaning Up with Sheridan Smith earlier this year, it highlighted perfectly the dangers of leaving any sensitive business information lying around. Although it’s highly unlikely you’ll have cleaners snooping around trying to find lucrative insider information, if something is left visible on a desk, it might be tempting for someone to have a look. Whether it’s HR information about individual employees, business plans which haven’t yet been shared with the whole company, or commercially sensitive information, it really should be securely filed and stored in a safe place.
We’ve all done it at home – kept something important on the dining room table then suddenly found it gone when we need it. It’s tempting to keep important documents within your sight at work, so they are at hand to use when you need them. However, if you have a whole stack of these in piles, the chances of you finding what you need are slim.
There is also the risk of losing an important document or file. Filing and storing documents and files away safely at the end of the day removes the risk of misplacing or losing them. If everyone gets into the habit of putting things back in a place where they belong, they will always be there to find and use the next time they are needed. It might sound like common sense, but for people who have a messy disposition, it might need clearly highlighting in a policy. That way, anyone who doesn’t comply can’t argue that they weren’t aware.
Re-organise office space
Whilst the responsibility for adhering to a clean desk policy falls to employees, an employer has to ensure it can be implemented. This might mean the office space needs re-organising. For example, providing a shredder or creating adequate storage space for filing. At MovePlan, we regularly support businesses with filing, helping achieve reductions by up to 70 per cent. We also assist businesses with changes in the office, which could be necessary when implementing a clean desk policy.
Digitising files and documents can lead to becoming a paperless office, meaning these are less likely to be left lying around on desks. This benefits employee productivity by improving efficiency. When data is stored digitally, it can be easier to find, enabling staff to access information quickly, without leaving their desk and trawling through filing cabinets. It is also much more environmentally friendly to keep everything digitally rather than printing it all out.
Another benefit of a clean desk policy is that it can lead to the implementation of hot desking. If employees are in the habit of clearing their desks at the end of the day, this creates an opportunity to allow them to sit at different desks each day. Hot desking can free up office space, and reduce costs for businesses. You can find out more about hot desking in our blog here.
Looking at clutter on a daily basis can make some people feel stressed, particularly if they are constantly having to search for things they need.
Searching for items takes time, so if everything is tidied away it makes it easier to find when needed. Of course, you can’t account for messy employees who will still dump all their belongings in a locker without any order. However, if certain items have to be stored in specific places within communal areas, it will reduce the amount of clutter an individual can accumulate.
So, whilst a clean desk policy might not be popular with everyone, particularly those who believe they need clutter to be creative, on balance it seems like it is sensible to have one in place. Particularly as it could boost productivity, free up office space and make a business more environmentally friendly.