Being organised: They key to success in the office

With the introduction of clean desk policies, and the increasing concern over security and data protection, there’s never been a greater emphasis on maintaining an organised office environment.

Organisation doesn’t just mean being tidy. It means structuring the office space, including individual desks, to maximise productivity. A study by researchers at Sidney University examined people who were working in what the researchers called “non-territorial workspaces” – what the rest of us call hot-desking. Although the survey found that the hot-deskers didn’t feel they were as productive as they could be, it wasn’t having an individual desk that mattered. It was having comfortable chairs and crucially, enough space.

Ruthless decluttering is the way forward

The way to maximise space of course, is to ruthlessly de-clutter the environment. Papers left lying about could contain customers’ names and addresses, or other details, in direct breach of the Data Protection Act. So organisations are increasingly cracking down on disorganised workspaces.

Through its small business network, The Guardian suggests that there are several ways to achieve this. These include getting rid of everything except what is used every day. So, no stationery stores or piles of unread and unused documents. The clutter goes.

They quote studies showing that 80% of what gets filed is never looked at again which is a pretty sobering statistic. But you only have to look at what happens when businesses move office – vast quantities of paper work that has been sitting in filing cabinets is thrown out.

The letter tray is a key piece of equipment

The Guardian also recommends bringing order to the desktop environment by using letter trays to organise documents and papers on the desk. This has the added benefit of course, of ensuring that managers can see who is organised and who is not. The person whose tray is always empty at the end of the day may be a quiet self-effacing type, but they’re obviously efficient. It’s a great belt-and-braces way of seeing who’s on top of things.

While messy desks are often associated with creative types, they are equally often the sign of people who aren’t coping. Business Management Daily quotes a survey by OfficeTeam which found that 83% of Human Resources staff admitted that their opinion of someone’s professionalism was affected by the appearance of their workspace.

And now that reality TV has led us to recognise hoarding as a disorder, some office managers are beginning to suspect that office workers with extreme collections of documents and files piled up in their offices or on their desks, are actually hoarders. Business Management Daily says between 2 to 5% of people are hoarders. And one of these people may be working at a desk nearby. Signs to watch for are desks that are no longer usable, so hoarders will begin to stack files on the floor by their chair.

They nearly always need professional help. For the rest of us the message is clear – declutter now!


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