It was a long held belief that a tidy desk meant a tidy mind and that desks buried under mounds of paper and files impacted on office efficiency. Recent research from from the University of Groningen however indicates the opposite, stating that being messy is a natural human behaviour and trying to enforce tidiness is a waste of time and money. Being tidy and organised is not everyone’s liking and forcing someone to be something they’re not can impact on their productivity and potentially cause stress.
After all, besides the time spent in tidying, there’s also the cost of the office supplies such as desk tidies, pen holders, filing trays, magazine holders and files.
Research indicates that people think more clearly when surrounded by clutter as it forces them to focus and think more clearly and improve creativity and problem solving because it induces a need for simplicity. Einstein and Roald Dahl were notorious for having very cluttered desks and they did alright in the areas of problem solving and creativity.
Perhaps desks should be categorised as disorganised and organised as opposed to messy and tidy. After all, there’s a world of difference between an organised messy desk and a disorganised mess. With a disorganised desk, important work can get lost or hidden by the new stuff that sits on top of it. Also, if you spend just 5 minutes an hour of each working day ‘finding’ stuff, that amounts to a lost half a day per week. Just think what you might achieve with half a day extra each week. Contrast this with someone who on the face of things you wonder how they function as their desk is buried beneath seemingly unrelated and disorganised piles of paper yet ask them for a particular report they can find it in seconds.
Despite the conflicting arguments, I guess the answer is to do what’s best for you. No-one is going to argue that everyone should attempt to keep their desk clear of unnecessary clutter if only to promote improve the image of the office for visitors but to enforce ‘clear desk’ policies is equally as unrealistic. After all most people aren’t fortunate enough to deal with just one project at a time and need stuff to hand. Equally, those in technical jobs need reference material easily to hand and those creative types need sources of inspiration.
So, if you do need those office essentials such as letter trays, pen pots, magazine racks and lever arch files to create some semblance of order then at least look to co-ordinate your desk by choosing desktop accessories you like or which at least match the office decor. There are some really nice examples of chic accessories from the German Manufacturer Sigel. Manufacturers such as Durable, Leitz and Avery now manufacture matching desktop accessories in colours to suit any taste from metallic colours clear Perspex or even shocking pink.