Tidy Workplace, Tidy Mind: How Order Affects Productivity


A tidy workplace is a productive workplace. Not only does clutter set a bad impression for clients and visitors, it can be a distraction for your staff.

A tidy workplace is not just about having tidy desks, and removing clutter from areas visited by clients, it should also include keeping any outdoor areas, staff rooms and even cupboards neat and tidy.

Why should desks be kept tidy?

Whilst many people usually do keep their desk tidy, there are plenty of others who do not.

They may understand their own filing system of organised chaos, however if they are absent from work, it can make it incredibly difficult for somebody else to find vital pieces of paperwork.

Tools like letter trays with in and out workflows make a desk environment an incredibly productive space.

Taking this a step further with a clean desk policy will not only prevent staff being distracted by things they are not currently working on, it will save time when trying to locate paperwork, or anything else that may be kept on the desk.

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Why keep cupboards clean?

When your staff can’t find the equipment they need to do their job, not only is time wasted when looking for the equipment, further time will be spent by them complaining about it.

Furthermore, if the item isn’t found, more time (and money) will be wasted in going out to buy something that you may already own.

This doesn’t mean you need to catalogue all of your stationary in alphabetical order, it just means that things should be kept visible and easy to find.

Keeping communal areas tidy

Communal areas such as break rooms, corridors, toilets and even meeting rooms can cause arguments, as nobody feels that it is their responsibility to keep them clean.

Using plants in the workplace is a great way to brighten a space, make it feel fresh and clean.

Hiring a cleaner to come in at the beginning or end of each day will stop arguments about untidy areas, allowing your staff to do what you employ them to do, rather than cleaning.

Outside areas and productivity

People like to be proud of the company they work for. If they are proud of what they do, they are likely to work harder and be more productive. Nobody wants to be walking past a tired, worn building on their day off and point out to their friends and loved ones that it is their place of work.

In the summer months especially, many people like to spend their break outside. If your staff members are busy, this is more likely to mean having a sandwich on the external grounds rather than taking a walk. Having somewhere nice to sit and spend a bit of time away from the desk will see staff refreshed, and therefore much more productive upon their return.

The best way to keep outside areas tidy is to hire a cleaning or facilities management company to take care of grounds maintenance. Not only will an expert get the job done quickly and efficiently, somebody who is familiar with grounds maintenance can swiftly spot hazards or other health and safety issues before they become a problem.

Recent research from the Harvard Business Review confirms that even doing simple things to keep your workplace tidy can improve productivity amongst your entire workforce. If communal and outdoor areas are kept clean and tidy, even those who are usually tidy of their own accord will benefit from a boost of morale, ultimately increasing productivity.

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Leave a Comment:

Tom Wright says July 21, 2018

For a counter point to some of these arguments one might like to read economist and journalist Tim Harford’s writing on the matter. That we argue (with somewhat more evidence than given here) that clean desk policies tend to impair productivity.

To be clear, every decision is going to dependent upon context and I can think of a few environments when clean desk policies might be important – such as organizations handling important private information (e.g. finance) or where safety is very important (e.g. workspaces) or course these are relatively easy arguments to win with your fellow staff members.


I would also note that the “pride” arguments have a counterpart of “we are doing something exciting / worthwhile – we don’t care about that rubbish”. This will likely again depend upon your organizations goal.

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