How does clutter affect employee productivity?

Office clutter clearing business, AnyJunk considers the implications that cluttered desks can have on a business and employees' productivity, as well as tips and solutions for decluttering the office. 

The National Association of Professional Organisers (NAPO) found in their study that disorganisation can lead to financial losses equivalent to 10 per cent of a manager’s salary. NAPO also state that 80 per cent of the clutter in the office is a result from being disorganised and not due to a lack of space. There is no excuse for small or large business owners!

When your environment is cluttered, the chaos restricts your ability to focus. The clutter also limits your brain’s ability to process information. Clutter makes you distracted and unable to process information as well as you do in an uncluttered, organised, and serene environment, according to Princeton University.

Overloading your brain forces it to divide its power, making it more difficult to sift through information, move between tasks, quickly, and have a strong working memory.

How clutter impacts employee productivity

Researchers at Yale recently identified that the anterior cingulate cortex and insula, the two places your brain associates with pain, illuminate when you let go of things you own and feel connected to. This means it’s painful to get rid of things due to a real connection with the item.

While it may be difficult to let go of these things that then cause clutter NAPO state that the number one challenge in being organised is paper clutter.

Some studies reveal the average person wastes up to 4.3 hours a week looking for papers, which adds stress and frustration to the workplace while reducing concentration and creative thinking.

Cleaning professionals say that getting rid of excess clutter would eliminate 40 per cent of the cleaning work needed.

Bryan Hunter from Instant Offices emphasises: “Keeping your company organised is paramount to keep staff mobilised, sustain high office productivity, and remain focused on priorities and profitability. Whether you are a large organisation or a small business owner, maintaining a clutter-free office can have a huge effect on the bottom line.”

The good news is that there’s something you can do about it. Office clutter clearing business, AnyJunk considers the implications that cluttered desks can have on a business and employees’ productivity, as well as tips and solutions for decluttering the office.

Tips and benefits to decluttering at work

Save time and improve efficiency by using a filing system. When paperwork piles up, you waste time looking for what you want.

  • Use a filing system for keeping things where they belong. This will clear the surface of your desk and you’ll know where documents are when you need them.
  • Use a logical flow to keep papers in one spot. Pens, notebooks, and other commonly used items should be kept at arm’s length.

A US study shows the average worker wastes up to one week a year searching for misplaced items.

  • Decluttering your digital space is just as important as the physical stuff – they both have the same effect on your brain.
  • Often, we need to access documents in a moment’s notice, in which case a thought-out desktop file sorter is important.
  • Try using colour coded folders, and not stacks of files.

Reduce workplace accidents and spills with a clear space. A recent study by the HSE reported that between 2013 and 2016 an average of 119 000 employees slipped, tripped, or fell at work in the UK. Have you ever tripped over a colleague’s pile of tossed out paperwork, crammed rubbish bin, or unruly cords?

  • Remove, or toss, anything from your desk that is not used often. Everything else should go in drawers, cabinets, and containers for easy access.
  • Keep the space around your computer clear so that your mouse, and hands, can move freely without knocking anything over.
  • You will instantly be more efficient, energised and fewer accidents will occur.

Keep areas clean for less employee absence and higher employee motivation. Being healthy at work directly impacts productivity – no one works well when they’re ill, and chances are you’ll end up infecting a fellow employee.

  • Initial Hygiene UK discovered that 57 per cent of employees feel more motivated and have greater morale when their workplace is clean and provisions are made for proper hygiene solutions
  • The tidier your workspace, the more hygienic it is.
  • There are germs and mould from viruses or crumbs that can’t easily be seen. Dust, mould, and animal hairs (if your office is lucky enough to have these furry bundles of joy visit) that get wedged into cluttered spaces trigger allergies and asthma.
  • Don’t risk your health, and that of your colleagues. Keep your desk and other surfaces clean by using powerful cleaners regularly.
  • Even if your office has a regular cleaning service, they won’t get into the nooks and crannies – be sure to tackle these untouched surfaces.

Praseeda Nair

Kellen Rempel

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.

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