In many offices, the busier you are, the more cluttered and less productive your working environment becomes. In order to maintain efficiency, every team need a process to keep things tidy and organized. This might seem like a simple task, but when we’re in our offices every day, it’s easy become accustomed, and even immune, to the clutter. This often leads to unanticipated organizational problems. It may seem like a simple thing, but having a system in place to keep a workspace free from clutter and confusion is often a leading indicator of a team’s ability to manage more complex things, like a distribution system or a QA workflow.
Besides keeping an office clean and tidy, what are the benefits of keeping your office clutter-free?
Increased Productivity – The less time you spend trying to find objects and specific documents, the more time you can spend focusing on your work. Searching for your documents in the cloud can also give you greater control and access to documents while keeping your office clean.
Peace of Mind – Clutter doesn’t just affect your physical space, but your mental space too. In other words, when your mind is concerned about the state of your office, you tend to be distracted and lack the focus and concentration needed. A cluttered office tends to be representative of a worker’s state of mind.
Brand Representation – If you walked into a client’s office and found it disorganized, what would you think? Likely you would project that environment to how the client handles business. The same goes for your own brand. Even in a shared coworking environment, keeping your workspace clean not only gives a better representation, it demonstrates respect for the space and the other people that share it.
Let’s examine some tips for decluttering your office space and, consequently, becoming more productive.
1. Only keep the things you need
2. Organize your office based on practicality
3. Sort by keep, recycle/trash, and belongs elsewhere
4. Get your cables under control
5. Take a photograph
6. Digitize your notes and documents
7. Develop stronger organizational habits
Rather than trying to make individual decisions on what to save and discard, sometimes it is best to get rid of everything and then slowly add things back as you require them. Think of it as your computer desktop. The more applications you install, the more shortcuts show up on the desktop background. It’s only when you remove all those shortcuts that you realize how few of them you actually used.
This same principle applies to your office office, whether at home or offsite. It’s not uncommon to have items in a work area that haven’t been touched for months, but that doesn’t mean they need to stay there. Don’t let them take up valuable real estate while adding nothing to your productivity. By getting rid of everything and then adding things back in as required, you can more effectively and objectively keep only the essential. Although this method may seem extreme, it is an excellent way to quickly determine which items do not serve a purpose or impede your productivity (although we won’t judge you for keeping a few items for sentimental reasons).
Check out this video from organizing consultant Marie Kondo on how to organize your desk.
Once you have reduced the clutter by following the start from scratch method, the next step is to arrange the remaining items in your workspace in order of how regularly you use them. You might use your fountain pen on a daily basis, but you probably consult your Human Resources manual once every six months.
To improve your workflow, place your most frequently used items in the top desk drawers (such as chargers and notebooks), where access is quick and easy. Have pens and pencils in a cup nearby, and store other supplies (such as headphones, staples, rubber bands) in lower drawers. Arrange the rest of the office similarly, so that your least-used items are furthest away. This simple system will increase productivity and ensure that your most frequently used things are always close by, while your other personal items can be tucked away and off your desk.
There’s a reason leaders of all types often default to the rule of three’s – it works. If you want a faster process for organizing your supplies and belongings create three boxes or bags: keep, recycle or discard, and place somewhere else. You should be able to find a place for everything. Even those who are sentimental and tend to hold on to certain objects can find a new place for their items and still manage to remove the clutter from the office. Also consider which objects you can recycle (papers and plastics), and which ones you can throw away (empty bottles, flyers, and leaflets).
From phone and laptop chargers to HDMI cords and headphone dongles, the number of cables in every office seems to multiply exponentially. Whether those cables are on top of, or underneath your desk, it can be a never-ending battle to keep those cables under control. Some people choose to ignore this issue, but when a problem develops with any of your electronics, this lack of organization can cause considerable delays in identifying and correcting the problem.
An excellent solution to this issue is to invest in a Dymo Labelling system and then label every cable as you install it in your office. The next step is then to invest in a Cablox system which can quickly and easily arrange your cables and then perhaps, just as importantly, ensure they stay organized neat and tidy moving forward. If you want to be creative and save money, you can also create labels and organization boxes using film containers, paper holders, shoeboxes, and other household items.
Have you ever visited other offices and noticed clutter that your colleague is blissfully unaware of? The same is likely true of your office. Your visitors see your office with a fresh perspective and are more observant of the clutter in your office that you may not even notice.
A great way of testing this synopsis is to take a photograph of your office from the door. This will enable you to see your working environment in the same light as your guests do, leaving you shocked by the result. If you have trouble finding clutter, try taking photos from different angles. Photographs provide an entirely different perspective, and potential problems could pop out of the picture, helping you quickly identify the areas that need to be cleaned up.
Most of your clutter is probably paper-based: documents, business cards, sticky notes, meeting notes, and more. The problem is that these not only take up space, but most of these documents are not something you look at on a regular basis. Instead of keeping them around on the off-chance you may need it one day, digitize your documents by creating electronic copies, either by scanning them or typing them out instead.
There are numerous apps available on your smartphone which can quickly and easily scan documents and store the required details on your phone. Take photos of essential documents that you cannot risk losing, and then discard or recycle the paper versions. You can also switch to other note-taking apps, such as Evernote, Google Docs, Google Keep (a note), and the notes apps on iOS and Android phones. These apps allow you not only to digitize notes but synchronize them across multiple devices through the cloud. If you have hundreds of business cards on your desk space, either take photos or add the people as contacts, then throw them away. One benefit of digitizing your documents is that you can search through them quickly and conveniently.
The biggest change you can enact to stay clutter-free is to develop a new habit of cleanliness and organization. Whenever a new object is introduced into the office, such as a piece of mail or a new document, decide what you plan to do with it at that moment, or at least before the end of the day. Revisit the keep, trash/recycle, or place elsewhere idea to determine where to place the document. Preventing clutter is the best way to keep your office clean.
At Expansive we focus on providing the best facilities to enable businesses to grow, expand, and develop their organization. We are constantly looking for solutions to increase efficiency, and improve productivity. If you are determined to grow your business and look for innovative ideas, keep up-to-date with our blog for weekly business tips & inspiration.