Spring is just around the corner and it’s the ideal time to reduce clutter, get organized, and implement new, more efficient policies. According to the 2011 Workspace Organization Survey of Americans by OfficeMax*, when there is clutter and disorder at work or at home, 90% of those surveyed admitted it affects their life negatively, 77% admitted it negatively affects their productivity, and 53% admitted it negatively affects their motivation. Keeping employees motivated and productive is difficult enough without adding unnecessary clutter and disorder into the equation; clear the mess, clear the mind!
To stop the damaging effects of office clutter and disorder, you will first need to enlist the help of your coworkers; all employees need to be onboard. Second, visualize how you would like the office to look and establish a corresponding game plan. Finally, based on your visualization and game plan, decide what areas of the office require the most focus. If it’s decided that the office is going “green”, there are certain areas and functions of the office that need to be addressed. If more office space needs to be freed up, the focus will be on other areas. If the goal is to reduce overall clutter and streamline office functions, then the entire office, all spaces and all operations, will be affected in some way or another.
A fast and easy way to start organizing the office is to eliminate paper clutter, which can take form in a few different ways. One is to start keeping electronic files versus hard copy files. Electronic filing is not only “green friendly”, but it eliminates the senseless printing of documents which usually costs the company money and eliminates needless piles on desktops. It also frees up space in filing cabinets and desk drawers, which can now be used for other items. Another way to eliminate paper clutter is to start shredding outdated and unused documents. It is estimated that 80% of papers filed away are never referenced again, according to the Small Business Association. There are various companies that will confidentially shred documents or pick up the shreds and recycle the waste on your behalf. Lastly, if certain files must be kept for tax purposes (the IRS recommends keeping employment tax records for at least four years), there are assorted off-site storage facilities that can be utilized to eliminate large amounts of paper clutter. Utilizing an off-site storage facility will also free up needed office space, whether a storage room, cubicle, or office is cleared out, there is now more room to make use of as seen fit.
As the unnecessary papers have been discarded in some fashion, the papers that remain and are needed on a routine basis ought to be properly stored in the appropriate spaces, not on desktops. All employees should have access to the supplies essential for efficient filing and everyone should use the same method for filing as well. There must be a standard; a unified coding system will ensure papers are filed consistently, regardless of who did the filing on any given day at any given time. According to the American Demographic Society, Americans squander nine million hours a day hunting for misplaced items.
Lastly, employees should organize their own workspaces. Clutter can easily be controlled and maintained with just a couple simple steps. First, everything should have a home. This may require desk or desk drawer organizers, pen/pencil cups, and stackable trays or shelves. Once items are properly housed, maintaining the order will only take several minutes a day. Items should be returned to the correct location after every use, mail should be opened and processed immediately, and papers should be properly filed at the end of the day. Old habits will need to be broken so the new habits can prevail.
The fundamentals suggested above will provide a great start to becoming clutter-free and organized. Employees will appreciate the tools provided to help them overcome the excuses and obstacles standing in their way to a happier, more professional, and less stressful workplace.