The state of our workplace has a significant effect on the way that we work. When our space is a mess, so are we.

It’s time to recognise the role that clutter plays in our work—and to do something to clean up the mess.

Here’s why:

1. Every time we go searching for a lost paper on a cluttered desk, we lose precious work minutes. And if our workplace is paperless, the typical worker can lose up to two hours a week fruitlessly searching for lost digital documents, one international survey revealed.

2. More important, clutter negatively influence our stress and anxiety levels, our ability to focus, our decision-making and behaviour, our eating choices, and even our sleep. Workplace stress costs American businesses a staggering US$190 billion every year in health care costs alone.

3, Not bothered by overstuffed filing cabinets or the stacks of paper on your desk? MRI scans show that our brains like order, and that clutter drains our cognitive resources and reduce our ability to focus. On the other hand, when people clear clutter from their work environment, they can better focus and process information, and their productivity increases.

4. Workers who feel overwhelmed by the amount of “stuff” in their office are more likely to procrastinate. U.S. researchers found that stress and emotional exhaustion causes workers to delay making decisions and to keep more material for all their ongoing tasks within easy reach, producing messier workspaces.

5. Clutter can also affect our general mental health, making us feel stressed, anxious, or depressed. This can lead others to conclude we are less conscientious, more neurotic, and less agreeable. Such perceptions can negatively affect our career.

So how can we cut the clutter and take control of our workplace?

  • Regularly tidy your workspace, rather than letting things accumulate. Avoid letting things get so bad that you start cleaning as a form of procrastination.
  • Smart companies and workers schedule regular “spring cleaning” days. Some even produce a clean-desk policy to govern the tidiness of shared work spaces.
  • In addition, company IT teams can provide tools to manage online documents, as well as policies on what should be kept and what can be discarded.


A very messy desk may send unfavourable messages about your work ethic and personality. Keep things on hand that are needed for current projects, but resist the temptation to hoard.


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