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Build Your Career Office Life

What Your Boss Thinks of Your Messy Desk ... And How to Clean It Up

What Your Boss Thinks of Your Messy Desk ... And How to Clean It Up
Credit: Nevsky/Shutterstock

How tidy you keep your desk can say a lot about what kind of worker you are, new research shows.

While nearly one-third of employers say an employee's messy desk causes them to question his or her organizational skills and effectiveness, others say it's not such a bad thing, according to a study from the staffing firm OfficeTeam.

The study revealed that 59 percent of human resources managers don't think negatively of employees who have messy desks, and 9 percent said having a cluttered desk is a sign of a creative person.

While the cleanliness of your desk might not leave everyone with a bad impression, keeping it organized can improve your productivity, said Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam.

"Keep your desk tidy, and you'll be able to find what you need more quickly and increase your work efficiency," Hosking said in a statement.

To help employees get their workspaces in order, OfficeTeam has identified seven desk organization mistakes and how to correct them:

  • Having too many piles: Instead of stacking every last document you receive into piles on your desk, recycle or shred unnecessary paperwork, and file or scan everything else.
  • Not keeping items contained: Try to keep different items in their own containers, so you know where things are when you need them. Use pencil cups, drawer and file organizers, and trays to keep everything in its place.
  • Hoarding supplies: Keep supplies you access most often within reach, and the rest out of sight.  A good rule is that if you haven't touched something in at least a year, it likely doesn't need to be on your desk.
  • Not embracing technology: There are a variety of document management systems that can help you stay organized. Going paperless is a good way to help you reduce clutter and find information more quickly.
  • Having too many accessories: It's nice to brighten up your workspace with some decorations, but it's best to not go overboard. You can probably leave your teddy-bear collection at home.
  • Leaving crumbs behind: It's OK to eat at your desk, but just make sure you are cleaning up after yourself when you're done. After you finish eating, be sure to clear your desk of food wrappers, empty coffee cups and dirty plates, and wipe off your desk before getting back to work.
  • Not cleaning regularly: Rather than doing one or two deep cleanings a year, spend a few minutes at the end of each day straightening up your workspace, so you can get a quick start in the morning.

The study was based on telephone interviews with more than 300 HR managers at companies with 20 or more employees in the United States.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.