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messy office work desk covered in files, cups, papers and pens

Survey reveals the impact of messy desks

When you’re busy working hard and focused on getting through your ‘to do’ list, it’s common for your workspace to become cluttered.

But did you know that your messy desk could be affecting your productivity, your wellbeing, your wallet and even your chances of getting a promotion?

In our Workplace Organisation Survey, we quizzed more than 2,000 UK office workers to uncover the effect that a disorganised desk can have on everyday life – and some of the results are shocking.

Though 70% of the professionals we spoke to say they like to think that they keep their workspace tidy, a third of those quizzed admitted that their desk was messy – and it turns out that popular modern working practices like smaller desks, hot-desking, and open plan office are compounding the problem.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the other survey findings.

infographic statistics on how messy desks can affect performance and productivity

The effect of a messy desk on your performance & productivity

It’s not surprising to learn that having a disorganised desk leads to a decrease in productivity (both for the guilty party and their colleagues), an increase in workload, and lots of wasted time.

41% of those we surveyed said they believed a tidy workspace makes people more productive; 21% admitted that having a cluttered desk has somehow increased their workload, while 20% said a workmate’s messy space has had a negative impact on how much they were able to get done in their working day.

infographic statistics on how messy desks can affect career promotion

The effect of office disorganisation on your career & chances of promotion

No one wants to get stuck in a work rut – but could it be that your chaotic desk is the reason that you’re not progressing up the career ladder and quickly as you’d like?

30% of our survey-takers said they believe that a tidy desk is part and parcel of presenting a professional image at work, and 1 in 10 bosses admitted that a messy workspace could well make them think twice about promoting one of their employees. So if you’re considering asking for a raise or a job role with more responsibility, it may be time for a clear out.

infographic statistics on how messy desks can affect perception in the workplace

The effect of an untidy workspace on workplace perception

And it’s not just your boss who might well be judging you for your untidiness around the office – it could be causing your colleagues to think less of you too.

40% of the office workers we talked to said that they thought a messy desk must mean that their workmate was disorganised, and, when it comes to their perception of junior colleagues, the stat shot up to 75%. That’s bad news for those just starting out in their career who want to make a good impression on their team, but just can’t seem to keep their clutter under control.

infographic statistics on how messy desks can affect finance

The effect of a cluttered working area on finances

It’s easy for stuff to get lost when it’s buried amongst a tonne of junk.

1 in 5 of those surveyed told us they’d misplaced something of value thanks to their disorganised workspace, with 17% losing an item worth somewhere between £50 and £200. Proof that being messy can be an expensive business!

infographic statistics on how messy desks can affect work enjoyment

The effect of a disorderly desk on your health & wellbeing

And, finally, it turns out that a chaotic work space can have an emotional impact too.

Many of our survey-takers admitted that their messy desk affected their mood, with 31% saying it increased their stress, and a massive 49% that it changed the way they felt about going to work each day.

infographic statistics on how messy desks can affect organisation

Five tips for keeping your desk tidy and organised

So what’s the best way to ensure you don’t fall foul of the curse of the messy desk? Here are our top tips for keeping things organised.

  1. Kit out your workspace
    Getting yourself a pencil jar, stackable paper trays and even a coaster can make the world of difference when it comes to keeping everything in order.
  2. Get labelling
    Whether it’s labelling up important documents so you can finally file them away or your stapler so that it doesn’t get lost somewhere your colleague’s cluttered desk, labels can come in very handy.
  3. Don’t eat at your desk
    Though it’s tempting to grab your lunch on the go, dirty dishes and crumbs don’t make for a pleasant working environment, so it’s better to keep your desk food-free.
  4. Scan your notes
    Rather than letting paperwork pile up on every available surface, think about whether you might be better off scanning the vital stuff and storing it digitally instead – it’s much less likely to go missing that way.
  5. Take two minutes each day to tidy
    If you let the clutter build up, clearing your desk can become a mammoth task. But doing a mini ‘spring clean’ at the end of each day, no matter how busy you are, can help you stay on top of it all.

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