Messy Employees in the Workplace – Part II

Aug 13, 2019
by Julie East

A messy employee may not have the best organizational or time-management skills, which can affect productivity. While there are a number of culprits for disorganization and mishandled paperwork, one of the leading causes is a messy work area. A whopping 73% of managers perceive that employees with an untidy workspace are simply disorganized. A disordered desk or work area leads to misplaced documents, lost information, and increased stress. It also impacts how people view the employee and, consequently, the business.  Below are a few tips to help your employee keep a tidy and productive area.  

PROVIDE ORGANIZATIONAL TOOLS. Some employees appear messy because they don’t have organizational tools to put their work space in order. Provide both the messy employee and other staffers with document trays, file cabinets, bulletin boards, storage racks and other organizational necessities. If staffers have a regular overflow of materials to handle, centralize office supplies and shared storage areas to free up and clear out cubicles and offices.

CONSIDER THE SPACE. The larger the desk, the more likely it will get filled with stuff. If an employee is really struggling to keep their desk clean, you may consider using a smaller desk, thereby limiting the amount of surface space available for clutter.  If the desk is too small, however, then the area may seem cluttered when there is simply not enough space for basic office equipment.  Consider raising the computer, phone, etc. to gain space underneath.

Is there ample lighting? Overhead lighting can be harsh, which causes eye strain and stress. The best kind of lighting is natural light from windows. That’s tough to get in an office, but a lamp can imitate light that mimics the rays of the sun.

ISSUE CORPORATE POLICY. If you’re uncomfortable singling out an employee for poor workplace housekeeping, create a company policy to outline maintenance issues including: maintain tidy, clean work surfaces; and regularly dispose of garbage, remove food and beverages at the end of the work day. Sanitation hazards, such as opened food, can cause ants and other insects to invade the workplace. Never allow those types of items to sit on someone’s desk, even if the employee is productive in messiness.

OUTLINE TIPS FOR EMPLOYEES.  Not everyone has natural organizational skills.  Give your employees steps they can take to implement a tidy work area. Here are few simple steps to share:

  • Create an “Inbox”. When you have an inbox, you know what is a top priority as well as what can be put aside for later. A paper should have space as it moves through your process from start to finish. It should never be in a haphazard pile on the side of the desk mingling with other papers.
  • Always organize your desk at the end of the day so at least 80 percent of the desktop is visible. Leave items in your inbox that need addressing immediately the next day, and move those items that can be addressed later into a different area. This will make going to work each morning a joy because desk stress and mental overload will decrease while your productivity increases.
  • Eliminate anything on top of your desk that is not used often. Put everything else into drawers, cubicles, or binders that are easily accessible.
  • If you need to access files at a moment’s notice or need a reminder to follow up on specific projects regularly, use a desktop file sorter.  Use colored folders or label standard folders.  You or colleagues can quickly find information, which improves client relations and results.
  • Use “File 13” as often as possible. For papers, mail and clutter you don’t need, throw it into the trashcan. Never leave items on the desk that can be tossed immediately. Trash should never hit the desk at all.
  • Handle information only once whether on paper or in your e-mail inbox. Make a decision as to whether it takes action or can be tossed or deleted. You will become more efficient and lower your stress levels.

BE DILIGENT, YET FLEXIBLE.  Recognize that even the tidiest employee will occasionally have a messy desk when under a tight deadline or working on a big project. If persistent untidiness continues or reaches unhealthy levels (where garbage or food items involved), you may need to issue a formal reprimand to the employee. Share your concerns about organization, productivity and the potential for lost work. If your employee is simply overwhelmed, engage in a conversation about workload levels and their ability to perform in general.

Keeping the workplace organized will lead to a more productive work day with a happier person at the end.  This will lead to a vastly improved lifestyle, not just at work, but at home too.

About Lofton: Founded in 1979, Lofton Services offers clients the best of all worlds. We provide the responsive, personal service and flexibility of a small local firm while having the technology, resources, and infrastructure to deliver the benefits of the biggest players in our industry. Lofton can deliver the right people, with the right skills, right when you need them. Contact us today.