productivity study infographic

Cluttered Desk, Cluttered Mind – Don’t Let a Messy Office Affect Your Productivity

30 March 2017

Productivity is important in both home and work life, and staying focused and motivated is key. Unfortunately, there are things that threaten to throw us off track like noise, bad lighting, and clutter. Most people don’t realise the influence a pile of stuff can have on their ability to process information.

AnyJunk unpacks the impact clutter has on the brain, and thus, its effect on productivity in the workplace.

productivity infographic


What Clutter Does to Your Brain

Too much junk around you can negatively affect your focus and ability to process information. Clutter in the office adversely impacts concentration by drawing focus away from what’s important. It also gives you the nagging feeling that your work is never complete, and even encourages negative self-talk that further demotivates you. 

Overloading your brain forces it to divide its power, making it more difficult to: 

  • Sift through information
  • Move between tasks, quickly
  • Have a strong working memory

“When your environment is cluttered, the chaos restricts your ability to focus. The clutter also limits your brain’s ability to process information. Clutter makes you distracted and unable to process information as well as you do in an uncluttered, organised, and serene environment.” – Princeton University

Why Decluttering Improves Productivity

Researchers at Yale recently identified that the anterior cingulate cortex and insula, the two places your brain associates with pain, illuminate when you let go of things you own and feel connected to.

At work, structured surroundings allow us to be more efficient and effective, but when stacks of paper and a disorganised desk take over your workspace, motivation and profitability fly out the window. Surrounding clutter competes for your attention, distracting your focus, and thought process.

The National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPOstates that the number one challenge in being organised is paper clutter. Some studies reveal the average person wastes up to 4.3 hours a week looking for papers, which adds stress and frustration to the workplace while reducing concentration and creative thinking.

Bryan Hunter from Instant Offices, the world’s largest office brokering service dedicated to finding ideal flexible workspaces for clients, emphasises: “Keeping your company organised is paramount to keep staff mobilised, sustain high office productivity, and remain focused on priorities and profitability. Whether you are a large organisation or a small business owner, maintaining a clutter-free office can have a huge effect on the bottom line.”

The same study done by NAPO found that disorganisation can lead to financial losses equivalent to 10% of a manager’s salary. That’s a scary statistic, but the good news is that there’s something you can do about it. About 80% of the clutter in your home or office is a result of being disorganised, not due to a lack of space – therefore, there’s no excuse for small or large business owners.

Cleaning professionals say that getting rid of excess clutter would eliminate 40% of the cleaning work needed. There are numerous benefits to organising your desk and decluttering your office – here are a few more to boost productivity.



Eliminate the mess and stress overload 

Knowing where items are will keep you on top of your game. When paperwork piles up, with random items getting concealed underneath, you waste time looking for what you want. A filing system for keeping things where they belong will clear the surface of your desk — and you’ll know where they are when you need them. Use a logical flow: keep papers in one spot; pens, notebooks, and other commonly used items should be kept at arm’s length. Unmanageable cables are another reason to keep the space under your desk clear. Make sure there are enough electrical outlets for easy connection and to minimise tangled wiring.

Reduce workplace accidents and spills

Unattended rubbish and clutter is dangerous. Have you ever tripped over a colleague’s pile of tossed out paperwork, crammed rubbish bin, or unruly cords? A recent study by the HSE reported that between 2013 and 2016 an average of 119 000 employees slipped, tripped, or fell at work in the UK. Remove, or toss, anything from your desk that is not used often. Everything else should go in drawers, cabinets, and containers for easy access. Keep the space around your computer clear so that your mouse, and hands, can move freely without knocking anything over. You will instantly be more efficient, energised, and fewer accidents will occur.

Save time and improve effectiveness

A US study shows the average worker wastes up to one week a year searching for misplaced items. Decluttering your digital space is just as important as the physical stuff – they both have the same effect on your brain. Often, we need to access documents in a moment’s notice, in which case a thought-out desktop file sorter is important. Try using colour coded folders, and not stacks of files.

Improve your health and wellness

 Research done by Initial Hygiene UK discovered that 57% of employees feel more motivated and have greater morale when their workplace is clean and provisions are made for proper hygiene solutions. The tidier your workspace, the more hygienic it is.  There are germs and mould from viruses or crumbs that can’t easily be seen. Dust, mould, and animal hairs (if your office is lucky enough to have these furry bundles of joy visit) that get wedged into cluttered spaces trigger allergies and asthma.

Don’t risk your health and that of your colleagues. Keep your desk and other surfaces clean by using powerful cleaners regularly. Even if your office has a regular cleaning service, they won’t get into the nooks and crannies – so be sure to tackle these untouched surfaces.

Tricks for a Quick Declutter:

  • Re-think your belongings, give everything a flow: Start small, and as you go through your things, ask: does this have a purpose, and when last have I used this? If you haven’t used it in a month then chances are you won’t miss it if it’s no longer there. If you do see yourself missing this object, keep it in storage under your desk or in drawers. Where you put things is just as important, as you want quick access to what you use most often. Store items you use regularly in the closest drawer, with everything else in drawers further away.
  • Tame the cables and build hidden storage: Your desk and cupboards aren’t your only storage options. Get creative. For example, use a pegboard to control cables and other wires behind and below your desk. Place additional drawers under your desk for items you don’t often use, but need to keep. Out of sight out of mind.
  • Everything needs a home: Whatever the item, it needs a place to live when your desk is spotless. Without a defined space, your desk will spiral out of control.

For specialists in removing office clutter, book AnyJunk, the UK’s number one choice for rubbish clearance.

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