The Clean Desk Policy: Increase the Productivity of your Home Office
Having a clean desk free of clutter can increase the effectiveness and productivity of your home office, and develop a work environment for clearer thinking, better ideas, and increased efficiency. In this article, we will discuss how to implement the clean desk policy in your workspace.
Considering the rapid increase in people working from home, whether due to the safety and social distancing measures effective because of the recent pandemic, or due to the freelance nature of their work, there is an increased need for good and efficient home offices that people can work from conveniently. Many of us do not have the experience, and the discipline it takes, to work from home successfully. Luckily, there are a few strategies that can increase your productivity and allow for a stress-free home office, as the clean desk policy.
What is the Clean Desk Policy?
The Clean Desk Policy refers to managing your desk space and organization to optimize your productivity and reduce disorder. Based on the principle 'A clear desk is a clear mind', the clean desk philosophy focuses on the ways that you can clear the clutter and organize your workspace for better results.
Offices often implement this policy in their employment contracts and encourage their workers to end the day with clean desk space for better productivity the next day. Whether in movies or real life, the desks of successful businessmen and professionals are always spotless and minimalist.
While implementing the clean desk policy in your home office should be similar, it presents its own challenges due to the different work environments. In this article, we will discuss all the ways that you can turn your home office into a clean and efficient workspace.
The problems with clutter
While we do not put much thought into it, cluttered and disorganized desks make life and work much harder and less efficient.
When your workspace is disorganized, you are less likely to be motivated and persistent in your work.
A recent study by Chae & Zhue (2013) showed that in a randomized trial, people with a clean desk and work area were 1.5 times more persistent in achieving results and getting solutions than people who were exposed to cluttered and messy workspaces.
Similar studies have also shown the results that prove that a messy workspace does little good, and a lot of harm, to productivity and creativity.
So how exactly can a clean desk help you become better at your job?
How can a clean desk help you?
The Clean desk policy, if implemented in your home office, offers numerous advantages for your work and mind, such as:
- More efficiency: You will be able to find required documents and files faster and easier with an organized table.
- Fewer distractions: with a clean workspace, you will have fewer distractions that can take up your valuable time, and you will be able to focus better on the task at hand.
- Clearer goals: You will have a better idea of what you need to accomplish in a day with a clean desk, instead of being caught up with the previous day's unfinished/unkempt records.
- Time-efficient: You will able to complete your tasks faster due to the organization, and not have to waste time looking for documents or stationery you may need.
- Clearer head: Your mind will function better in a stress-free environment, only looking ahead instead of the previous work, and so you will be able to think more creatively and persistently. You will also have a better focus without the unnecessary items and documents piling on your desk.
- Discipline: With a clean desk, and a clean mind, it is easier to motivate yourself towards your work from home, which requires extra discipline and time management to be done successfully.
Especially more so when working from home, a clean desk radiates discipline, order, calm, and focus, all of which are necessary to create the perfect work environment in your home office.
You will be able to focus better and easier in a designated work environment that is clear of all the ‘homely feelings’, and an organized desk is the first step towards it.
How to Organize your Workspace with the Clean Desk Policy?
Implementing the clean desk policy into your daily routine is necessary for it to work effectively. Here we have explained a few ways that you can easily manage a minimalist and organized workspace:
A good storage cabinet with multiple compartments is a lifesaver when it comes to clearing your desk of unnecessary and no longer useful files and documents. Paper clutter is the leading cause of a messy work desk according to most employees, which also leads to a lot of wasted time and opportunity looking for lost papers and shuffling through countless files to find the required ones.
Take time at the end of your workday to categorize all the documents on your desk. You can do this in several ways: into groups of urgent and non-urgent, with deadlines and without deadlines, important or spam.
In addition to this, you can invest in stationery and office tools cabinets, which are small storage units to be kept on, or near, your desk for better organization and easier access.
Dispose of unnecessary papers
Complimenting the above rule of paper clutter, it is necessary to dispose of useless documents and printed papers to be in better control of your space.
- A paper shredder is a good investment for this purpose, or you can set aside all unnecessary documents, away from your home office, to be disposed of later (just be sure to do it!).
- As a general rule for a more ordered home office, you should avoid creating paper copies of your documents unless necessary.
- Printing out emails, meeting schedules, and seminar briefings are not necessary and can be stored online, or on your computer. This way, these documents will be much easier to access with just a click of a button and summoned through the search bar if lost.
Consider all documents once
Do not leave documents in hopes of sorting them out later. Procrastination is one of the leading factors of a messy desk. With the clean desk philosophy, you need to access your documents clearly to judge which ones are important and which are not, and then you need to implement your actions accordingly.
Leaving documents and emails to ‘decide later’ will only result in extra stress when you are faced with a desk overflowing with papers.
Set aside five to ten minutes from your personal or work schedule at the end of the day as ‘cleaning time’. This would include sorting your things where they are meant to go, removing trash, and placing your desk items in alignment.
All finished projects should be stored away while all pending ones must be kept neatly to the side.
While this may seem like extra effort when you are already tired, this extra effort will go a long way to making you feel more refreshed the next day.
Starting your day with a clean and sorted desk is as effective as coffee, it sharpens your focus and opens your mind to a fresh start.
Reducing personal items
While most of us have personal trinkets that we keep at our work desk as reminders of relationships, friends, and family, too many of these personal items cause havoc in your workspace.
They can be distracting, leading you away from your work, or just take up space which can make your desk feel congested and cluttered.
You should try to minimize your personal items to the most important ones, a photograph, for instance, to free up space and distractions in your work area. This will be very important for your productivity in the long run.
Going with a theme
Colors, textures, and themes play an important role in the ambiance of any place, and your home office is no exception. There is a reason that most office spaces are brightly lit with light colors and themes.
Research suggests that our minds are more active in daylight compared to artificial light, and light, subdued colors like white, grey, or baby blue are very relaxing to the mind, allowing for better focus. If possible, put your work desk near a window with good light.
You should opt for lighter and neutral tones for your home office, and keep your desk in life with this theme. Brightly colored objects and stationery should be kept to the minimum, like decoration showpieces.
Reducing trips to and from the homerooms
A major problem with working from home is that we often consider our work to be a part of our home life; we would run to and from the kitchen or the living room, grabbing important books or stationery from here and there, and procrastinating projects to do a chore.
This leads to a disruption of the work routine, and in turn, your work desk.
- Keep all your office-related essentials near your desk in your home office to reduce these trips.
- Keep your desk stocked with stationery and near your device chargers. Designate specific hours to your work, and make sure that you focus only on your work during those, not extracurriculars.
Computer desktop cleanse
Just as a clean desk is necessary for a clear mind, make sure that your computer desktop and other work-related devices are well organized and not cluttered.
You can categorize your desktop files into relevant folders for easier access.
Put away all unnecessary apps and documents from the desktop. If you have some most used apps or documents, you can pin these to your home page to save time and reduce distractions.
Weekly checks for clutter
If you designate a weekly ‘clean-check’ in addition to your daily desk clearing, your home office will become excellent at organization.
Your weekly check can include getting rid of unnecessary documents, both hard and soft copies, taking inventory of your essential supplies, like paper, printer ink, and stationery (do not forget the coffee!).
These weekly checks will not only instill the habit of decluttering in your work life but will also be essential in your prioritizing skills.
One thing at a time
This is one of the important things to consider when decluttering your home office: always clear one section at a time to avoid stress, carefully categorize, and save time.
Many people often go on a cleaning spree at once and do not know how to proceed when they create a bigger mess than before, wasting time and effort.
With all these tips and suggestions, we hope that your home office experience a burst of productivity through your clean desk. Maintaining these strategies through your daily routine will require commitment and dedication through daily effort.
Procrastination is your enemy, and order is your friend if you want to achieve the best you can while working from home.
For creating an effective work environment at home, self-discipline and great organization will be required, through which you can ensure better performance.
Another great tip is to dress professionally to feel professional.
(see the article: "Should I have a work-from-home dress code?")
One of the major setbacks we experience when working from home is ‘not wanting to work’.
This can be overcome by following an office routine to get you in good shape as if you are going to the office. This means
- getting up early,
- grooming yourself
- having breakfast
- getting well-dressed
- and using your home office only during work hours.
When you are dressed professionally, you will appreciate a clean desk and be motivated to work.
Clean Desk policy is an essential strategy for a productive home office, leading to higher creativity and motivation to work, while also reducing distractions and stressors.
With a clean desk, you can achieve the best results in your work because you will start the day with a clear mind and an organized office.
The clean desk policy has been implemented in numerous offices and has been researched thoroughly, with excellent results that you can replicate in your work environment for improved efficiency.