How to Encourage Employees to Clean Up Their Desks

How to Encourage Employees to Clean Up Their Desks

In every office you find people with different habits in lots of ways, including how neat and tidy they are. Usually you'll find those who are buttoned-up, well organized types – and you’ll have some who are, ahem, “neatness challenged.” In many modern open office space environments, this can present a problem.

A big public mess can diffuse the focus and sap the morale of whoever has the special privilege of sitting in view of the department’s packrat. But some people claim that messiness is their natural state and that they work better in the midst of chaos – as if their creative engine is fueled by their messy desk.

In fact a bit of both is likely called for. There is a way for a desk to look professional, but also still have warmth and personality. After all, it’s important to be more than a robot at work. Employees who truly connect with their colleagues are happier and far more productive, which is, of course, good for any business.

Ten years ago, all the talk was about feng shui. Today, the buzz is about hygge and KonMari. Hygge (pronounced HOO-gah) is the Danish word for cozy – a concept that’s earned a broad following in Europe and has been outlined in The Little Book of Hygge, by Meik Wiking.

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KonMari is the method touted by Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. We think there’s something to be said for borrowing from both. After all, Denmark is frequently listed as one of the happiest countries in the world, and, the minimalist Japanese aesthetic is undeniably professional.

Here then are some tips for encouraging your employees to clean up their workstations starting with KonMari to decrease the clutter and ending with a little hygge to add warmth and personality. In the process, your organization will also become more environmentally responsible, you'll boost employee engagement, and increase collective productivity.

Put an end to the paper chase

When employees stop or minimize printing out emails and reports, there’s less to pile up now – and less to shred later. Move document sharing to the cloud, and shift to digital statements and billing. Your desk will stay clear; your briefcase will get lighter; and you’ll find that it’s easier and quicker to collaborate.

Encourage team members to eat together (instead of at their desks)

Not only is eating together great for team building, but it’s also great for individual well-being. And, when it comes to keeping desks tidy, it’s key. If your employees don’t eat at their desks, you eliminate gross smells, keyboard crumbs, sticky surfaces and empty food containers all in one fell swoop.

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Host a Hygge / KonMari day

Schedule a day to collectively tidy up your office. Not only will people get motivated to clean house, it’s a great opportunity to increase employee engagement and build connections within your organization.

Incentivize your team or department by offering a prize for the most breathtaking before & after shots! Have everyone start by decluttering KonMari-style, then encourage them to add a few items to make it hygge – a framed photo, a plant and a desk lamp that casts a warm glow. And suggest that people who get cold in the office bring in a cozy throw blanket that’s soft and comforting.

When you host your hygge / KonMari cleanout day, have everyone dress casually and fill the space with happy, energetic music and throw open the windows (if you can). The day will make everyone’s surroundings more pleasant – and you’ll accomplish a great team-building exercise in the process.

Establish outboxes

We’re talking waste bins, not mailboxes. Make sure each desk has its own garbage can, but encourage employees to toss any items with an odor in the break-room or kitchen trash bin. No one wants to be smelling what’s left of a tuna sandwich four hours past its prime. And be sure that there’s a convenient place for recycling and compost that everyone can access easily. Remind everyone that getting up to walk something over to its proper bin is a great way the get the blood moving, get closer to their 10,000 steps, or get a validating buzz on their AppleWatch.

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