Table manners: four ways an untidy desk can impact your career
Can desk management determine the quality of work you carry out? Maybe not, but it can impact the way people view you as a worker. Here are four ways an untidy desk can be detrimental to your career
There are two extremes of desk management in the workplace. On one side of the spectrum lies the ‘office hoarder’ – a worker often found buried beneath a sea of old paperwork, business cards and coffee cups at their desk. On the other side is the ‘office surgeon’ – with almost militant meticulousness and cleanliness when it comes to their immediate surroundings.
A survey of 2,000 UK office employees conducted by technology company Brother showed that 41 per cent of workers believed that an organised workspace is key to doing a good job, whilst 25 per cent said that a messy colleague can negatively impact their own productivity. This perception of messy space can even impact the pace of acceleration in a career.
It’s not just peers taking note of messy desk space; leaders also make their judgements based on desk presentation. One in 10 leaders surveyed said that they would not promote an employee if they had a messy work area. This calculates at one in three workers missing out on potential promotions because of simple untidiness.
Health and wellbeing
While messy desks play a big part in upsetting the aesthetics of a work environment, they can also impact workers’ mental wellbeing. Almost half of the workers surveyed said that having an untidy workspace increased stress levels and impacted their overall performance. Despite the effects of untidiness, only 12 per cent of people admitted that they worry that colleagues are constantly judging them because of their clutter.
Many managers perceive your workspace as an extension of you. This leads to almost 75 per cent of employees believing that employees with untidy workspaces are disorganised. Peers also perceive that colleagues with untidy desks are struggling with their workload and don’t take pride in the work they are carrying out.
While many people believe they can cope with an organised mess, things still manage to get lost in the chaos. One in five workers admitted that they have lost items of financial value due to untidiness, with a third losing items costing between £50 and £100 and another third losing items amounting to £500. The average calculated cost for a classic office hoarder is £148.
In a world where we are constantly placing more emphasis of self-optimisation, we are becoming acutely aware of our surroundings and how this impacts us. A tidy desk space gives workers control over their environment to optimise it in a way which helps them work best. That’s why 70 per cent of workers identify with having a tidy desk. As humans we can’t all be office surgeons, but we can adapt the environment we work in to optimise the way we feel about it.