AnnaMarie Houlis
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Why is a clean desk is important?  After all, does a clean desk make you more productive? A wealth of research says that keeping your desk clean can actually help you to perform better at work.

That's why it's wise that companies introduce clean desk policies to their offices.

The benefits of a clean desk policy

There are tons of benefits of a clean desk policy in the workplace. Here are five of them to give you a better understanding of just how valuable a clean desk policy is.

1. Studies show that clean working spaces lead to productivity.

Research has found that keeping a clean working space can actually reduce stress and increase productivity. In fact, according to a study by Harvard University that explored the productivity of students who were each tasked with working in different environments (with varying degrees of clutter), clean spaces actually leads to the ability to work longer. The study found that the students who worked in clutter-free workspaces were actually able to work for a whopping 7.5 minutes longer than the students who were attempting to work in cluttered workspaces. Why? The study came to the conclusion that unclean workspaces can “undermine people’s persistence in completing tasks.” When desks are clean, there are less distractions.

2. When one person has a clean desk, it inspires others to clean their desks.

Cleaning can have a domino effect in the office. When others notice one or two people in the office cleaning their desks, it may inspire them to also clean their desks. They may have simply been meaning to get around to tidying up their desks, and seeing another colleague do it could provide motivation. Or perhaps they're embarrassed to have messy desks next to their clean coworkers. Whatever the case, because a clean space can lead to more productivity, an entirely clean office can lead to ultimate productivity levels.

3. Keeping a clean office space looks good to clients, partners and stakeholders.

A clean office makes a good first impression... and second, third, fourth and billionth impression. Whenever clients, partners or other stakeholders visit the office for meetings, it's important to have a clean workspace to host them. It'll not only make them feel more comfortable, but because of cleanliness' effect on productivity, it'll also lead to better-focused meetings.

4. Maintaining a clean desk keeps germs and bacteria at bay — and, hence, employees healthier.

Maintaining a clean desk, of course, means that there will be fewer germs and bacteria trapped in between messy papers, disorganized office supplies and old lunch containers. A clean desk, therefore, means a healthier employee. And the healthier the employees, the more productive and efficient they are in their work.

5. Clean spaces pave way for improved office security.

It's easier to get a hold on office security when there are less cluttered messes and fewer distractions. Clean spaces, therefore, make for safer spaces. Likewise, clean desks can make sure that all sensitive and confidential materials are removed from workspaces and locked away when they're not in use or if the employee leaves his or her workstation. This helps to reduce security risks and breaches in the workplace and keep employees aware about protecting their own sensitive stuff.

How to implement a clean desk policy

What is the best way that you can follow a clean desk policy? Here's an example from Sans Institute:

Policy

  • "Employees are required to ensure that all sensitive/confidential information in hardcopy or electronic form is secure in their work area at the end of the day and when they are expected to be gone for an extended period."
  • "Computer workstations must be locked when workspace is unoccupied."
  • "Computer workstations must be shut completely down at the end of the workday."
  • "Any Restricted or Sensitive information must be removed from the desk and locked in a drawer when the desk is unoccupied and at the end of the workday."
  • "File cabinets containing Restricted or Sensitive information must be kept closed and locked when not in use or when not attended."
  • "Keys used for access to Restricted or Sensitive information must not be left at an unattended desk."
  • "Laptops must be either locked with a locking cable or locked away in a drawer."
  • "Passwords may not be left on sticky notes posted on or under a computer, nor may they be left written down in an accessible location."

Here's how to implement a clean desk policy of your own at work in three simple steps.

1. Set expectations from the start.

Set expectations from the start — from the onboarding of a new employee. Let them know that you expect them to keep their desk space clean, and don't just word it as something that you're asking them to do; rather, word it as something that's a job requirement and responsibility. This way, you prevent more people from being blindsided or from getting themselves in too deep in clutter.

The rules might include that laptops need to be put away and locked up at the end of each workday if they're left behind at the office, or that all sensitive and confidential information must be filed and locked away at the end of each workday. Maybe compute r

2. Lead by example.

Lead by example with your own clean desk. It'll prove difficult to get others on board with keeping their desks clean if the leaders in the workplace don't keep their desks clean. That said, if everyone keeps their desks clean, it'll have a domino effect in the office. The more people who do it, the more who will be inspired to do it. So you can start by cleaning your desk every day at the end of the workday, or you can start by cleaning your desk every Friday at the end of the workday. 

3. Offer rewards for clean desk spaces.

You might want to incentivize the clean desk policy by offering rewards for the cleanest desk spaces. You can offer up coffee gift cards or lunch certificates for winners with the cleanest desks.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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