Clean Desk Policies

Posted By on November 14, 2011

Uncluttered desktop At work, a manager in another department recently sent me an email to ask how she could make sure her staff complied with a new clean desk and office policy she was writing.

Oh, this doesn’t sound good.

I’ve been an in-house organizer for nearly 11 years, and I’ve met with many managers who are unhappy about their staff’s organizational skills. Some of the time, there are some legitimate complaints with time management, paper clutter and productivity. But the rest of the time … Well, the issues are really about the manager. Let me explain.

Managers who have OCD, perfectionistic and hyper-organized tendencies will never be truly happy with the people underneath them unless they are exactly like the manager. To people who have one or all of these tendencies, a pile of paper on their desk and normal clutter make them feel like they should be on Hoarders.

When these types of managers want to have clean desk and office policies, I worry a bit. The biggest question for me is: Who sets the standard of a clean desk and office? What does a clean desk and office mean to you?

As an organizer, I have to make sure my clients get to the organizing level they want and need. It can’t be about me – although my ego would love it. One client would be happy to have desktop filing so they can see everything, and another is thrilled when we clear off the desk and put everything in drawers.

When I work with clients whose managers view them as disorganized, I have a few tricks up my sleeve:

Remove extra paper. Relocate or get rid of all (or most) paper and sticky notes taped to the fronts of overhang cabinets, file drawers, the computer, and the wall. If this is information you need, put them into a binder. For small pieces of paper, just tape them to a piece of paper and slide them into plastic sleeves. This immediately makes things look neater for a hyper-organized boss.

De-clutter bulletin boards. With bulletin boards, stay inside the lines and make sure no papers and pictures are hanging off the edge. Neatly tack papers and photos to the bulletin board to make it look more orderly.

Put things away. If you don’t use the tape and stapler every day, put it in a drawer. Make sure food, personal items, and supplies are housed in drawers out of the way until you need them. I recommend having one drawer for supplies and another for personal items, such as lotion, medicine, and food. When you clear out the items you don’t need every day, you have more elbow room.

Reduce the size of your shrine. It’s important to have photos at work to remind you of your life at home, but when doo-dads, photos, toys and other items begin to infringe on your work space, it’s time to reduce the size of your office shrine.

When you look organized, you feel organized, and when you feel organized, you are organized. Then you will make the boss happy.



3 Responses to “Clean Desk Policies”

  1. janice says:

    Ooh, the nest. Clutter is a lot like archaeology. The recent stuff is on top, and it gets older as you tunnel down. I can usually tell where time stopped in someone’s office or home.

  2. Melanie says:

    Love the idea of the “office shrine” – mine is pretty modest compared with the folks who’ve been here a decade or more. I fully admit to having a nest of Post-Its on my desk…it’s like layers of sediment – you can figure out when I added each piece according to where it is the pile. The ones on the bottom have been there since probably March!

  3. Moreen Torpy says:

    Great post, Janice. You’re right about the OCD boss trying to have all staff behave the same way, but it’s impossible if the boss wants to keep some semblance of teamwork. One reason for clean desks at the end of the day,though is confidentiality. For those who work in an environment where urious eyes might see information not for their eyes, i do stress a clean desk. Otherwie, let it be, and use your tips.