OfficeTeam survey: What a messy desk says about you

by Brianna Crandall — January 26, 2015—Having a cluttered desk may not be perceived as a bad thing, a new survey from OfficeTeam suggests. More than two-thirds (68 percent) of human resources (HR) managers interviewed felt it is at least somewhat acceptable to have a messy desk at work. In fact, nine percent even said it is a sign of a creative person. However, nearly one-third (32 percent) stated they would question an employee’s organizational skills and effectiveness if that person had an unkempt workspace.

The survey was developed by OfficeTeam, a resource and staffing service specializing in the placement of highly skilled administrative professionals. It was conducted by an independent research firm and is based on telephone interviews with more than 300 HR managers at companies with 20 or more employees in the United States.

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“Although not everyone cares about how your desk looks, having a messy workspace could lead others to question your professionalism,” said Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam. “Keep your desk tidy and you’ll be able to find what you need more quickly and increase your work efficiency.”

OfficeTeam identifies seven desk organization mistakes:

  • Creating a pileup. Recycle or shred unnecessary paperwork and file or scan everything else.
  • Failing to contain yourself. Use pencil cups, drawer and file organizers, and trays to keep items in their place.
  • Hoarding. If you haven’t touched something in a year, it probably should not be on your desk. Keep supplies you access most often within reach, and the rest out of sight.
  • Not being tech-savvy. Going paperless can help you reduce clutter and find information more quickly, but only if you use a digital filing system or organizational app to keep track of everything.
  • Overaccessorizing. It is generally fine to show some personality with your workspace decorations, but leave your teddy bear collection and gigantic cat posters at home.
  • Being “crumb”y. Clear your desk of food wrappers, empty coffee cups and dirty plates. Wipe off your work surface after eating.
  • Cleaning just once or twice a year. Spend a few minutes at the end of each day straightening up your workspace so you can get a quick start in the morning.