What Does Your Workspace Say About You?

How does a cluttered desk affect your reputation at work? If you think it doesn’t matter, read on.


According to a survey of 500 human resource managers released this week by temporary help firm OfficeTeam, a cluttered workspace may equal a cluttered mind. Some 83 percent of respondents said the appearance of an employee’s workspace at least somewhat affects their perception of that person’s professionalism.


HR managers were asked, “How does the neatness of an employee’s desk or office affect your perception of that person’s level of professionalism?” About one in five said it “greatly affects it,” two-thirds said it “somewhat affects it,” and just 17 percent said it made no impression at all.

I have a binge-and-purge relationship with my office. When I’m in the middle of a project, it’s a zoo — piles of paper, boxes on the floor, garbage can overflowing — but of course there’s a method to my madness and I swear I know where everything is. When the project is over, I purge, file, straighten, and the space is spotless. Then again, I work mainly from home, so there’s no one but my family and the dog passing judgment on the chaos.

“A tidy desk won’t necessarily boost your career, but a messy one can leave a bad impression on colleagues,” said Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam in a press release. “By taking simple steps to organize your workspace, you also will be able to find materials more easily and increase your productivity.”

OfficeTeam polled members of the International Association of Administrative Professionals for desk organization advice. Here are five tips:

1. Sit in your visitor chair to get a perspective on what others see when entering your cubicle or office. Clean your workspace so it’s visually appealing not only to you but also to your guests.


2. From the start, establish an organization system that suits your style. You can always rearrange items later, but this will prevent things from getting out of hand early on.


3. File, don’t pile. Eliminate clutter by organizing paperwork in vertical or tickler files. Clearly label or color-code documents so you can find them more easily.


4. Don’t touch the same piece of paper more than once without filing, recycling or tossing it, or passing it along to the next person.


5. Take a few minutes before lunch and again just before leaving the office to clear your workspace. At the end of each day, prioritize the tasks on your to-do list so you can hit the ground running the next morning.


Do you like your workspace pristine or messy — or does it depend on what you’re working on at the moment? Do you think your manager or co-workers care?

Laura Rowley