The Desk Edit

The “Home Edit” craze took over Instagram newsfeeds in recent months. Followers of this organizational powerhouse posted pictures of perfectly organized drawers and color-coded closets. But devotees are doing it for more than just some attention on the “gram.” Research shows that decluttering your environment offers benefits ranging from increased concentration to decreased stress levels. But why stop with your sock drawer? Your workspace could also use a little tidying, whether at the office or a desk in your home. You have had quite the year and deserve the perks that come along with having an organized office. So, grab your color-coded folders and dust cloth – let’s clean up your desk!

A part of that relief you feel when your workspace is clean comes from the fact that you will likely spend less time searching for information. From a purely logistics viewpoint, a tidy desk makes it easier to find material online or in person. In addition, straightening your workspace can lead to increased focus during the workday. Your brain mimics the space around you – so when surrounded by piles of papers or leftover lunch, your brain starts to feel muddled. Your visual cortex, responsible for processing visual information, has a hard time discerning which parts of your surroundings are meaningful to the task at hand. In turn, it takes a little bit longer to make connections which causes that foggy feeling you may have experienced.

A tidy space also contributes to positive mental and physical health. Indiana University directed a study that connected an organized house with a higher level of physical activity and a healthier lifestyle. A 2009 research study found increased cortisol levels in participants who described their homes as messy. Increased cortisol over sustained periods of time can lead to mental health conditions like anxiety or depression. Individuals who suffer symptoms of mental exhaustion may find themselves in a frustrating catch-22. They feel overwhelmed so they don’t straighten up, which leads to feeling more overwhelmed, resulting in a frustrating loop.

With all the benefits, what can you do to keep your desk or office clean? Some companies promote a “clean desk policy.” This is both for appearance and security purposes as leaving out private information can lead to a data breach. You can start with a small step like straightening your desk at the end of each day or creating a folder system to store your documents online. This will help avoid a pileup so tremendous that you avoid the task at hand completely.

Originally featured in UBA’s March 2021 HR Elements Newsletter.