It has long been postulated that tidy desks are more conducive to productivity in the workplace, and that an organized worker is a valuable asset to any employer. Worse, employees with messy desks are sometimes seen as lazy slobs by their co-workers. But a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota found that both messy and clean desks can positively influence an employee’s work ethic in different ways.
Managers who have never given much consideration to the state of their employees’ desks might want to give the results of this research a closer look. Innovation is currently a hot topic in the public service, and these findings could be another tool in a manager’s arsenal for encouraging creative thought.
Those who wish to encourage productivity and efficiency in their employees should think about keeping workspaces tidy. According to the study, clean and orderly environments influence people to “do good things: not engage in crime, not litter, and show more generosity” – in essence, they’re more likely to do what is expected of them, or what is safe. But by that same token, they won’t be quite so predisposed to think outside the box.
On the other hand, managers who wish to foster innovation and creative thinking in their employees should encourage them to let their desks get a little chaotic. The researchers found that although workers in messy environments came up with ideas at the same rate as their tidier counterparts, their ideas tended to be more groundbreaking. According to the report, the idea is that a messy environment is “a signal that being in a disorderly environment stimulates a release from conventionality.”
Do you prefer a clean workspace over a messy one? Have you noticed a correlation between your work ethic and the tidiness of your workspace? Let us know in the comments.