Understanding The Myth Of The Neat Office!

Should you have a neat and tidy office? Should it be organised? Should you use a fake backdrop during video conferencing?

When I started work, you had to be quiet, sit at your desk and weren’t allowed to talk. If you had an office, it had to be sterile, almost minimalist.

My office backdrop – neatish with a touch of fun 🏴‍☠️🏴‍☠️🏴‍☠️ Many would frown at this, but when I’m on a video conference with other CEOs it’s a good talking point…

The war regarding the organised office space has been on the agenda ever since Prince Albert introduced the concept of being organised to Britain.

So, here we are some 170 years later.

We now exist in a world where the work environment is wide ranging. Many employees even have a say in what the office space should be.

The personalised work space has evolved on the back of the rise of leadership in the workplace. Of course, COVID has also contributed significantly to how the workplace should (or should not be).

The question now is – should the work space be organised?

We all work differently

I mentioned in a post several years ago, I can only work in an uncluttered environment. However, I am a reformed office hoarder. For many years, you would be lucky to find me under all the things piled up in my office.

I changed how I worked because it led to less stress, greater focus and ultimately, more productivity.

However, some people need clutter around them, and I am fine with that.

There are a number of rules when it comes to the uncluttered office

In order to work out what type of office or work space you need, answer the following:

Starting to gear up for Christmas 🎅 🎄 🤶
  1. Is where I work in the frontline, in the public or customer’s eye?
  2. Do others need to meet with me in my workspace on a regular basis?
  3. Is my work space a collaborative environment?
  4. Do I need my “tools of the trade” to be in close proximity to where I work?
  5. Do I work predominantly on my own?
  6. Is my work space for research eg scientific, medical purposes?

If you answered yes to questions 1, 2, 3, or 6 then your work area must be neat, tidy and well organised. However, you and your colleagues may agree to something else when it comes to question 3.

If you answered yes to questions 4 or 5, then it should be left up to you how that work space looks and utilised.

Of course some of us are lucky enough to work in the great outdoors.

However, there must be one rule applied, regardless of the workspace type: it must be safe.

Work environments were I live are highly regulated. If someone was to hurt themselves, even if tripping or falling over an object is looked at seriously.

Listening to Kim Beasley AC last week at the LG Professionals conference. Kim is the Former Leader of the Opposition (federal), former Ambassador to the US, and the former Governor of Western Australia. He is a great Australian and is from my hometown.

22 Comments on “Understanding The Myth Of The Neat Office!”

  1. I have 4 work desks in different situations. Desk1is in the public arena and is neat and tidy with a nice backdrop. Desk 2 may get used by others but although it is generally neat it has little piles of things I need on a regular basis or I am working on. Desk 3 is my home desk and a bit untidy but has a model railway in the background used for Zoom etc. calls. Desk 4, actually a table, is used for my modelling and other hobbies and is reasonably neat but has all the tools I use regularly on the desk. No trailing wires or trip hazards anywhere!!

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I have to tell you some offices are incredibly clean and some can be so incredibly messy. And the clean one and the messy one can be side by side. I really saw this every day for a period many years ago working in a financial company. LOL.

    Liked by 3 people

    • One of the most interesting things I have seen in the workplace are those who job share eg two mums who work part time sharing the one role. It can only work if both are committed to an organised workspace, files and good handover notes.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Wow, so true. I am not very organized although I try… I’ve know some very organized people. Also one has to be very good at communication and taking hints in order to make such a workspace like above work well.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I work alone and definitely have a big pile of things that need to be attended to “at some point” on one side of my desk. I am very impressed by Barry’s comment about his four different work desks!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I have no clients, but I work from home. I have to have a neat workspace or I can’t think or function properly. When I worked in an office, I was the most organized person in the place. I am all about organization and neatness in the workplace wherever it is. Great post. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I have kept a clean workspace whether I work in an office or from home. When I have meetings from home, I always use a virtual backdrop. When I worked in an office, I liked having my own corner in a small room with a few desks with other workers, or my own room. I once had to work in an open office with hundreds of desks and I found it very hard to concentrate on my work.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, an open office is not much fun and I’m not a fan of them either. To some extent they are a necessary evil.

      Most people I know use a virtual backdrop. I have one colleague that uses a world map. I always comment how useful it is to see the progress of his firm’s global domination.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I wonder if decision makers feel that if you’re in an enclosed, private space you’re less productive than if you’re in a public cubicle and people can see if you’re working. When I worked in an open office with over 100 desks in the area, I found myself so distracted by people talking, any noise, and people walking by.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Some certainly think this way. Others view as a way to minimise cost. I’m certainly the same as you – I would find (and have found) it way too disruptive.

        COVID has changed the office landscape again of course. We know in Australia that at least 15% of the workforce will never return to an office again, but will continue to work from home. So, although this is a saving for a number of employers, and as I’m in local government I need to review how this increase in the stay at home workforce impacts on the level of services/facilities in the communities I and others have responsibility for. It’s interesting times ahead.


      • With an open office, they have mimized cost, but reduced productivity for those who are distracted by noises.

        Some companies in Canada are turning to the hybrid model. Others have returned to the office. The companies I work for are 100% virutal. Even if we want to meet in-person, we don’t have an office to go to. As a consumer, I like how COVID has moved many services online so I save time on travel to those places if I had to visit them in person.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I find this very interesting. When I work, I have an office/desk set up in the corner of the design room. The design room is constantly in flux, and I work in a creative chaos.
    However, I make sure my desk is tidy and organized, at all times.
    I also make sure the fitting room is well organized for the actors.

    Liked by 2 people

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