You’re going to lose money if your workplace is cluttered and you’re going to lose money if your workplace is ugly. How can you make sure your workplace encourages visual interest and self-expression without giving way to the clutter-monster? We’ll be digging into that balance today.
In the complex world of Office Management, striking the perfect workplace balance is your weekly modus operandi. You’re focused on keeping everyone happy, keeping productivity at its height, and moving the cogs of your office in the right ways to make it all possible. Your decision-making is often torn between making sure your team feels represented and catered to vs. making sure your business interests and bottom-line are well-fed. It’s a lot to take on.
When clutter comes creeping into your office space, you might wonder: is this helping my team feel more at home or more ill-at-ease? How can I make sure we stay comfy and keep things tightened up?
Here are 7 practical tips to help you declutter your office space:
1. Consult Your Team
The first (and best) way to determine how your space impacts its workers is to ask them. Survey your teams to determine what the ideal productive and inspiring workplace looks like. Don’t approach your questions with a lens on productivity or on satisfaction alone, but tie them together. After all, the work we do and the way we feel are inextricable.
2. Inventory Everything
Whether you plan to “Marie Kondo” your office or just give it a quick reset, it’s important to know which assets, equipment, and tools are ancillary to everyday work life and which ones are case-by-case. Stay on top of things that seem to be “left around” a lot and make a plan for those. Observe shared spaces first and leave your workers’ individual desks or areas until last - this way, the onus for total workplace harmony doesn’t feel impressed upon your people unless their belongings take above and beyond their share. As a general rule, while inventorying the whole office, give as many things their “proper place” as possible. Anything that can be put away and brought back out should be given a tucked-away space and anything that stays in use all day should have an out-and-open space maintained for its use, too.
3. Set Space Aside
The antidote to overwhelm is compartmentalization. If you and your team can find ways to compartmentalize your work and your space, you’ll arrive at tranquility without having to overhaul every inch of your office. Set space aside for creative work, busy work, focused work, socialization, self-expression, brand expression, meetings, storage, and more. Keep those spaces sacred for their given purpose. Don’t store things in a meeting room if you do not absolutely have to. Do not allow personal items to overtake shared spaces, nor shared items to take over personal spaces. This way, anyone who wants to be in a busy, exciting and inspiring environment can choose one, while others are choosing quiet, minimal, and controlled spaces for their work. If your office is all one way, or all the other way, you’re going to run into an imbalance. If every space in your office is expected to serve all purposes, none of your spaces will measure up.
4. Monitor the Movement
Making spatial decisions is far less about objects in stagnation and far more about what moves around them. Monitor the movement of people and items through the rooms or spaces in your office. Consider that nothing can be deemed as “in the way” or “inconvenient” without first examining your team’s natural path to determine a litmus test for convenience. By monitoring an entire workweek, or more, in your space and feeling out how people move, where people congregate, and where things get dumped, you can make decisions that cater to that flow instead of disrupting it further.
5. Try the MRR Method
When you really want to land on the best possible configuration for a space, its people, and its possessions, consider The MRR Method. MRR is an acronym that might help you remember the three steps to decluttering and resetting your space:
Step 1: Minimize
Minimizing calls for us to take out any objects, visuals, or constructs that aren’t immediately in use or otherwise affixed. Take out chairs, rugs, artwork, plants, pens, and posters. Minimize beyond what’s comfortable or normal.
Step 2: Reintroduce
From your stock of removed things, add back those that are obviously necessary and which have a set place in the space. Putting your jar of pens back in their usual arms-reach location is perfectly fine as those are both useful and unencumbering. From there, start to re-add the less obvious or necessary items and test how it feels. Don’t add back any item without a proven purpose and place. Remember: artwork and decor absolutely do serve a purpose which is to bring joy, inspiration, and warmth to a space. Test every piece of aesthetic ephemera against that expectation before re-adding.
As you reintroduce your items, you’ll take note of two things: One, there may be items that you feel strongly about but which do not have a proper place. Rehome these items to other rooms or reconsider them. If they belong to you or a staff member, they might be better used and loved at home. If they belong to the company, they might be better auctioned off for charity or sold. Two, there will be items at the bottom of the removed pile that just don’t inspire you. Chuck them, too, or store them for later.
Step 3: Re-evaluate
Once the space is reset with just the purposeful or perfect-fit items in place, feel it out. Give yourself and your team a good few weeks in the new spot to readjust, twist and turn, and get comfortable. Once you do, get the team together to re-evaluate how the new space stacks up At this point, you might find out that you need to start back at ‘M,’ or you might realize that you’ve found a new harmony.
6. Think Beyond the Chore Chart
Sometimes, clutter isn’t creative or inspiring or personal, it’s just junk. When that’s the case, it’s time to tag team. Get everyone together and disseminate responsibilities and expectations, but keep it adult. Your people should not need any extra incentives to maintain the spaces they use, nor should you require punitive measures for those who don’t comply. Make a cleanliness and organization policy, vet it with your team, and then set it in stone.
If you do want to make it more fun to tidy up, make it a team activity every Wednesday at 3 PM or something similar. Put on a great cleaning playlist, assign everyone to a given area, and make some decisions about all that extra stuff. When you do, you’ll feel more aligned to keep it nice next week, guaranteed.
7. Get Some Help
If your team is big enough and your office is busy enough, it may be time to consider an external cleaning crew. Some offices bring in professional cleaning experts very intermittently or only after large events while others are serviced weekly or more. Your flow depends on your needs. If clutter - or worse, hygiene - has become an issue in your workplace, it might be empowering to have help for the big things while you tackle the small stuff. Our platform can help you find, hire, manage, and pay your cleaning crew (and a whole lot more).
If your productivity and satisfaction are being impaired by clutter and chaos, breathe. These strategies and your own intuition and expertise will help you set your office back to rights in no time.
Looking for a way to manage your workplace more efficiently? Check out what Eden’s Workplace Management Platform can do for your office.