The focus on big picture thinking and setting and hitting targets is a priority for many business owners, which means the attention given to environments where you work can be limited.
What's not often considered is that decluttering, organising and styling an office can help facilitate greater clarity for everyone in the business, while reinforcing individual and team productivity.
To help business owners easily create a positive, clutter-free working environment, Officeworks has teamed up with Professional Organiser and Declutter Expert, Georgie Rees of Clutterfly, to provide practical tips.
Psychologist and Founder of The Positivity Institute, Dr Suzy Green, has also contributed her insights to help businesses understand the psychological benefits of these tips.
1. Start by thinking big!
Just as you have aspirations, goals and ideal outcomes for your business, you need to apply these same objectives to your office space. In the first instance, think about the kind of mood you would like to set through colour schemes and designs, and what are the key areas that you would like to improve. This will help give you clarity and provide you with a clear direction to start your overhaul. Make sure you involve the whole team in the thinking - that way everyone will be working towards a shared goal and feel like they're an important part of the business.
Dr. Suzy Green says:
It's important to create an office space that supports individual, team and business well-being and productivity. Try to give your team members as much autonomy over creating/designing their workspace as possible. Research tells us that when people have higher levels of independence at work they report higher levels of well-being and happiness. 2. Get the order right
As with any task, you need to do things in an orderly manner to achieve the best results. Start by decluttering your space, getting rid of any obvious excess papers, files and folders on desks and around the office. Once complete, organise what's left. When your work environment has some structure it will become a much easier and enjoyable place to work. Lastly, and most importantly, maintain this new organised structure you have created.
Dr. Suzy Green says:
There's significant research to highlight the benefits of an ordered and decluttered environment. Clutter can have a negative impact on sustained attention - a high level of visual stimuli in our environment is naturally going to compete for our attention, meaning it can be difficult to get what we need and quick. This can result in feelings of stress and overwhelm, which should be avoided in any workplace.
3. Systems are your friend
Even if it's just you and your laptop, every workspace needs structure. This stops the buildup of excess -stuff'. Whether it is paper piles or files on the computer, taking the time to create an organised filing system means that access will become so much easier, while saving you valuable time and mental energy. It also creates a better working environment for members of your team, as everyone knows where certain documents live. Remember to create synergy between your filing systems by keeping the same folder structure and naming method. For your paper documents, filers for desktops and key office areas are a great organisational tool.
4. Encourage empty space and group items
Leaving -empty space' in a working environment is a good thing. Don't be tempted to fill a shelf or cover a clear table with magazines for the sake of it. When things are clear and spaced out you have the clarity to find things more easily. Take this concept a step further and group all related things together, so there's only one place where these items can be. It could be as simple as putting printer supplies and paper next to the printer – you could keep an open ream of paper in an in-tray for ease when the printer runs out of paper. You will be surprised how much time this can save.
Dr. Suzy Green says:
Physical space helps provide you with much needed mental space. Clear and decluttered space allows for greater levels of attentional control, so grouping items or having a place for everything will allow for greater levels of productivity and efficiency.
5. Focus on your vertical space
Walls are often not utilised in offices, but they provide a brilliant opportunity to add colour and additional storage. If you have a free wall, why not use paint to transform the area. Depending on your overall theme, a pop of colour may be great for visiting clients or creative thinking and a calming pastel tone could be what you need to promote productivity. Utilise this wall further by installing a simple document sorter, a great tool for categorising paperwork. To keep things from cluttering up your desktop, consider adding some drawers underneath - to be extra organised, why not label each draw.
Dr. Suzy Green says:
Utilise your spare wall by installing a vision or wipe board for your team. People can pin inspiring images, quotes or ideas to act as visual triggers or thought-starters for reaching individual, team and organisational goals.
6. Personalise and feel inspired
Feeling neat and tidy helps give you the focus to do your best work, but you also need to feel inspired. If you've chosen a certain theme, pattern or colour scheme, ensure you tie in soft furnishings and office essentials throughout. If you've chosen a monochrome theme, choose black and white stationery to complement this look. These additional touches will help make you feel inspired to create wonderful work, plus will add a point of difference to your office space for clients or visitors.
Dr. Suzy Green says:
Dependent on how much autonomy you have to design/change your workspace, consider it as an opportunity to either leverage or develop the character strength of 'Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence" (take the free VIA Character Strengths Test www.viacharacter.org). Research has shown that using character strengths in our everyday life can enhance well-being, achievement and success.
Having a collection point set aside for different types of office waste is important when organising your office. Purchase distinct bins or in-trays to house near the printer for recycled or shredded paper. When that is full, move it to an allocated place out of the main traffic area of the office. You will easily be able to see what needs to be disposed of and can plan when and where to do it i.e. e-waste, sensitive documents, or general recycling. You can safely dispose of old batteries, phones, computers, toner and ink cartridges at your local Officeworks for free.
8. Don't stop there
The old phrase -finish what you started' rings true in an office environment. Keep your newly organised office in check by unpacking equipment after use, like files, projectors or laptops after a big presentation. These items will then be in place for the next time you need them and won't clutter up your office for weeks after. To give yourself a little leeway, why not allocate one area of the office where things are in an -organised mess' - after all, most feel that creativity needs space and sometimes you need to leave things unfinished. Try to limit it to one project at time so the area doesn't become too messy. For projects, why not try a simple trestle table that can be packed up when not needed.
9. Put it in the schedule
Setting routines in the office ensures harmony and increases productivity. Whether you prefer online or paper tools to keep on top of the -to do's', if there is a core schedule then everyone knows what they're working towards. If you have important weekly meetings that require refreshments or equipment, set a diary reminder to stay on top of the task. A daily or weekly to do list is also key to staying organised. There are lots of daily planners available which look stylish in the office or on the go - be sure to keep your planner updated as the day/project evolves. If you prefer quick reminders, bright, bold sticky notes are also a great tool for setting reminders.
Dr. Suzy Green says:
Scheduling in 'to-dos" is a highly effective way of moving towards your long term and short term goals. Research has shown that aligning your short term goals (which includes your daily actions/tasks) to your long term goals leads to greater success – every little helps!
10. A refresh is as good as a holiday
We all know the feeling of being stagnant when things don't change (and our mind becomes blind to things we see every day), so be sure to give things a refresh every so often. This will rejuvenate the office as well as your mindset. You could move the furniture around and create a new office layout, or keep it simple by adding some office plants or update stationery sets. Even replacing your desk chair can do wonders for your daily routine as it can alter your posture and overall desk experience. If your previous chair was a dark colour, why not mix it up by going with a bright, patterned design.
Dr. Suzy Green says:
Research has shown that there are massive benefits to 'mixing it up". This means that changing your environment around, either big or small changes can give you a boost of energy and greater levels of creativity and inspiration.
Question: Why are our offices so filled with clutter?
Georgie Rees: A lack of time is usually the biggest factor in clutter accumulating on a desk or around the office. Being time-poor often means there is a lack of systems or processes to help manage the buildup of clutter. In today's fast paced environment most people don't feel that they can justify interrupting their working day to -take stock' or create these systems. However, in the grand scheme of things a small investment of time with a quick trip to Officeworks, will help you or your business be more productive in the future.
Question: How does clutter impact our working day?
Georgie Rees: In short, a cluttered environment can cloud our headspace and decrease productivity levels. When we are surrounded by an environment that is unorganised we can feel uninspired to do our best work. Sometimes not making the decision to organise your workspace can simply be down to procrastination and feeling overwhelmed at the thought of decluttering.
Clearing out the clutter means we can mirror the environment that we are in, ensuring increased productivity and a clearer headspace overall! This actually then boosts the motivation to continue in this way and thus keep up an organised way of working.
Question: Can you talk us through the relationship between clutter and anxiety?
Georgie Rees: The effects of a cluttered environment can be a big driver in increased feelings of overwhelm and stress. Psychologist Dr. Suzy Green and I partnered with Officeworks to develop a set of tips which help explain the strong tie between a cluttered working environment and unproductivity. Feelings of anxiety or stress can be manifestations of guilt, the guilt you may feel from procrastinating and not tackling what needs to be done head-on.
Dr. Suzy Green says clutter can have a negative impact on sustained attention - a high level of visual stimuli in our environment is naturally going to compete for our attention, meaning it can be difficult to get what we need and quick. Clear and decluttered space allows for greater levels of attentional control, greater levels of productivity and efficiency and can directly result in less stress and anxiety.
Question: What causes the most clutter in a work environment?
Georgie Rees: A big contributor to clutter in a work place is paper, as it is fundamental to many areas of a working environment. It is so easy put a piece paper down somewhere and before you know it, it's turned into a tower of miscellaneous paper never to be looked at again.
Often shared areas are particularly unkempt as responsibility doesn't tend to fall onto just one person and can soon become a -no man's land' of clutter. To help you or your employees find things within shared office areas, simply install filing cabinets, wall organisers or shelves. Introducing some order will help declutter and encourage everyone to keep the area maintained.
Question: How can we sort out the clutter and remove it, from our workplace, forever?
Georgie Rees: Start by decluttering your space, getting rid of any obvious excess papers, files and folders on desks and around the office. Once complete, organise what's left. When your work environment has some structure it will become a much easier and enjoyable place to work. Try to remember the sense of achievement and the great feeling of being organised and how much more productive you are. Lastly, and most importantly, make a conscious effort to maintain this new organised structure you have created and book in time each month to do a large overhaul. You could even take a photo of your new space and stick it in your drawer to inspire you stay on top of the clutter!
Question: What can we do daily to de-clutter our homes?
Georgie Rees: Staying clutter-free can be really simple but every workspace, whether it's in the home or office, needs some structure. Whether it is paper piles or files on the computer, taking the time to create an organised filing system means that access will become so much easier, while saving you valuable time and mental energy. At Officeworks you can find simple organisational products such as desktop filing cabinets, colour coordinated highlighters to stylish shelving units that can provide clarity to any working environment. These additions will help combat the build-up of -excess' stuff around your home or workspace.
Question: What is Clutterfly?
Georgie Rees: Clutterfly provides a specialist service to those who feel overwhelmed by clutter and are time poor. Clutterfly's focus is on establishing functionality through decluttering and implementing personalised organising systems in the home or office space.
Question: What inspired the creation of Clutterfly?
Georgie Rees: After working for over 13yrs as a professional in a variety of offices spaces coupled with being obsessed with stationery and of course a natural flair for organisation, I felt the urge to help inspire others to make a positive difference to their daily lives, though decluttering and implementing basic organisation solutions.
Indiana 1 Drawer Desk, RRP $199. Available instore and online at Officeworks. A stylish desktop with a large drawer, perfect for storing notebooks and paperwork
Otto Cardboard Desk Accessory Set Grey Dot 4 Pack, RRP $9.93. Available instore and online at Officeworks. Everything you need to keep your workspace tidy and coordinated
Venturo 3 Drawer Pedestal, RRP $149. Available instore and online at Officeworks. An ideal addition to your home or office to keep files in order.
Interview by Brooke Hunter