Hoarders in the Office? Address the Mess

Hoarding may get your employees a spot on reality TV, but they need to know it could damage their image—and hurt their chances at a promotion.

More than eight in 10 HR professionals (83%) say the appearance of an employee’s workspace at least somewhat affects the perception of that person’s professionalism, says an OfficeTeam survey. Plus, 28% of employers say they’d be less likely to promote someone who has a disorganized or messy workspace, says a CareerBuilder survey.

paper pileAs OfficeTeam’s director, Robert Hosking, put it, “A tidy desk won’t necessarily boost your career, but a messy one can leave a bad impression on colleagues.”

That’s not good news for the 38% of U.S. workers who say that between 50% and 100% of their desk surface is currently covered with work or other materials. A full one-third of workers admit that they tend to be hoarders at work (evenly balanced between men and women).

Hoarding-related TV shows like Hoarding: Buried Alive have shined a spotlight on this phenomenon. But there’s a big difference between being a clinical hoarder versus simply having a messy desk or being a “pack rat.”

As psychologist David Tolin, Ph.D., writes on WebMD, about 2% to 5% of Americans may meet the criteria for being hoarders. Experts usually draw a line between a merely messy lifestyle and hoarding “when it comes to the person’s ability to function … Lots of people may acquire things they don’t need, but if it’s not the sort of thing that causes an inability to function adequately, we don’t call it hoarding.”

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If your employees (or you) are organizationally challenged, heed these tips from CareerBuilder and OfficeTeam:

  • Set a calendar reminder for Friday afternoon to take completed projects to the recycle bin.
  • Work on one project at a time. While you may have 20 things on your “to do” list, prioritize what needs to be done that day when you arrive.
  • Don’t be a digital hoarder. Just because nobody else can see your clutter, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, especially in your email boxes. Delete unneeded emails on a weekly basis.
  • Sit in your visitor chair to get a perspective on what others see when entering your cubicle or office. Clean your workspace so it’s visually appealing.
  • Establish an organization system that suits your style. File, don’t pile.
  • Don’t touch the same piece of paper more than once without filing, recycling or tossing it, or passing it along to the next person.
  • Print documents only when necessary. Use electronic calendars, task lists or e-mail alerts to remember deadlines and meetings.
  • Take a few minutes before leaving to clear your workspace. At the end of each day, prioritize the tasks on your to-do list for the next day.

More Business Management Daily articles and reports on this topic:

Feng shui your way to productivity

What’s on your desk? Yes, it does matter

The Office Organizer: 10 Tips on File Organizing, Clutter Control