“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
Who are we to argue with the wise words of Albert Einstein? Certainly not me! On some days, usually when I’m up against a big writing deadline, it’s hard to tell if there’s really a desk under my mountain of paperwork, notebooks and mugs. A former journalist colleague of mine once discovered a six-month old mouldy, half-eaten pasty on his desk when he was ordered to give it a clean up!
Einstein was obviously arguing for the benefits of a messy desk, but little did he know that he was actually onto something. A recent study published in Psychological Science found that working at a tidy (or “empty”) desk influences people to be more conventional, more generous and to make healthier choices. But, perhaps more interestingly, working at a cluttered desk positively influences people’s creative ability and unlocks more divergent thinking.
“Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights,” explains Kathleen Vohs, who headed up the research. “Orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe.”
This is just one of many pieces of research which prove how influenced we are by our surroundings, and particularly within the workplace. Learning how to structure our workspace, to suit the goals we would like to achieve, can help to make a big difference to our output and creativity at work.
The Huffington Post recently published a useful infographic on how to set up your desk as a creative workspace, which we have embedded and overviewed below.
Here are 10 top tips for organising your workspace…
- Lighting – 80% of our sensory input at work comes through our eyes. Correct lighting is so important for health and well-being, as well as protecting your vision. Try to have as much natural daylight to your desk as possible, and also consider good artificial lighting.
- Colour – if your walls are painted green, it said to make you more creative and relaxed. That’s why many school classrooms are painted green.
- De-clutter – while mess may aid creativity, clutter can be counterproductive. Take the time to rid your desk of anything you don’t need or want, and particularly spend time going through that stack of paperwork which hasn’t been looked at in a while!
- Photos – I always have a photo of my children (in the old days it used to be my cat!) on my desk. This can really help to reduce stress and encourage positive thoughts.
- Ergonomic set-up – check the ergonomic set-up of your desk, as the infographic below illustrates. Your monitor should be eye-level, and your forearms should be in a straight line and parallel to the floor. Take the time to raise your monitor and adjust your seating accordingly. I also find an ergonomic mouse mat makes life a bit more comfortable.
- Proximity – think about the things you use regularly, such as printer, calculator, diary etc, and make sure that they’re easily within reach. Store away things which you don’t use very often.
- Plants – growing live plants at work can help clean the air, ease stress, increase productivity and make things feel a bit more like home. Here’s a list of 15 houseplants which can help to improve air quality.
- Seating – after months of neck and lower back pain, I finally treated myself to a quality desk chair, and it’s made the world of difference. Particularly if you work from home, correct seating is well worth researching and spending some decent money on.
- Weekly sort out – when you’ve reached that wind-down point on a Friday afternoon, use it to straighten out your desk for the week ahead. Shred paperwork which isn’t needed, file documents, and clear your ‘to do’ in-tray. If you work from home, give things a quick dust over!
- Get creative – a bland workspace can be uninspiring, but if you inject a bit of fun and colour with some simple homemade storage solutions, it can quickly be transformed. Here are 30 ideas to get your creative juices flowing – I particularly like the ‘clipboards on the wall’ idea, for organising loose paperwork.
For further ideas on how to improve your overall office space, take a look at the inspirational post ‘Peek inside 7 of the coolest offices on earth’. You’ll be blown away by the half-sunken office in the middle of a forest!