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We’ve all been there either at home or in the office. Trapped within a never-ending pile of clutter, files, and poorly designed workspaces.
I’ve worked in an office where we housed everything but the kitchen sink. I had a box of wellingtons at my feet, DIY supplies in the cupboard, and an endless stream of paperwork. As much as I tried to keep the place organised, my attempts were futile. Looking back it only added to my increasing anxiety. Although I joked and said ‘I know where everything is‘, I didn’t. And nor did my boss if he were to be entirely honest. As much as I miss the work I certainly don’t miss the dusty, cold, and frankly chaotic workspace.
Take a moment to think about your own office, be it at work or at home. Is it causing you to feel overwhelmed? Stressed and flustered trying to find things among the clutter? Are you constantly promising that you’ll dust that one spot behind the monitor? And, most importantly, are you working comfortably without stretching or straining?
How clutter in the workspace can negatively impact our health.
>> Reduces productivity.
An overly cluttered workspace causes us to waste time looking for documents and files which should be readily available to us. The same goes for the information held on our computer systems. If it’s not organised and easy to locate, chances are you won’t be able to find it when you need it most.
When we’re able to be productive and whizz through work quicker than Sonic, we feel more motivated! Not only that but it increases our confidence levels and makes us feel like we’re ready to tackle the next task. Clutter and disarray in the workspace can only succeed in holding us back from our true potential.
>> Clutter impacts our emotional response and relationships with others.
An overly chaotic workspace can lead to emotional exhaustion. It may not be apparent immediately, and it may even be mislabelled as a lack of motivation. But if you find yourself putting off tasks because you can’t be bothered looking for files or tackling a mountain of documents, then chances are you’re exhausted by your current environment.
But how can it impact your relationships with others? Emotional exhaustion often leads to shortened tempers, frayed nerves, and a lack of patience. If you’re working in chaos and find yourself snapping at your co-workers or partner, it could be caused by a lack of organisation.
>> Increases our stress levels.
Ah stress. One of my favourite topics to cover on this blog. Having a disorganised and cluttered workspace can lead to an increase in stress levels. I mean, wouldn’t you be if you were drowning under a mountain of paperwork? Most of which could probably have been disposed of weeks ago.
If you’ve read my other posts on stress and its impacts on your health, you’ll know that it doesn’t just stop with feeling a bit frazzled. Stress can negatively impact our physical health, mental health, sleeping schedule and can even cause significant changes to our diets.
Impacts of stress on work performance include;
- A decrease in productivity due to an inability to process simple tasks.
- Becoming overwhelmed easily, even with the simplest things.
- Short or long-term absence from work due to stress and its impacts. In fact, a study found that workplace stress costs American businesses up to $190 billion each year.
- Poor work performance due to a lack of focus, ‘follow-through‘, and motivation.
>> Other health implications.
Having a cluttered and disorganised workspace entices dust, germs and even pests. Have you ever lifted a pile of papers or books only to find a spider has set up a house? I know I have!
Although dusting, sanitising and giving your workspace may be the last thing on your mind, it’s very important. Home office or not it’s important to keep your workspace as free from germs as possible. This has become increasingly important over the last few months due to COVID-19.
Take your office from zero to hero.
One. Invest in lockers, filing systems, and adequate storage.
Having enough storage is important for maintaining a well-organised and clutter-free workplace. It makes life easier when all your files are in the correct place, documents are where they should be, and scrap is, well, scrapped!
In my old house, I didn’t have an office. In fact, I worked in a very small corner of the living room with no storage, no filing system; Nothing. We didn’t even have a kitchen table. It was brutal! But now my partner and I both share a home office and it couldn’t be further from our previous lives.
Everything has its place. I use the CEP Filing Drawers from Viking for my notebooks and documents. While the bigger storage drawers are for things like tarot cards, crystals, technical objects, and general office supplies.
It’s also important to organise our computers and laptops so that files, documents, pictures, etc are easy to find. Doing a regular clear-out also helps free up disk space and prevents lagging.
Two. Keep on top of the clutter to stop it from getting on top of you.
Don’t let the clutter build up in the first place! If you tidy as you go along it prevents the clutter from getting out of hand. Once it reaches a level where you start to become affected, it’s already too late, and the task of decluttering becomes more of a chore.
I like keeping my workspace tidy but I’ve also fallen into the trap of ‘I’ll do it tomorrow.’ I’ve allowed my workspace to become so overcrowded and disorganised that I’ve actually dreaded walking into my office. It takes a toll on my productivity, my mental health, and makes me feel discouraged. I’ve now adopted a system where I de-clutter at least once a month, and throw away the things I no longer need on a regular basis.
Looking for some interesting ways to style your home office? Check out this post over at Design Muse Blog for some fun and cute ideas!
Three. Tidy up your leads and cables.
Cable management can be difficult to keep under control. Especially if you’re working with a smaller space. But it’s very important that cables and leads are kept well organised and maintained. Not only can they become a fire hazard, but damaged cables can cause small electric shocks due to exposed wiring. If you’re connecting cables over a great distance they can also become a trip hazard so it’s important to bear this in mind when thinking of design and organisation.
What can you do to manage your cables at home? You can use cable ties, tubes, and general wire tidies which can be sourced from Amazon or your local supermarket. If cables and leads have to travel a long distance, you can attach them to skirting boards and doorframes using clips which can be either attached using screws or self-adhesive.
If nothing else, it’s always nice to walk into an office with correct cable management as it looks more professional, visually pleasing and gathers less dust.
Four. Create to-do lists.
To-do lists are an amazing way of keeping all your tasks in order. I personally love lists and take great enjoyment in ticking things off as I go along. But it’s possible to overdo it.
When creating to-do lists always keep them simple, small, and specific. Some experts believe that you should have no more than seven items on any to-do list at a time. For example, when planning this article my to-do list looked a little like this;
- Research and take notes on section A.
- Draft three hundred words from research for section A.
Each day I would research and draft a section. Sometimes I’d tackle two at a time and maybe even three if I was feeling energetic. This allowed me time to tackle other articles and tasks that I had throughout the day.
When getting started with your to-do list, try and kick things off with the task you least want to do. Although it might be nice to start off easy, our willpower is limited. Therefore it shouldn’t be wasted on completing the easiest and arguably quickest tasks. Once we get the biggest and scariest out of the way we’re free to fly through the rest without dread.
Finally, why not think about rewarding yourself for each task or at the end of each day? When studying for my final year exams I would treat myself to a sweet for every section I successfully studied and created notes for. This pattern continued until the day of the exam, after which I treated myself to an evening in bed and video games. Having a reward to look forward to can help motivate us to the finish line.
Five. Think about ergonomics.
Comfort when working from home should be our number one priority. It not only increases our productivity but prevents repetitive strain and unnecessary stressors. Although not everyone has a dedicated home office, as long as you have the correct desk and leg space, you should be able to make the best of a bad situation.
- Make sure you’re working from a desk that has adequate legroom so that you can sit close to your laptop or computer without unnecessary stretching. Try to keep your feet firmly on the ground or on a footrest. DO NOT sit with your legs cross as this increases the likelihood of ‘hunching‘ over, and strains the circulation in your legs.
- If possible use a separate mouse and keyboard with laptops. I personally use a Chrome book so this isn’t an easy option for me, but I much prefer using an external mouse for comfort.
- The top of your laptop should be level with your eyes. This means you may have to prop it up so that you’re not looking down at it.
- On that note, make sure all computers, laptops and accompanying technology are directly in front of you. This means you should not be overextending your neck to look up, down, or in either direction. Your keyboard and mouse should also be directly in front. Finally, there should be adequate room for your forearms to rest on the desk with ease.
- Your chair should ideally be adjustable but, again, we don’t all have that luxury. If you do have an adjustable chair make sure it’s at the correct height for you. But if not, you can use a rolled-up towel for lower back support and a cushion to prop you higher if necessary.
- Posture is important! Take it from someone with chronically bad posture and, as a result, suffers from upper back pain. If sitting, ensure that the small of your back is supported using the method mentioned above, or back support. Your shoulders should be relaxed but not slumped forward. Make sure your legs are comfortable and, as stated, your feet should be on the ground or on a footrest.
For more detailed information on ergonomics while working at a desk, check out the Health and Safety Executives free guide.
Interested in learning more about home organisation? Check out this post over on A Life With Frills! Your office isn’t the only place that can feel distracting and overwhelming. Learn some top tips to help you stay organised and motivated.