Ask someone what they think of their colleague’s messy desk and you can be assured you’ll get a strong response. My guess is half of the people you ask will be “appalled” by how messy a colleagues’ office is and likely chalk it up to laziness. I suppose if you classify travelling to much and running from meeting to meeting being lazy then the somewhat neatly stacked piles of files on my desk could be construed as being too lazy to file...
The truth is being neat and tidy is only half the battle. Certainly, keeping a tidy desk will improve (or supposed to improve) your mindset and motivation to work, but more importantly, it will help prevent the buildup of dust, dirt, food stains, fingerprints and most significantly germs! In fact, some studies that have been conducted have shown that our workplace desk can be 400 times dirtier than the average toilet seat! While we may think the keyboard or mouse would be the dirtiest as we are forever touching them...our phone is actually the dirtiest object in our office.
It’s no wonder that our desk spaces are dirtier than ever. One of the largest factors in creating an unhygienic workplace is that more people are working through their lunches and eating at their desks. In fact, our desk is 100 times less hygienic than your kitchen table! For some it may seem odd, but the truth is that like us, bacteria need food. Crumbs from your lunch provide the much needed food to allow bacteria to thrive and proliferate.
In Canada, workers took an average of 9.3 sick days in 2011. These absences cost the economy about $16.6 billion based on salary cost for the days lost, and that tally did not include the cost for replacement workers. In the United States, poor health costs the economy $576 billion a year. Of that amount, 39%, or $227 billion is from “lost productivity” from employee absenteeism due to illness, or from what researchers called “presenteeism,” which is when employees report to work but illness keeps them from performing at their best.
Many of these statistics are highlighted in the ISSA’s Infographic “How clean is your work space”. I think the most surprising to me is that only 3% of offices sufficiently clean their equipment...I suppose it could be due to the fact that if the space is messy it makes it difficult to clean, but the truth is cleaning improves our health. In fact cleaning is an investment in both our own and our employee’s health. While we do not want to be treated like children and make them do chores such as cleaning their room, it may be prudent to have “office cleaning time” each week to ensure that housekeeping staff that clean our office spaces can in fact clean the spaces....
I wonder if next fall when flu season comes around whether I will be healthier if I keep my desk clean - my thought is that will only be the case if I stop treating it like my kitchen table!