Death by a million paper cuts: how clutter ruins b...

Death by a million paper cuts: how clutter ruins businesses

Let’s run a quick experiment. Take a look around the office and note mentally what you see. Was there clutter, and did mostly consist of stacks of paper? Usually, the mess in the workplace is a pile of files which nearly reaches the ceiling. Because it’s seemingly benign, people dismiss it as if it’s not an issue. There are bigger fish to fry than reams of dead trees. Of course, this isn’t true because clutter is a major problem for, well, the company as a whole. The impact it can have is catastrophic if the situation escalates, and here are the reasons why.

Grabs Your Attention

Marketers would kill for this, but in the office it’s a bit of a downer because it steals people’s focus. Rather than concentrating on their workload, they look around and stare at the files on the desk. It may only be for a couple of seconds or even a minute or two, but it adds up over the course of a day. Bosses need to maximise productivity if the business is going to grow and the brand reach the masses. Clutter works against this goal, which is why it needs to go ASAP. For workers to do their best work, their space should be clean and tidy.

A few years ago I worked in an office that had stacks and stacks of documents everywhere. It was a publishing house, so it seems to make sense except that those stacks never shifted. They were once put there by employees that had since left, and nobody really knew who they belonged to. Also, nobody took responsibility of tidying them up, it was just not in anyone’s job description to take charge. Well, it likely should be in the office manager’s job description but for some reason it didn’t get done. Until the office moved, and someone was forced to deal with it after all. It should have been done years before in my opinion.

Encourages Procrastination

A direct knock-on effect of a messy environment is procrastination. Individuals who are staring blindly at mess are looking for ways to be unproductive. Sorry, but it’s the truth according to The Clutter Diet – The Skinny on Organizing Your Home and Taking Control of Your Life. Even more interesting is what the clutter represents in the first place. Apparently, it’s procrastination in physical form because it’s the brain’s way of saying “ah, we’ll get it later.” Reducing clutter then is an excellent way to overcome the habits which limit your focus in the eyes of the professionals.

Limits Opportunities

There you are, with hard copies of sheets and files all over the desk. All the while, you could have used efficient apps and mail services. Why? To begin with, they help to save time and money. Bosses who need to sign contracts on the go can-do digitally with an iPad and a pen. Or, you can get rid of physical time sheets and track hours via an app. SMEs may be happy to know that – mail forwarding address program – offers another interesting benefit. You can use their location as your business address, and have all your mail forwarded by them to you. This can add prestige and help build your brand. Another added benefit is that they offer to scan your mail – if you want – so you receive everything digitally and get rid of the paper clutter. 

It Makes You Unhealthy

Your workplace and your body share a remarkable trait – they’re a representation of the mind. So, the clutter in the office says a lot about you as a person and the people who call the place work. Sadly, it often means they are overweight or have issues with food. Individuals who eat junk food are less focused, unable to concentrate and hit basic targets. Companies are trying to invest more in their employees’ health for these reasons. You can make a good start by removing clutter and reframing your, and their, mindset.

Can you see it now, or is there a stack of papers in the way?


*Photo by Rob Bye on Unsplash

Christine Buske is a former academic who left science at the bench, and now considers herself a woman in tech. She is a frequently invited speaker, and enjoys talking about career transformation (particularly leaving academia for the business world), tech, issues around women in tech, product management, agile, and outreach. She is a proud Canadian resident, and qualifies as a "serial expat".

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