What Does Your Office Say About How You Work?

Posted by Kristin Arnold on February 4, 2020

It is now a fresh new year, new decade, and new business cycle. It is also a good time to clean up, archive old files, remove outdated equipment, fix or replace broken furniture, and give the place a fresh new look.  Most employees do not believe they are responsible for that and leave it to someone else.

Contradictory to popular belief, the janitorial service is not responsible.  Their job is to ensure cleanliness, but how can they do that when offices are disorganized and there is ‘stuff’ all over the place?

When I worked at IBM, we had what was called the “clean desk policy.”  At the end of every day, every individual’s desk had to be completely clear of all files and work resources.  This was also good for security and protected confidential client materials.

I do remember one manager who’s office was always a mess. It prompted a visitor to say: “cluttered desk, cluttered mind.” Later, that same manager came to my office, looked in and said: “empty desk, empty mind,” and left.  That made me realize that everyone has their own working style, but what impression are you leaving in your client’s mind?

What is most interesting is that many people do not notice when the office is becoming cluttered, because it happens over a long period of time. It is not until it becomes so obvious that it becomes embarrassing.

One organization I worked with would have a “clean-up day” once a year.  I believe this is a good practice on a regular basis, whether it is your office, your cubicle, your home, or even your car.  Just follow these five steps to tidy up, and it should only take half a day at the most (maybe schedule the whole day if it’s your first time).  As a bonus, it will boost employee and team engagement, enhance your representation with customers, and you’ll feel better!  Maybe finish the day with a small celebration.

I also recommend bringing in an outside consultant who can offer a non-partial set of fresh eyes.  Often, we do not see how bad it is because we have lived in that environment for so long it begins to look normal.

  1. Start by gathering your team and explain the objective, as well as the process which is going to be used to tidy up the place!
  2. Walk around the office and make notes as to what is “off brand” – those things that are inconsistent with your brand promise.  Make a list of all the things that need to be taken care of.  No evaluation.  No action.  Just list everything.

At this step, I often think of the times when I was in real estate and advising a client who was selling their house  – perhaps you can relate:  Remember when the realtor came in and told you to get rid of excess stuff, paint the worn cabinets, or even do a little renovation?  So, this step is just like THAT.

  • Take the list and segment it into tasks and projects, along with a specific person who is responsible for its successful completion.  We call that person the “champion.”

Some are “just do it” tasks ie: file the papers, move the boxes, put the tools away, etc. Others require a bit more time ie: fix the broken picture frame, reupholster the couch (or get rid of the couch and buy a new one!).  Ensure each item is listed and has a “champion.”

  1. Do the “just do it” tasks – NOW!  Don’t wait until tomorrow, or the next day.  Yes, I know larger renovations become a project ie: the bathroom needs major renovation!
  2. Champions should work on their task or project until it gets done, reporting the status at regular meetings until completed.

Finally, make it a fun day of team building with a celebration at the end.  Encourage your team to wear jeans, buy pizza for lunch, crank up the music!  A clean office may actually boost productivity.

My question for managers:

What does the appearance and tidiness of your office say about how you work?


Joseph Sherren, CSP, HoF,

Global Speaking Fellow

International Business Transformation Specialist.


Recent Articles:

4 Tell-tale Signs You are a Controlling Leader

Leaders: Do You Need Strategic Planning or Do You Have Clear Vision?

Stretch your Leadership Team’s Ability to Think Strategically

Photo by Slava Keyzman on Unsplash

Skip to content