The Case for Clean Offices

Marianne Hayes
June 10, 2019

A few months back, during a particularly aggressive fit of spring cleaning, I completely gutted my home office. The floor was barely visible under piles of old paperwork and half-used notebooks; crumpled-up receipts and the many forgotten-about business cards I'd collected over the years.

My husband scolded me for chucking an entire handful of pens in the trash, to which I replied, "Yes, but are these pens bringing me joy?" (I'd just finished reading Marie Kondo's best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and let's just say I got really into it.) But when all was said and done, cleaning up my workspace really did make me feel good. It turns out there's a good bit of science behind the idea that clean, organized environments contribute to better health, happiness and overall well-being. What's more, tidiness is also linked to productivity.

If your workspace is on the messy side, here are a few compelling reasons to turn over a new leaf and create a clean office.

Messiness might make us less happy

Clutter is overwhelming. In 2013, The Huffington Post put out a survey of over 1,000 U.S. adults and found that 84 percent of respondents who were “recently stressed” worried about their untidy homes. Similarly, psychologists from UCLA found that women who struggle with clutter also release more cortisol (a.k.a. the stress hormone) than their tidier counterparts.

For Michael Racioppa, an office manager turned account coordinator at Uproxx Media, a clean office goes hand in hand with happiness at work. "The office is very minimalistic," he says. "Our walls are all completely white; the only color is from furniture or artwork. It all feels like a blank canvas, and I love it."

According to Racioppa, the vibe was initially a top-down initiative that came from the company's former COO, who drove home the value of a clean workspace. But it quickly became something that picked up team-wide enthusiasm.

"Because we're a digital company, a lot of us are also very light on paper, which is great because there's never really a ton of clutter around," he adds. "Generally speaking, we see a lot of really clean workspaces in our office."

Clean offices are good for our health

Looking to reduce employee sick days and increase overall well-being? You might want to start by giving your office a deep clean. One Indiana University study found people who maintained cleaner homes to be more active and in better general health than those with messier homes. It stands to reason that maintaining a clean office might be just as beneficial.

The simple act of incorporating more plant life at work can purify the air and help trap dust. And since most of us spend about 90 percent of our time indoors (and Sick Building Syndrome is on the rise), it pays to invest in a clean office.

Communal workspaces, especially kitchens and break areas, can be breeding grounds for harmful bacteria. As reported by The Today Show, microbiologists say it takes just two to four hours for a virus to spread from a coffee pot or microwave handle to someone's desk. Dan Childs of ABC News also shed light on just how filthy computer equipment can be—chances are, your keyboard is dirtier than your toilet seat.

Clean offices nurture productivity

According to Productivity Consultant and Certified Professional Organizer Kim Oser, a messy office is a recipe for distraction.

"Clutter affects our attention, which sets you back from whatever task you're working on," she says. "It's multitasking, which doesn't even really exist; task switching is a more accurate term.

Translation: the more clutter you have in your workspace, the harder it is to stay focused on the task at hand. "The notion of organized chaos is somewhat of a misnomer because you may have an idea of where things are in your piles and chaos, but you still have to spend time searching and sifting through the mess, which is counterproductive and could mean missed deadlines," says Oser.

A 2011 Princeton University study backs her up. According to researchers, nearby clutter is so over stimulating that it often impacts attention and work efficiency. Oser likens the phenomenon to a computer with a hundred tabs open.

"What does your computer do? It slows down or freezes," she says. "Then you have to go back, close everything, and refocus. You're less productive than if you'd just focused on a single task."

In other words, a tidy, clean office equals fewer distractions. 

To ensure your office space, whether shared with 200 people or a corner at home, stays tidy and clutter free, schedule regular cleaning, maintenance and deep cleaning. In an organized, clean space you’ll be able to work healthier, happier, and more efficiently.

If you need guidance on where to start in terms of cleaning up your office and setting up regular cleaning and maintenance to keep it a productive, welcoming space for your team download The Complete Guide to a Clean Office and see how a service like Managed by Q can keep your office looking and working at its best.

Photography by Julia Robbs

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