Got a messy desk? Time to clean it up!

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Have you ever sat down at your desk and suddenly realized it looks like a war zone?

I’m talking piles of email printouts, stacks of reports and forecasts that are scattered all over, steno pads with scribbled notes, empty soda cans and a wide assortment of other stuff that virtually overwhelms all of the available space.

For many of us, that’s the reality we face every day we come to work. More often than not, someone with a messy desk actually knows where everything is. But that comes as little consolation to your boss when he finds you pawing through a stack of reports to find the one he’s referring to.

More than half of the senior managers (54 percent) who were recently surveyed by OfficeTeam said the most distracting or annoying aspect of employee workspaces is sloppiness or disorganization. Conversely, one in 10 acknowledged a desk that’s too clean or bare raises a red flag. So I guess the sweet spot lies somewhere in the middle. Managers obviously like to see evidence that you’re working, which could include some reports on your desk and maybe some notebooks.

They just don’t want to see a veritable landfill of coffee-stained papers, empty soda cans and kitschy knickknacks falling onto the floor.

Fifteen percent of the respondents surveyed by OfficeTeam reported seeing too many knickknacks in an employee’s work area and 21 percent said a worker’s desk area displayed inappropriate photos or phrases.

I had an experience with the latter several years ago when I walked by a co-worker’s desk. Glancing over, I saw a large photo displayed on his computer screen that would have been hard to miss. It was taken from the perspective of someone who might have been standing on the balcony of one of the upper floors of the World Trade Center in New York. And a 747 was headed right at you.

The picture had obviously been photo-shopped, but it looked real. And to make matters worse it was taken just days after the 9/11 terrorist attack that killed more than 2,600 people in the World Trade Center’s twin towers.

“I think you probably ought to take that down,” I said.

The co-worker, who shall forever remain nameless, simply stared at me with a questioning look.

“There might be someone working here who had a family member die in that attack,” I explained as rationally as I could. “Or at the very least, someone here might know of someone who was killed. You really need to take that down.”


The photo was gone the next time I passed by. But that incident speaks to the insensitivity — and outright in appropriateness — that employees sometimes display in the workplace.

But bad taste aside, if you’re looking to revamp your workspace, OfficeTeam offers the following tips that may help:

•Clean up your act. Spend a few minutes every day clearing out old documents, food wrappers and dirty dishes. Reduce clutter by organizing files or going paperless

•Keep it simple. It’s OK to have a few things in your workspace that are inspiring or fun to look at, but covering your desk with too many knickknacks can be an eyesore

•Don’t be offensive. Remember, items in your work area aren’t always for your eyes only. Ditch the political posters, risqué photos and anything that might be too controversial

Simple but good advice.

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