A tidy desk may improve productivity, focus and generosity, however a messy desk may nurture creativity, according to scholarly research.

Desk Tidiness Pine Property

2011 research, published in The Journal Of Neuroscience, found that when an environment is cluttered, a person’s ability to focus becomes restricted. The chaos of a cluttered environment vies for the brain’s attention, eventually clouding it.

And 2013 research by psychological scientist Kathleen Vohs for the Association For Psychological Science found that participants in an orderly room chose healthier snacks and donated more money compared to those in a disorderly room.

However creativity increased for those participants who were in a disorderly room.

“We found that you can get really valuable outcomes from being in a messy setting,” she said. “Being in a messy room led to something that firms, industries, and societies want more of: creativity.”

“Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights,” said Vohs. “Orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe.”

Cluttered desk – cluttered mind

Rebecca Mezzino, a declutter coach for Clearspace told Pine Property that “a cluttered desk sends a message, unconscious or conscious, to your brain telling it that it has a lot to do. This causes a feeling of being overwhelmed, and can cause procrastination and high stress levels.”

“People with cluttered desks also have difficulty prioritising effectively because they aren’t aware of all the tasks they need to be doing,” she said.

Chaos and brand identity

A messy desk might also impact an individual’s brand identity and how colleagues and superiors view them.

Career coach, Nicole Grainger-Marsh told Pine Property that when it comes to your personal brand, it’s important to deliver the right message in the workplace.

“People will judge you on your messy desk,” she explained. “In fact many people consider a cluttered desk a sign of disorganisation at best, and laziness at worst.”

Mezzino agreed. “As far as brand identity goes, I think that companies with offices that the public can access can be disadvantaged by messy desks being on display. People perceive those with messy desks as less professional than those with tidy desks,” she said.

Other desk factors that impact productivity

The recent trend towards stand-up desks could also improve productivity according to a 2016 study on call centre productivity following a standing desk intervention.

However, in a 2017 study by the Journal of Ergonomics, researchers suggest caution when replacing sitting work with standing work over long periods.

The study found that that during two hours of standing, workers were uncomfortable, leading to deterioration in reaction time and mental state. However creative problem-solving did improve.

At Pine Property, we strive to capitalise on the best of both worlds with sit-stand desks and generally alternate between sitting and standing through the day.

Furthermore a previous article we have written provides insight into workplace design and culture. It suggests that hot-desking boosts morale, health and productivity by encouraging collaboration, however it must be done in a supportive environment to have that affect.

This suggests that whatever the desk arrangement is, the environment is key.