Cost of Clutter in the Workplace

Re-posted with the permission of Strategic Partner, Regina Lark.

Is your big organization organized? Businesses and organizations lose time, money, and productivity due to excessive clutter in the workplace. When employees do not know where to find something, they spend work-time looking for what they need. It is estimated that employees waste approximately 4.3 hours per week looking for items that were not returned to their original or designated spaces. The wasted time leads to stress, frustration, and unhappiness, which results in lowered productivity in more ways than just not finding a needed item. Alarmingly, when there is too much clutter and when things are not where they belong, staff members will likely order more supplies when the materials are not found, leading to over-expenditures. Not only are over-expenditures a waste of money, but after ordering new materials there is even more clutter added to the workspace.

There is a profound correlation between clutter and productivity in the workplace. Stephanie Winston, author of The Organized Executive, estimates an hour each day is lost to disorder, costing an organization over $8,000 for an employee earning $65,000 a year. In a study by the National Association of Professional Organizers, 27% of those surveyed feel disorganized at work, and 91% said they would be more effective and efficient in their workspace if it were better organized. When people are organized they will more likely successfully meet their goals and objectives.

When an office is filled with clutter and disorder, employees find it difficult to keep track of things, printing more copies of papers already in a pile on the desk, expending supplies and precious resources. It is estimated that 80% of filed papers are never referenced again, and, unbelievably, the average office has 19 copies of each created document.  In addition to the loss of employee productivity, 70% of executives’ time is spent on processing paperwork. They waste an average of 40% of their workday, not because they are not smart, but because they were never taught organizing skills to cope with the increasing workloads and demands.  It costs $25,000 to fill a four-drawer filing cabinet and $2,100 per year to maintain it: the true cost of clutter.

Obviously, it is imperative to have an organized workspace to maximize productivity and cut costs. One solution is to understand there is a “circle of work” that should have designated work zones: a flat space for writing, a place for the computer/printer, an area for action or client files, and office supplies should have a specific location that is easily accessible. The circle of work area needs to include office supplies (pens, paper clips, writing pads, white out, scissors, etc.), which usually end up overflowing from coffee mugs, bowls, and desk organizers when a workspace is not maintained. It also helps to label areas to easily identify the “home” for each item on the desk, shelves, or in cupboards.

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