by Nik Williams, Managing Director of Shredall SDS Group
Businesses of all shapes and sizes are always looking for ways to innovate and increase their productivity by investing in the latest tools, software and training programs. Yet, perhaps the simplest way to increase business success is to maintain a clean office space?
Marie Kondo’s 2019 Netflix program on the benefits of decluttering was a huge hit this year, sparking a global tidying trend that led to charity shops reporting that clothes donations had doubled since the show’s release.
At the heart of the trend was a desire to remove unnecessary clutter from one’s home in a bid to declutter the mind and prioritise possessions that ‘spark joy’. The concept of minimalism certainly seems to have resonated with individuals looking to enjoy a more relaxing home life, but could the same principles be applied to help increase business productivity?
1. Only keep the necessary documents. Shred or archive the rest.
Companies inevitably collect documents over time that no longer provide value to their business. These items are left on desks or in storage units, often for many years. Not only does this clutter one’s workspace and make it more difficult to find important information, but it also presents a serious information security risk.
Malicious third parties can gain access to these files and use the information stored in them to commit fraud, endangering the finances of both the business and its clients. A recent report by DLA Piper found that European companies suffered 60,000 data breaches in the 8 months following the GDPR laws coming into force, equating to one every 5 minutes.
With data breaches becoming a growing concern for businesses, maintaining a tidy workspace not only reduces inefficiencies but also the risk of costly data breaches. Chris Unwin, CEO at LAC Conveyors and Automation, adds that clean desks can also “contribute positively as a cost-saving initiative.” “People are less likely to care about printing out reams of paper when their desk is already piled high with documents. Making the switch to digital documents for basic admin can help cut printing costs.”
Companies should therefore either invest in an office shredder (the more straightforward yet unsecure solution) or outsource their shredding needs to a contractor. Managers should ask their staff to shred any documents they no longer use at the end of each week to ensure that workspaces remain organised and secure.
2. Encourage individual approaches to cleanliness.
While there is much to be said for implementing a clean-desk policy across an organisation, research has shown that the creativity and productivity of some employees improves when they work in messy environments.
While tidy environments tend to promote generosity and healthy eating, the messy work environments encouraged staff to think outside-the-box, a key skill in almost every business looking to innovate and get ahead of its competitors.
“Stress management starts with organisation,” Chris Robertson, Creditsafe’s UK CEO explains.
“Psychological science studies have shown that whilst clean desks may promote structure, messy desks can also offer their own benefits, fostering creative thinking and idea generation. We ensure our employee’s desks are organised to their individual requirements, and we don’t enforce strict clean desk policies.”
The lesson to take here is that everyone’s personal judgement on optimal cleanliness is different, and therefore a one-size-fits-all approach is not conducive to maximising the productivity of employees. Nevertheless, given the inherent security risks of messy desks, guidelines should still be enforced for the most sensitive documents.
3. Clean offices are part of a brand’s image.
“Your premises are a key part of your brand’s image, especially if customers or clients are regular visitors.”, says David Holmes, Founder at Boiler Guide. “If a company is unable to maintain a clean office, what does this say about your attention to detail in other areas?”
This is an important point. Every company should actively shape its brand identity through both the work it produces and how it interacts with its customers. Any images shared on social media should therefore present an organised and diligent work atmosphere. Likewise, office spaces should be cleaned everyday in preparation for client visits. Failing to do so may cost both current and potential future business.
The truth is that most professionals are too busy to clean their workspaces every day, and asking them to carry out cleaning tasks as part of their working day will take time away from their core duties and cost the business money. Businesses should therefore look to hire regular cleaning staff.
Increasing productivity and sales doesn’t always have to be complicated. Businesses can make large strides in this regard by simply creating tidy, clean areas for their staff to work in. From encouraging employees to dispose of old documents and to taking a personal approach to cleanliness for shaping a positive brand image, office cleanliness correlates with business success in more ways than one.
Nik Williams is the Managing Director of Shredall SDS Group, one of the UK’s largest independently owned shredding, document storage and document scanning companies. After working as the company’s Sales Director for many years, Nik Williams took over the family business in 2017 to oversee its expansion plans. Shredall SDS Group now operates across the UK serving small companies to large multinationals, and both public- and private-sector bodies.