Productivity thrives amid an uncluttered workspace


POSTED: Friday, February 13, 2009

Has the 5S Clean Desk Cop shown up at your workplace yet?

The 5S concept (Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize and Sustain) has been successfully used to increase efficiency in manufacturing plants and is now being applied to a growing number of offices, with regular inspections as part of the program. Disorder and clutter do impact productivity.

Declan Tracy, author of “;Clear Your Desk!”; makes these observations:

“;A cluttered desk is the sign of a disorganized mind and unproductive work patterns.

“;The more paperwork we unnecessarily hoard on our desks the greater the probability that our time will be spent on items which are not going to give us a high pay off.

“;Working from a cluttered desk encourages a tendency to work from the top of the nearest stack downward. Whether or not the important paperwork is completed is often a matter of luck rather than conscious decision.”;

And, “;the longer important paperwork remains on the desk, the greater the chance that a crisis will develop.”;

Clutter is the enemy of efficiency, and for many, desk mess needs to be addressed. While the 5S concept has its merits, I have reservations about the fourth step (Standardize) as applied to desks.

Standardization of worksites used by multiple users is a good idea. A friend who was a relief nurse told me how frustrating it was to work at nursing stations that were so disorganized that she couldn't find needed items or forms. Standardized stations would help that situation.

But I question the 5S idea of mandating standardized uniformly cleared-off individual desktops. As a professional organizer who has helped hundreds of people organize their desks, I don't feel that there is a desktop arrangement that will work for everyone.

I believe that the desk must suit the person. Some need a perfectly clear desk to work, while others, the right-brain visual types, need to see their work. I know, for I am one of the “;out of sight out of mind”; types.

I feel it's acceptable to keep out future work in a holding area off to the side, in an orderly manner, categorized by project or action, as long as they aren't “;UPO's”; - unidentified piled objects.

After a desk seminar, a music teacher, a right-brain visual type, said to me, “;I'm so relieved - I feel that I have permission to keep things out!”; My reply to him was, “;Yes, as long as it's kept out in an organized way!”;

If you have a cluttered desk, I encourage you to start your own 5S program:

» Sort

» Straighten

» Shine

» Standardize (or Set Up your desk according to what works for you) and

» Sustain the order.

By doing so, you can STAVE off the desk cop and SAVOR the pleasure and productivity you'll gain.

See you in two weeks!


Ruth Wong owns Organization Plus. Her column runs the second and fourth Friday of each month. Contact her care of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu 96813. Or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).