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Desk Spring Cleaning

Originally Published 11 April 2003

Nothing polarises opinion more than the question of how to manage desk space.

People tend to fall into one of two camps:

"A tidy desk is the sign of a sick mind."


"An untidy desk is the sign of an untidy mind."

What does your desk say about you?

A recent study conducted by shows that the way that you keep your workspace gives an insight into the way that you work and the type of person you are.

Corporate Psychologist Ben Williams says, "It is inevitable that the items on their (people?s) workstations and the way that they are arranged will reflect the person?s character and way of working."

He categorises workers into the following groups:

  • Moneylenders

    People who leave personal items such as mobile phones and keys out on their desk are trusting and will have no reservations about lending you money or letting you borrow their things.
  • Mother-Figure Searchers

    The worker with the obsessively neat desk devoid of personal belongings is likely to have no real friends in the workplace - and will be searching for a 'best friend'.
  • Tea & Sympathy People

    People with desktops crammed full of fluffy toys and photos will be most likely to listen to your problems.
  • Creative Creatures

    Creatives with desks randomly scattered with documents and personal belongings are likely to be great ideas people with a short attention span.
  • Quitters

    The person with a desk overflowing with piles of documents may be finding it hard to cope with their workload and be looking for a way out.

Whatever the truth of the matter, people are quick to judge others from the state of their desk. Even if you maintain that you work as efficiently with your messy desk as your neighbour with her immaculate filing system your colleagues won't see it that way.

A study from the University of Texas found that their test group perceived messy workers to be inefficient, unimaginative workers.

Detox your Desk

It is generally acknowledged that the best way to get a job done is to focus all your energy on the job in hand. When your desk is full of items relating to other projects it is easy to get distracted.

Don't forget that individual working habits play an important part in the way we carry out our work. Right-brained, creative workers usually require visual stimulation and can have busier workstations while left-brained, logic-driven people may have files for everything but keep a copy of everything that ever passes through their hands.

On the Learndirect website Dawna Walters, from BBC 2's Life Laundry, gives Ten Tips for a Desk Detox link text - follow her advice to get a head start on your Easter Spring Clean.

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