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The desk dilemma

How do you judge people? Is it by their hair? What does a dyed blonde frizz with black ends tell you as opposed to an au naturel short back and sides? Maybe you judge people more by their clothes: do suits maketh the woman or man in your eyes? Perhaps it is a person’s walk that allows you to make your decisions about them? Does a high-heeled strut tell you that what is going on inside that person is quintessentially different to the internal whirrings of a flat-soled cruiser?

There are many cues that you can use to form your judgements of someone else but the point is that we all do it, it is just the things we focus on as our basis for judgement that vary. In the office environment though there is one gauge that most people use as a barometer for a person’s work efficiency: the appearance of their desk. However, what has emerged from a new study is that both tidy and messy desk keepers have their strengths.

This was discovered by researchers from the University of Minnesota who conducted a series of experiments. The experiments involved people completing questionnaires and performing tasks in either a clean and organised office cubicle or a messy, cluttered office cubicle. So this test was not even looking at the type of person who would create such an environment but just what effect on work those environments would have.

The results showed that the people in a clean and tidy office were more likely to do what was asked of them than those in a messy space. Those in clean offices were also more likely to donate more of their own money to charity and to choose an apple over a chocolate.

However, when asked to come up with a new use for ping pong balls those in the messy office came up with ideas that were rated as more “interesting and creative”. In addition, when asked to choose between a new product and an established one, those in the messy office were more likely to choose the novel idea while those in the clean office preferred the established product.

So there you have it managers, you can insist on clean desks and have a workforce of healthy, generous drones or you can allow mess and foster creativity and thinking outside the box.

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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