Tricks Of The Trade: Clean Desk Policies

By James C. Elledge, IFMA Fellow, CFM, FMA, RPA, RIAQM
Published in the May 2007 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Q Where can I find out more about Clean Desk Policies includingsuccessful examples (particularly with regard to the change managementprocess)?

Nina Cinthya
Assistant Manager, Facilities
Jakarta, Indonesia

AAccording to an article by Dr. David Lewis,“Research has clearly shown that a messy desktop reduces efficiency andimpairs performance in three key ways. First, it leads to wasted timesearching for an essential item; when this [item] is needed urgently,the anxiety aroused by its temporary misplacement further underminesconcentration and confidence.

“Second, being confronted withpiles of work to complete not only makes it far harder to stay focused,but it causes a loss of motivation. Finally, a cluttered desk acts as asignificant barrier to the important psychological process of closure.That is, finishing off one job before embarking on another. A failureof closure, no matter what the cause, can prove a serious cause ofstress.” Read the full article here.

Frankly, a Clean Desk Policy makes practical sensefor almost any business. Yet, few companies follow this approach. Tohelp you get started, here’s a sample to serve as the framework behindyour project:

Clean Desk Policy

We at [Company Name] operate a Clean Desk Policy.


Itis generally accepted that a tidy desk is a sign of efficiency andeffectiveness. The main reasons we have introduced the policy are:

  1. It shows the right image when our customers visit the company;
  2. It reduces the threat of security, as passwords and confidential information get locked away;
  3. Scientific studies have shown there is a reduction in stress when employees have tidy desks;
  4. Studies have also shown a reduction in workplace accidents and spills.

The Policy In Operation

Theimplementation of the policy is fairly straightforward. At the end ofthe working day, employees are expected to tidy their desks and putaway all office papers. We provide under desk lockers and filingcabinets for this purpose.

We do not expect the policy to beimplemented in a heavy handed way, but we expect that most employeeswill live with the spirit of the policy. We expect line managers todeal in a sympathetic way with employees.

Reduction In The Use Of Paper

Thepolicy should help reduce the amount of paper that is used in thebusiness—as well as costly toners and inks, particularly from the colorprinters. It will also reduce the amount of filing space we will need.

Manypeople use print offs as backup against losing information fromcomputer systems. The IT team backs up all information daily.

Tips For Having A Tidy Desk

Puta date and time in your diary to clear your paperwork. If in doubt,throw it out. Use secure recycling bins for paper no longer needed.

Do not print out e-mails to read them.

Gothrough the things on your desk to make sure you need them; what youdon’t need, throw away. Handle any piece of paper only once; act on it,file it, or put it in the bin. Always clear your desktop before you gohome. Consider scanning paper items and filing them in your PC.

Elledge,facility/office services manager for Dallas, TX-based Summit AllianceCompanies, is the recipient of the Distinguished Author Award from theInternational Facility Management Association (IFMA), is an IFMA Fellow, and isa member of TFM’sEditorial Advisory Board. All questions have been submitted via the “Ask TheExpert” portion of the magazine’s Web site. To pose a question, visit this link.