How Clean Is Your Desk?

Clean or Dirty Desk?

A recent study published in Psychological Science is getting some attention right now for starting a conversation on work space organization. Both Business Insider and featured stories about the study. So, what is all the fuss about? It seems that a messy desk may help with creative thinking.

In the study, participants were asked to make food choices, donate to charity, and come up with different uses for ping pong balls. A messy office and an orderly office were used to gauge their effect on these processes. It seems that the cleaner office inspired the participants to do what was expected, and healthier foods were selected. The messier office inspired more creativity, and a tendency toward junk food.

What kind of organization do you belong to? Is a healthy, somewhat less creative working environment preferred, or is a messy, creative environment encouraged? Does the culture vary among specific departments in your organization? Though the messier office was related to increased creativity, Vivian Gang of Business Insider suggested that the mess should be cleaned up as you go, ending in an orderly office. This approach would tap into the benefits of both the messy and clean environments.

How you choose to work is up to you, or perhaps your supervisor. If you need a burst of creativity though, maybe taking an extra day to clean off your desk might help. I would be interested to learn if the messy versus clean desk effect applies to students and employees together, or if it is more beneficial for a specific group. Until those studies are conducted, it seems likely to apply to anyone with a desk.

So, how about you? Do you prefer a clean working environment, or enjoy a little bit of clutter now and then?