Working from home is great. No commute. No dress code. No bad office coffee. Those are the upsides. But there are downsides, too. In addition to being the CEO, CFO, Human Services Director and staff, you’re also the custodial worker. Even if you have a dedicated space for your home office, keeping it clean and organized can be a challenge, especially on a busy schedule. But experts agree and research supports that productivity and tidiness go hand in hand as evidenced by the following:
A recent study by the Center for Facilities Research found that “a lack of cleanliness becomes a distraction, while orderly cleanliness creates good learning and working environments.”
“A survey of more than 1,000 adults conducted by Office Max found that 90 percent of Americans believe clutter has a negative impact on their lives and work. A surprising 77 percent said clutter damages their productivity, in line with previous studies revealing that executives waste six weeks a year searching for lost items and information.”
In an interview with Forbes, organization guru Peter Walsh says disorganization clouds your ability to think effectively. Surrounded by chaos, you lose time by looking for things, often becoming anxious, unfocused and overwhelmed. “It is impossible to make your best choices in a messy space.”
Besides the productivity aspects, untidiness also can breed germs that cause illness, especially if you tend to eat at your workspace. The Huffington Post reports that your desk may actually harbor 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat. Let that sink in.
So how can you fit your custodial duties into a calendar that’s already jam-packed? You need a system. You might want to follow a modified version of the lean manufacturing Five S Program principles: Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize and Sustain.
This part of the drill is fundamental to every organizing effort. “It eliminates clutter and confusion. It removes tools, equipment, supplies and waste that interferes with getting the job done,” says Steve Hudgik, author of Graphic Products’ 5S Program tutorial. The sorting step involves going through everything in your work area and keeping only what is essential. If something is obsolete or you never use it, get rid of it. If you use it infrequently, move it to a separate storage area. If it’s broken, have it repaired. Once this step is complete, it will be easier for you to find what you need. It will also free up your work space – a definite bonus.
The objective here is to find a place for everything and to put everything in its place. Do you need bookshelves, a filing cabinet, additional file folders, or labels? Identify and acquire whatever materials, tools and equipment you need to organize your home office. You may need to rearrange your home office to make maximum use of the floor space. Don’t overlook vertical space for hanging files. Eliminate as much paper as possible and rely on your computer filing system instead.
Proper labeling is critical to establishing order. Don’t get complicated. Use a simple alphabetical system for filing. Group like items together: office supplies on one shelf, books on another, computer disks on another, etc. Get in the habit of putting things back when you’re done with them to maintain order. It only takes a moment, and you’ll save time you would have spent searching when you need them again.
Establish a regular cleaning routine for your home office. Empty the trash at the end of each day. File completed projects. Straighten your desk and wipe it off. Take any dirty dishes to the kitchen sink. Make your to-do list for the next day. The idea is to have a tidy area that’s ready when you begin the next work day. Once a week, run the vacuum and dust surfaces. This won’t take more than a few minutes at the end of each day.
Standardize and Sustain
Good habits, just like bad ones, take hold when you do them over and over again. Turn the steps of sort, straighten and shine into daily or weekly tasks. Put them on your calendar like you would an appointment or any other task and cross them off as they’re completed. You’ll establish a routine that helps you stay organized and gives you a sense of accomplishment.
Add an R
When you work for someone else, your increased productivity is usually rewarded. That’s seldom the case when you work for yourself. Set up a system of rewards for maintaining an organized and more productive home work environment. Give yourself a fresh bouquet of flowers each week. Invest in a nice piece of artwork. Buy a new app or gadget. Go out to lunch. Little incentives and pats on the back will encourage you to keep up the good (and tidy) work. Home office organization doesn’t have to be a battle.
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