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Efficiency has been the hot corporate buzzword for decades, and people have built entire careers around telling companies how to “tighten up” their workspaces to make them more efficient. The downside to this efficiency craze is many employees chafe if their workspace doesn’t reflect their personality and their preferred layout, at least to some degree.

Many employees harbor sentiments along the lines of “A clean desk means I had nothing more important to do,” and a careful look around your office will generally bear this out. However, there is a way to strike a balance between creativity and efficiency. Here are eight ways you can make your employees’ workspaces more efficient without driving them or yourself crazy!

1. Understand your employees.

New Studio Space by Yossi Belkin

Everyone’s a little different. Some people find a ruthlessly clean desk allows them to focus, while others lean toward a workspace that seems the very embodiment of chaos. Enforcing a rigid, one-size-fits-all efficiency scheme can actually damage morale and result in less work getting done. Knowing how your employees work best and in what environment they’re most comfortable will help you, and them, get more out of the working day with less frustration.

2. Try new things.

The “wireless” office remains largely a myth. Somewhere there are cables and wires snaking all over a floor, making just walking across the office a potential hazard. Cable ties are the ideal solution, but trying things such as using bulldog clips to keep cables tidy and out of the way shows your employees you value the ability to think outside the box and engage in creative problem solving.

Another example would be using innovative and cleverly phrased signage to get important information to your employees. Signs such as the one below convey a serious message, but show you also have a sense of humor. This is important to help employees, especially new ones, get past their workday jitters and be more productive.

3. Cleanup On Aisle 4 (aka Rodney’s desk)

Of course, there’s a point beyond which “creative clutter” becomes utter confusion. If your perpetually disorganized employee calls in sick and someone needs to get information he was working on, where do they look? Encourage employees to stay organized without cramping their style by providing Post-It notes or hanging files for their desks. This will not only cut clutter, but make it much easier to see what an employee’s work in progress looks like.

4. Efficiency gurus keep out!

Many people think of efficiency as a magic pill that cures all ills. On an assembly line, this is true. In an office environment where people may need to think on their feet, one person’s “efficiency model” may be another person’s nightmare. Keep the guidelines for employee workspaces minimal and reasonable to your business. This prevents employees from feeling stifled or resentful and fosters an environment where creative problem solving can flourish, but still gives you an office you can give tours through without fear of embarrassment or lawsuits.

5. Double up on screens to increase workflow.

This will undoubtedly provoke groans from your more Luddite employees, particularly those who are set in their ways. However, studies have demonstrated that adding an extra workspace screen can increase productivity because it makes it easier for employees to sort through multiple documents, spreadsheets, and emails at one time without having to deal with the limitations of a single-screen computer arrangement. While the first knee-jerk reaction might be resistance, give the system and your employee’s time to adapt. Soon your employees will think you’re a genius and they’ll wonder how they ever got along without the flexibility of double monitors!

6. What makes a bad workspace?

A “bad” workspace prohibits ready communication between employees, promotes possibly dangerous circumstances such as tripping over cables (#2, above) or problems like not being about to find important paperwork (#4, above), and makes your employees feel isolated and shut in. You can fight these tendencies by giving your employees the opportunity to weigh in on what’s working, and not, in their workspaces.

While you won’t be able to implement every suggestion for a number of reasons (if one of your employees suggests a dancing pole in the break room, that’s probably a fairly obvious non-starter), at least your employees will feel like they have a voice and some ownership in the place they work. This in turn will make them more likely to come to you if they see a problem and encourage them to think of solutions on their own, rather than dropping the problem in your lap and waiting for you to come up with a viable response.

7. A place for everything…

You probably know the rest of this old saw, and it holds just as true in the business world as anywhere else. Employees often use one drawer of their desks as a catch-all, a disorganized nightmare of business cards, coupons that expired in 1997, keys from college that haven’t opened their intended locks since graduation, and fossilized fast-food burritos. By giving your employees desk caddies, they’ll be able to easily find the things they need, and it becomes less likely they’ll use “The Black Hole” to store important items like the business card for the guy you’re supposed to have lunch with!

8. The rules are: there are no rules.

Everyone is unique, and creative people tend to have their own systems that work for them. When in doubt, let your employees’ tastes and styles drive the workspace organization. As long as there isn’t an obvious conflict, there’s really no need to press for uniformity in workspace setup. Certain rules concerning basic housekeeping  give your employees a certain amount of autonomy in their workspace will make them feel less stressed, more relaxed and confident, and more productive!

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Posted by Josh Hervall

This article was supplied by Josh Hervall, a keen blogger and design enthusiast. He writes for, a UK Office Furniture specialist.

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