Spring Thaw: Clutter in the Workplace

Christine Johnson on

It’s spring thaw time in Chicago.  And the melting snow revealed many surprises in the yard of my house.  I have broken walkway lights, branches down, and various paper products that escaped on garbage day.  The melting snow also revealed some good things as well – – – a decorative flag that flew off in one of the massive windstorms, a beloved dog toy.  With the snow gone, I now see things that I did not know were there.

Doesn’t this spring thaw happen where we work as well? In bad weather, we tend to hibernate more in our workplace.  Who feels like going out to lunch when it is 20 degrees below zero or in the middle of a monsoon rain storm?  Because we are indoors more at work, clutter starts to accumulate.  And I don’t only mean only physical clutter.

More than physical clutter in the workplace . . .

Social clutter and gossip happen more because we are around our co-workers more.

Emotional clutter restricts our ability to innovate and problem-solve because we are less likely to breathe fresh outdoor air or change our surroundings easily.

Yes, our workplaces are often covered in clutter that we either don’t realize or don’t care is there.

In the movie The Intern with Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway, physical office and emotional clutter are subtle central points early in the movie.  In the office where they both work lies a large pile of clutter and junk.  Anne Hathaway’s character, her assistant, and everyone else in the office see the pile, but everyone is too busy to deal with it.

Robert De Niro’s plays a senior intern who has just started with the company.  He hears everyone complaining about the pile and stays late one night to tackle it.  The next day, the pile is gone and the team acknowledges his efforts.  The office not only looks better, but the general mood is lighter and the elephant in the room is gone.

“Clutter in the workplace is an energy zapper.”

Whether it is cleaning an accumulated pile of physical junk or realizing that the confines of your organization’s walls are impeding your ability to be an original thinker, clutter in the workplace is an energy zapper. This week think about the clutter that lurks around your workplace as you stroll out the door on the way to lunch.  I promise that any action you take against clutter will make yours and other employees’ workplace experience better.

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