What Do You Do about Messy Cubicles?


Jen over at Arnolds Furniture has collected a series of photos depicting the “5 filthiest office cubes in the world”. It’s a harrowing sight, so only click through if you have a strong stomach. Jen categorizes the behaviors evident in the disarray of each cubicle. There’s the Hoarder who can’t let go of anything – no matter how useless – and the Stacker who thinks junk alignment equals neatness. Perhaps the most disturbing is the over-decorator who covers every square inch of panel space with photos and newspaper clippings.

If you have employees who can’t seem to pull themselves out of the spiral of chaos that makes their cubicle look like a disaster zone, what can you do? You don’t want to establish a policy that would punish workers who occasionally leave a file folder lying on their desk or want to display one neatly framed photo of their child. At the same time, having one-on-one conversations with messy employees is always awkward. You feel like you’re the Mom telling a teenager to clean his room.

Tips for Controlling Mess

Decide what results you want to achieve. Then put fair and reasonable rules in place that ensure all employees meet that minimum requirement.

  • In areas of the office that are frequently seen by clients, workstations should be close to spotless at all times to make a good impression. This means no food or non-work items at the desk except for approved decorations and all files and paperwork kept in closed office storage areas instead of on the desktop. Invest in storage towers to house employees’ personal effects.
  • Keeping mess to a minimum might be about creating a well organized environment for the sake of other employees. Then, you might just have a rule that every desk top has to be cleared off at the end of each day (with the exception of one inbox and one outbox). Provide mobile storage pedestals or under-desk filing drawers for each cubicle to promote neatness.
  • If you are staging an intervention because a worker’s horrible cube habits have you a little freaked out, you might institute a CYDF (clean your desk Friday) regimen to start things off slow. Just be careful to phrase this so it doesn’t sound like you are firing the worker. Starting a conversation about cubicle cleanliness with “I want you to clear out your desk on Friday” would be a little cruel.

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