Your tidy desk policy is harming your business, here’s why

Creativity and innovation cant be scheduled, the best you can do is to create an environment that fosters them.

Psychology studies have shown that changes as minor as thinking about the lifestyle and appearance of a punk or an accountant can have a significant impact on our ability to be creative. Imagine how much impact the sterile environment created by that tidy desk policy is having on creative thinking.

Different people and job roles have different needs and need different environments in order to fulfil their potential. These kind of policies ignore those needs, and worse still try to suppress them. What they really show is that you don’t understand people. The problem with this is that if you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business.

Some people thrive in chaos and others require order. Creativity and innovation cannot exist in a sterile environment, studies have found that a messy desk encourages a creative mind.

How about instead we focus on something that matters?

Businesses typically introduce a tidy desk policy to improve visitor perceptions, but those businesses usually have bigger problems that are going un-tackled. Sure we could collectively spend hours every week tidying and policing our way into this sterile utopia; or we work on actually improving our processes, our product, our business and our customers lives.

That single site visit the customer made three years ago is just one touch point in a sea of thousands they have had, and will continue to have with the business. When they think about the business and what it stands for will the tidiness of employee desks really be the most important influencer?

  • More important than the hours of their life they have lost waiting for poorly performing software to load?
  • More important than the repeated confusion they have been through when confronted with an interface or workflow so far from their mental modal?

The problem with policies are that they compound and eventually add up to the rigidity of bureaucracy that everyone says they despise. Policies are not free.

We need to stop trying to control the uncontrollable. Decide what matters, what really matters, and what we are prepared to give up to get it.

Wayne Moir

User Experience Designer