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Spring has officially sprung! Have you done your spring cleaning, yet? The practice of spring cleaning dates back to ancient spiritual practices, but it still holds weight in the modern era. The process of tidying, reorganizing, and decluttering can have a positive impact, especially on your mental and physical health. Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, we couldn’t think of a better time to tout the mental health benefits of a clean workspace.
When you’re struggling with mental health, cleaning may feel like the last thing you want to do. However, there’s a known link between cleanliness and improved mental wellbeing. In fact, a study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology from 2016 found that a cluttered home can reduce the psychological feeling of “home”—that is to say, the feeling of belonging in your space. If you don’t feel like you’re “at home” in your own household, it makes sense that you may feel more overwhelmed, less comfortable, and in decreased mental health.
The same can also be said for your workspace. Whether you work from a home office or in a cubicle, a cluttered environment can make for a more stressful workday. So, if you can’t quite focus on that report you should be writing, it may be time to take a break to do some tidying. Still need convincing? Here’s our quick list of the mental health benefits of a clean workspace. Plus, keep reading to the end for an office spring cleaning checklist!
Visual and mental clutter can make it difficult to concentrate on your workload. A study from 2011 by the Princeton Neuroscience Institute revealed that excessive visual stimuli reduce the brain’s ability to focus and efficiently process information. To improve your overall productivity, clear the clutter on your desk or in your office. You’ll be refreshed and better able to tackle the more strenuous mental tasks of your workday. You’ll also be less likely to get distracted by the stack of memos or yesterday’s mail if they’re out of your field of view.
Regardless of your career, there will always be days that are more stressful than others. However, if your cubicle or home office is drowning in paperwork, you may find that you have less emotional bandwidth to deal with everyday stressors. A clean, organized workspace reduces the mental load your brain must deal with, leaving you less stressed and better equipped to deal with tight deadlines or surprise projects.
Have you ever walked into your kitchen that was piled high with dishes and last night’s takeout containers and instantly felt your mood drop? A messy environment can bring down even the most upbeat person. At work, trying to accomplish tasks in a sour mood is a recipe for poor performance. Keeping your workspace tidy, or even the act of cleaning up, is a quick way to boost your mood and relax during the day. Even taking five minutes to put away papers or clear clutter can give you a sense of accomplishment and control over your environment, improving your overall disposition.
Like many practices to improve your mental or physical health, keeping your workspace clean requires forming a habit and a system that works. It might be difficult to remember at first, but the benefits of having a tidy work environment will make the habit worthwhile. Exactly how you accomplish this checklist will vary based on whether you work in an office or from home, but the general principles of this cleaning checklist are outlined below:
Printouts, agendas, lists, and more can clutter your desk or work bag and make the important things difficult to find. Whether in your desk drawer or in a filing cabinet, come up with an organizational system for papers you need to keep. Then once a month, cut down on the paper load entirely and recycle items that are no longer relevant. You can even take photos or scan papers to store them digitally and cut down on physical clutter.
If you work in an office and share workstations, disinfecting your equipment and other high-touch surfaces is a must to reduce the spread of germs. Wipe down and disinfect your keyboard, mouse, desk phone, and any other surfaces you touch frequently to prevent you or your co-workers from getting sick.
If you work from home, you may be the only one using your work laptop, but you still have your family’s germs to contend with. Make sure to disinfect overlooked high-touch surfaces, like doorknobs and light switches, to keep you and your family healthy.
A good way to keep your workspace tidy is to have a storage and organization method for the items you use frequently. If you work at a cubicle, you can get creative with your drawers, or see if your office has shelving units available to use. Incoming paper trays, file boxes, and mini office supply kits are great organization and storage solutions for small spaces. Then, once you have a place for everything, it will be easy to put things away at the end of the day to refresh your space for tomorrow.
In a home office, you have a bit more freedom to determine how you store your paperwork and supplies. Desk drawers, filing cabinets, shelving units, or storage bins are all options that you can use to organize paperwork and cut down on visual clutter.
If you’re remote all or most of the time and don’t have a separate room to use as a home office, you should at least make sure you have a dedicated work area that can be cleared of clutter. Even the kitchen table can work if it is clean and free of distractions.
At the home office, you can use your breaks to keep up with general cleaning tasks. For maximum productivity, make sure the area you’re working in is neat and organized. If that’s your kitchen table, take a second to do the dishes that are haunting your peripheral vision. If your work desk is in your bedroom, make your bed when you get up to refill your water bottle. It’s the little things that can help boost your productivity and reduce your mental load during the day.
Office Pinterest boards, anyone? If you have a decorative eye and space to spare, you may want to consider redecorating your desk or office to boost your productivity and mental health while working. Color psychology can influence the ideal paint color to use in your office, and if sitting all day starts to wear on your body, you can opt for a standing desk to improve your focus and concentration. The sky is the limit! And even if you don’t have the freedom to paint walls or swap furniture, you can still decorate your cubicle or desk for success with photos, décor, and organized supplies.
In general, mental health plays an important part in your overall career and workplace satisfaction. After all, you can’t perform your best at work if you aren’t taking care of your brain. Take the mental health benefits of a clean workspace into account the next time you’re feeling distracted or discouraged, and you may be surprised what a little spring cleaning can do for your wellbeing.
If your spring cleaning involves dusting off your resume and looking for a new job, check out our open positions here.