Mess is Stress

Nov 18, 2019

In recent years, the hot trend in office design is towards more open, transparent and even transient (hot desking) environments. This has enabled organizations to increase density and reduce costs while promoting flexibility, agility and communication.

Upon initial occupancy of these newly designed spaces, it's clean, fresh and inviting. But after occupancy, the realities of work / life settle in. Although some people like a “messy” desk, others in tight confines can find it extremely unsettling. What was once a clean, magazine ready picture, is now a cluttered and crowded space.

Although technologically advanced with personal digital devices and laptops, the modern worker brings a wide array of physical items into their personal spaces such as jackets, bags, and food. Although we love our big screens (sometimes we have two) it still has not fully replaced the physical paper, notebooks, chatchki’s, keepsakes and multiple phones and tablets (and the wires that go along with them) that eventually start to dominate the landscape.

This “mess" used to be concealed in some ways by higher partitions, larger under the desk or overhead personal storage or large community storage. Additionally, with height adjustable desks, what once was hidden under a workspace, now becomes plainly visible.

Unfortunately, this clutter has a very significant mental impact on building occupants. Studies have shown that “clutter" makes you distracted and unable to process information as well as you do in an uncluttered, organized, and serene environment.

Author and Psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter lists a number of reasons why mess equates to stress in an article on Psychology Today Online.

Here are the top 3:

  1. Clutter bombards our minds with excessive stimuli (visual, olfactory, tactile), causing our senses to work overtime on stimuli that aren't necessary or important.
  2. Clutter distracts us by drawing our attention away from what our focus should be on.
  3. Clutter makes it more difficult to relax, both physically and mentally.

Some organizations have begun incorporating personal “cubbies” or lockers to try and conceal their employees “stuff”, but it must be well thought through. Is it close enough to where employees are sitting to be considered useful and convenient? Sometimes, a locker 50 feet away simply will not do. Many people require personal items, office supplies and reference materials to be close at hand.

Mobile and lockable pedestals are still being used within the modern environment, but they need to provide more value than just housing miscellaneous items. Space is limited, so many items must do double duty. With a soft surface cushion attached on top of a pedestal, it can quickly double as seating or a surface for impromptu meetings.

In summation, filing and storage in the modern office isn’t going away, but it is going through a significant evolution. By addressing personal storage proactively and thoughtfully, we can create beautiful spaces that will help us stay focused, creative and productive for many years head.


David Gerson

Chief Brand Officer, Office Specialty