Someone recently asked me how they could get their employees to care more about being organized. Yikes. That's a tough one...and not dissimilar from someone asking how to get a family member (spouse, child, whatever) to care about de-cluttering and sorting. Dragging the disorganized horse kicking and screaming to the bucket of water pretty much always backfires, but it is also difficult to put up with someone who is always losing things, running behind on projects, and constantly late to meetings. How can we inspire motivation, especially when we're faced with what I call The Defiantly Disorganized Person? This would be the "I'm creative/I've always been this way/Don't tell ME what to do with my space/I know where everything is on this desk" co-worker. How do we get them to see how a little organizing would help everyone's productivity?
I think the short answer is, you can't. You can't talk someone into getting organized if they aren't already pondering it. Nor can you shame them, whisper about them in the breakroom, yell at or threaten them, or make jokes about their office supply hoarding.
But you can introduce concepts that can benefit the office as a whole. Many times, taking these basic steps can inspire some introspection and plant some seeds of motivation. People dig their heels in on most any kind of change, but presenting organizational excellence as a team effort (as opposed to singling out cluttered colleagues) can cut down on the fear and reluctance. Strategies to consider:
1. Offer a "lunch n' learn" or other team-centered activity on basic office organization. You can bring in an expert speaker, plan a webinar, or send around articles or other reading material to discuss as a group. This is a good, non-threatening first step to let your team know that organization and/or time management is a priority. The folks in the office who are already organized typically enjoy hearing about it anyway (especially if it provides affirmation that they are doing things right!).
2. Share some facts. People are usually shocked to learn how much money is estimated to be wasted due to disorganization in the workplace - a whopping $89 billion per year according to a study by Brother International. The same study notes that the average worker loses 38 hours a year to looking for lost or misplaced items, while a survey conducted by OfficeMax indicates that 53% of workers admit to thinking negatively of their coworkers with messy desks.
3. Give some guidance. It could be that some of the disorganization is due to a fear of letting important information go. Providing clear policies on how long files, emails, and documents should be maintained (and where) could make a big difference. Making sure team members understand how to properly utilize the tools they have (calendar system, task lists, productivity apps, etc.) is also key.
4. Plan a Casual Friday (or Monday, or Thursday...) Clean Out Day. If possible, schedule it so that interruptions are minimized. Give everyone a trash bag, and fire up the shredder. Designate one of your more organized employees as "Official Label Creator" and let them have at it in the storage spaces. Offer prizes for things like "Strangest Object Found In A File Cabinet" or "Most Improved Desk Space". Have lunch brought in, and be sure to take some before and after photos to share at the end of the day.
5. Set the example. Walking the walk is critical. A recent study conducted by Post-it® Brand showed that 96% of workers believe that organization is a sign of a better leader. I've had a few bosses who were, shall we say, not so tidy. They were great people, but most of us felt pretty stressed out working for them (even other employees who were also disorganized). Whether we like it or not, people judge, so take some time to assess your own productivity skills before you hate on others'.
My final thought: put on your patience hat. A client I was working with had an "aha" moment when they told me that they finally understood how much their scattered ways affected the people around them. They admitted that they had always felt badly about their disorganization, but they thought it was only their problem. It just hadn't hit them that when they were late, they made others late. When they couldn't find something, it held up tasks that others needed to attend to. Sounds elementary, but sometimes it takes a little time for people to come around. When they do, it's half the battle.
Sara Skillen - Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Organizer Coach®, wife, mom, dog-lover, author. Learning to trust my intuition more every day. Shall we work together?