An organized office is a productive office

By Clare Kumar

Investing time in getting organized may sound like the last thing you need to add to your “to do” list. However, just as you need to spend money to make money, you need to spend time to make time. And who doesn’t need more of that?

Simply answer the following questions to better organize your office space and boost productivity:

1. What exactly do you do?

Assess the activities you engage in and determine the office furniture and storage tools required to support them. Your processes may have changed since you first set up the space, or you may have inherited a space that worked for someone else. To be most productive, your office space should be designed so that you are comfortable while you work. If you spend a lot of time writing, make sure you have a space conducive to the task. If you hold in-person meetings, create a comfortable space for guests.

In my work as a professional organizer, I often see binders piled in filing cabinets, or papers piled on bookcases. Look in your office for “mismatched” systems that are often difficult, if not impossible, to use. To avoid information pile-up, know how you like to retrieve information and ensure your office storage systems reflect that.

Think about

  • furniture: desks, tables, chairs, stands for computer peripherals

  • storage pieces: drawers, filing cabinets, bookshelves, desktop file folders, lateral sorters

  • functional equipment: white boards, bulletin boards, coat racks, keyboard trays, footrests

2. What goes where?

Just as with regular real estate, office ‘real estate’ is all about location, location, location. Areas at arm’s length are considered prime space. Desk surfaces should be reserved for projects you are actively working on. Often-used office supplies should be close at hand, ideally in drawers that are part of or near your desk. Drawer organizers are effective at corralling smaller supplies, making them faster to retrieve.

Reference materials and seldom-used supplies can be stored farther away—in filing cabinets, on bookshelves or in storage cupboards. Archived items are used least and can therefore be stored in the most remote locations.

Peripherals such as fax machines, scanners, back-up hard drives, routers and cables should be stored and managed so as not to create a busy environment in your immediate working space. Cable management systems can help create visual order by reducing chaos and functional order by making it easy to identify each item. 

3. What about comfort?

A comfortable space is a productive space. It pays to be aware of proper ergonomics when selecting furniture and storage pieces. Ensuring desk surfaces and keyboards are at an ideal height can improve comfort and avoid repetitive strain injuries. Carpal tunnel sydrome and rotator cuff tendinitis are just two examples of injuries which can result from of poorly configured workstations. Not only will you suffer a loss in productivity, you could end up with permanent damage.

Chairs are not one-size-fits-all, so if you spend a lot of time sitting, it is worth understanding just how customizable they can be. Look for height and chair back adjustability, a seat pan that fits your body and arm rests that can be moved to best support you.

To make telephone use more comfortable, consider speakerphones or headsets. Locating printers a few steps away will encourage more mobility in your workday.

Your lighting should also be examined. You’ll want a mixture of ambient lighting and task lighting for focused work. Natural lighting cannot be over-rated. For every hour of focused work, whether it be writing or on the computer, take five minutes to look out a window. Your eyes will thank you.

Invest some time in getting organized. It’s a worthwhile investment that will pay you back, every day.


ClareClare Kumar is the founder and Chief Organizer at Streamlife, an organizing company. Clare works with business owners and employees to drive greater productivity and peace of mind through better organization at work and at home. An industry expert, Clare also creates new products to help people remove the ‘bumps’ from their day. If there’s something you do every day that’s slowing you down, she wants to hear from you.

By Adam

April 27, 2010