Make Your Desk Do Your Work For You

How your desk changes the way you work: Messy or clean desks promote different ideals

New studies conducted at the University of Minnesota are published in Psychological Science reveal telling secrets about how you can make your desk work for you. 

“Disorderly environments seem to inspire breaking free of tradition, which can produce fresh insights. Orderly environments, in contrast, encourage convention and playing it safe,” psychological scientist Kathleen Vohs explains.

While the environment mattered, location didn’t: “We used 6 different locations in our paper – the specifics of the rooms were not important. Just making that environment tidy or unkempt made a whopping difference in people’s behavior,” says Vohs.

The research has implications for web design too: preliminary findings suggest that the tidiness of a webpage predicts the same kind of behaviors. How were the behaviors measured? Participants were asked to fill out some questionnaires in an office. Some completed the task in a clean and orderly office, while others did so in an unkempt on.

Afterward, the participants could donate to a charity, and they were allowed to take either chocolate or an apple on their way out. Being in a clean room seemed to encourage people to do what was expected of them: they donated more of their own money to charity and were more likely to choose the apple.

But in another experiment of the same nature, participants in a messy room came up with more creative, interesting uses for ping pong balls than did participants in a clean room.

As you look at your workload, perhaps it would be interesting to straighten—or leave alone—your desk in accordance with the tasks at hand!

Original images: messy desk: Some rights reserved by cote / clean:  Some rights reserved by Qfamily

Category: Style

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