10 clean desk policy tips

5S is a Lean tool that is used to make employees aware of their work environment. Employees who know how to keep their workplaces tidy and well-organised yield better order, focus and increased productivity. You will waste less time looking for things you have lost, because you won’t have reason to lose anything.

5S has developed as a part of the Lean concept and represents 5 steps that assist in organising the workplace. Just like Lean, this method originated in Japan. Roughly translated, the 5 steps are:

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Immersing yourself in 5S is fun, but it will yield nothing if you don’t know how to keep your workplace clean and organised. So here are 10 simple tips for achieving this.

1. Put an inbox on your desk
We all have many email inboxes, but barely anyone has a physical inbox. You do, after all, need a place to put all those (often important) papers that are scattered around. It would be useful to get yourself a structure with multiple compartments or trays. This will keep different types of documents separate.

2. Have a bin within easy reach
If you have to get up from your desk to put something in the bin, it is too far away. Make sure that you can quickly and easily reach the bin from your chair. In this way, you can avoid having to play “paper toss”. We realise that you possibly have a good throwing arm, but this tip will eliminate rubbish around the bin which nobody has time to clean up.

3. Use less paper
Stop the flood of paper! Or at least try to minimise it. Cancel unnecessary subscriptions and reduce the number of paper reports and memos. If you don’t need something on paper, prevent it from ending up on your desk. As an added benefit, this approach is more environmentally friendly.

4. Get rid of unnecessary clutter
If you don’t actually need all the paraphernalia and accessories on your desk, get rid of them unless they have a purpose. You do not have to go overboard and create a completely sterile working environment, but get rid of it if you don’t use it and it gets in your way!

5. Plan regular cleaning intervals
It might not sound like fun, but if you don’t clean your workplace regularly, you can end up spending hours doing it all at once. What a waste of time! If you do just a little every day, you’ll need a few minutes at most.

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6. Keep the cap on the bottle
Fate dictates that you would knock over your half-full soft drink onto your laptop… You just left it open because you were planning to have another sip. Whatever the case may be, keep the cap on the bottle and keep your cup of coffee away from electronic devices.

7. Take ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures
When cleaning for the first time, take a picture of your workplace in its current state. Clean it and take another picture. You’ll see a clear difference and realise that you’ve done it for good reason. If you take the picture with your smartphone, you are bound to encounter it often and it can act as an effective trigger to encourage you to keep your workplace clean!

8. When in doubt, throw it out
You probably don’t need 99% of the papers littering your desk. If you truly need a certain hardcopy, put it in your recently-acquired physical inbox. Then, it will only be home to important documents.

9. Scanning
Scan instead of copying. Scan important forms and send them by email instead of handing them out in paper form. Banish all that paper rubbish!

10. Clear before you leave
If your boss were to pass your workplace while you’re away, would you be proud of what he or she sees? The end of the working day is an ideal time for clearing your workplace. By doing so, you conclude your day on a positive note and make a clean start to the following day.

If you’d like a more detailed approach to 5S in combination with Lean, the method is examined more closely as part of the Green Belt training and Black Belt training.

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