How to Organize Your Work Area to be Efficient

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Why should you be interested in keeping an organized work area? Well if you are interested in being productive and at the same time helping to maintain a positive work experience, then read on.

To start with, one’s work area should be organized in a logical manner. Those frequently used items should be in close proximity and be put back in the same spot so they are quickly found and used.


Productive Work Areas in Manufacturing

In world-class factories (especially those factories using Lean methodologies) you will see a work area with what is called a “shadow board”. Each tool such as a screwdriver, hammer, or wrench is placed in the same place and an outline or each tool is shown on the board. The placement of each tool is based on movement and efficiencies of the worker with the most used tools in easy reach of the worker. See the image of a shadow board below:

Clear signage and visuals are also important. This results in high efficiencies for the work cell.


Productive Work Areas for the Office

For an office environment, a desk, shelving unit, filing cabinets, file folders, and items like a stapler, highlighters, pens …etc need to organized in such a manner as the worker can find items and information quickly. As in a factory, visuals are important to help maintain an organized approach. As a test for efficiency, an office worker should be able to find items within 5 seconds. Make sure your desk area is reorganized periodically and especially at the end of each day.

As a test, make a list of commonly accessed items and then time yourself in how long it takes to find them. Include not just a stapler but include items like file folders or manuals. Can you find each item in under 5 seconds? Are you putting each item back in the same place?

For any office layout, it is strongly advised to have a whiteboard with dry erasable markers. The first reason for this is because writing important items on the whiteboard can be a powerful reminder for these items. Secondly, having a whiteboard can be very helpful in collaborating with others who come by your office, and being able to draw images and write down keywords can spark creative thinking.


Productive Approaches for Computers and Electronic Storage

For computers and electronic document storage, a similar approach needs to be taken for organizing electronic documents. Any stored document should be searchable within a 1-minute period. Items requiring quick access on a regular basis should be on your desktop in an orderly manner. Your folder system needs to be logical and cleaned up periodically. Document names should be meaningful. Email subject lines should be descriptive (note that this will improve productivity for both you and those who receive your emails and interact back to you).

Modern-day computer operating systems have powerful search capabilities to find documents but having documents with meaningful names and in well laid out folders makes searches much more effective.

As a test, make a list of commonly accessed computer documents and then time yourself in how long it takes to find them. Can you find each item in under 1 minute? If you ever experience longer durations to find documents, then you need to spend time reorganizing.



Whether you wish your physical work desk/area or your computer layout to be conducive to a higher level of productivity it all comes down to having and maintaining a system that allows rapid access to what you need when you need it. If you do commit to and maintain a working system for an organized work environment, your productivity will soar and you will experience a more positive work experience.

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