In the era of open-plan offices, cleanliness is everyone’s business. Given their influence on the work atmosphere and employees’ productivity, clean and tidy desks have nothing but positive effects on a company. Out with loose sheets flying around, post-its stuck on computer screens, and overflowing waste bins – if everyone is organized properly nothing should be left lying about on desks!
“Who spilled coffee in the meeting room?” “It’s annoying, there are always crumbs on the table in the break room!” This is the kind of remark that is heard repeatedly from office staff. International Clean Off Your Desk Day, which took place on 21 March, went almost unnoticed. According to the French labour code, it is up to a company’s director to ensure the cleanliness of the premises, something employees are particularly attentive to. For companies that care about their employees’ well-being, the layout and cleanliness of work spaces are a major issue. In the business world, the real revolution is managing nomadic workers, a rapidly growing category. “In shared work spaces or non-dedicated offices, the issue of cleanliness and hygiene arises,” says Odile Duchenne, managing director of Actinéo. For desk chairs, companies will give preference to materials such as resins, which are easier to clean than upholstered backs.”
Regarding the cleanliness of common spaces, self-discipline and common sense are paramount. “It’s just common sense not to leave your coffee cup on the meeting table or leave your scrap paper lying around anywhere,” continues Duchenne. Especially when premises are likely to be used by other people during the day, and given the fact that, when it comes to cleanliness, imitation plays an important role: a clean work space prompts others to leave it clean. But in every company there are people who are reluctant to pitch in, claiming that they’re not paid to clean up. It is true that self-discipline cannot always be taken for granted in the business world. “It’s up to the human resources department to help with that by making employees aware of their responsibility. In some companies they go so far as to set up cleaning schedules from a humorous angle, hold meetings to pass on information or affix little posters containing basic rules. These are the same issues that come up in flat-sharing, and everything depends on the business’s corporate culture.”
Cleaning by day
In addition to good habits aimed at keeping work spaces clean and pleasant, cleaning is often contracted out to outside companies and done either before or after office hours. However, for the past few years the French federation of cleaning services has been fighting to institute day-time cleaning as a way of improving both cleaners’ working hours and the services they provide. “Ties are created with the employees, and cleaning personnel are no longer in the shadows. These contacts create ties and make it possible to meet specific needs of both office staff and cleaning services” explains the federation. In western France, many companies and local authorities have opted for day-time cleaning services. “At the start, there is a negative attitude, companies are afraid it will interfere with their work – but one can always adapt and the feedback has been very positive.” By putting a face on the people who clean up after them, employees quite naturally tend to clean up after themselves.
To keep work spaces completely uncluttered, some companies, including UPS and General Motors, have implemented a “clean desk” policy. At the end of every work day, employees are responsible for clearing their workstation of every single document, post-it and flash drive. The clean desk practice, which is usually initiated for reasons of security more than for cleanliness, reportedly reduces theft of sensitive information by ensuring that no documents are left in full sight. This also encourages staff to organize and classify their information better. This management method is said to impact employees’ productivity positively. “This concerns all digital nomads who have no fixed office, and this practice is developing more and more” says Odile Duchenne. In the companies that apply it, the clean desk policy must come with dedicated fittings such as secure lockers where workers can store their professional documents and personal effects, and shelves for archived documents.
Clean and green
It’s fine to have a desk free of clutter, but why not recycle while you’re at it? Today, the issue of cleanliness goes hand in hand with an approach in favour of sustainable development. The GreenOffice company, for example, carries a whole range of bins and waste sorting collectors designed specially for offices. Another company, Greenwishes, works with large groups like Microsoft, Danone, and Galeries Lafayette to help them choose the waste sorting method that best suits their corporate culture, and trains office staff as well as cleaners. “Depending on companies’ constraints, we install either large centralized waste sorting bins that employees bring their waste to on the basis of voluntary drop-off, or individual bins at the foot of their desk” explains Adeline Jiguet, communication officer at Greenwishes. “We participate physically, too, to go a step further in bringing about changes, by organizing special events or games.”
So over and above daily well-being, cleanliness at the office can also entail an environmentally friendly initiative, a powerful orientation that gives it meaning and involves employees while enhancing the company.
By Usbek & Rica
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