How having a cluttered office is costing you money

Disorganization can cost businesses thousands in duplicated supplies and wasted effort. Here’s how to stop it

desk covered in crumpled-up paper

(Martin Poole)

Business owners may not know this fact, but clutter and disorganization around the office costs some organizations well over $65,000 a year, according to the Professional Organizers of Canada. POC found that 37% of working Canadians are likely to struggle with time management, with 82% of those describing themselves as “extremely” disorganized.

Peg Bradshaw, director of finance at POC, runs her own business, The Office Organizers, which  implements time-saving systems in offices to help maintain order in the space. Among the various poor practices she has seen in workspaces she has helped improve, Bradshaw says the two common problems businesses struggle with are duplication and misplaced effort.

Not having a system for keeping track of supplies means people just buy more instead of using what’s already available. Bradshaw finds that offices often have expensive printer cartridges lying around in several different locations, instead of being kept together. When a cartridge runs out, people just order yet another new one without realizing they still have multiple new cartridges—each worth several hundred dollars—stashed somewhere they couldn’t find. “That’s a pretty important cost of an organization that people don’t take into account,” says Bradshaw. She also witnesses employees working on documents or projects that have already been completed because they didn’t know somebody had already finished the job.


There is also the associated cost of low employee morale, as Bradshaw points out. “People aren’t really stoked to do their job when they think it’s going to take them forever to just set up for a project because they don’t know where anything is, or if it even exists,” she explains. This slows them down and leads to projects getting delayed. “It’s not because people don’t have enough time to do them, it’s that they’re just not interested in doing them.”

So what’s a long-term solution to office clutter? The POC, comprised of over 500 professional organizers throughout Canada, covering various disciplines from residential to photo organizing, all use the same principle when helping clients with specific projects: first they help clients edit. Whether it’s electronic files, office equipment, or personal photos, professional organizers look at everything a client owns, and decide whether or not to keep it, store it, or get rid of it.

The next steps are to figure out a system to organize whatever is left, and then implement it. Bradshaw stresses the importance of having a system for each item to maintain the orderliness. “If you have a system in place for where you put things, then when you have a moment to tidy up, it’s really easy to do.” she says. “You’re not standing there wondering where to put everything.”

In the last 40 years, technology (mobile phones, emails and business software) has led to a 84% increase in office productivity per hour for office workers, according to a report by O2 Business and the Centre for Economic and Business Research. The trend is expected to continue to grow an additional 22 percent by 2020. As a result, disorganization costs businesses more than it did 40 years ago and professional organizers have become better known because of the new demand for their service. “It’s a pretty inexpensive way to boost morale and save a lot of costs for businesses,” says Bradshaw.