Organize Your Office and Improve Your Design

12 Steps to an Office Design That's Both Pleasing and Functional

Businessman studying plans on workstation table
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The most important feature of good office design is functionality. Too often, though, our offices are crammed with so many office machines, equipment, supplies, and pieces of paper that our small or home offices are completely dysfunctional.

Do you have to move things out of the way before you can sit down and work? Are there so many papers on your desk that they’re spilling onto the floor? Do you need to contact a search and rescue team to find whatever it is you’re looking for? Then it’s definitely time to roll up your sleeves and organize your office.

You can have the most attractive, up-to-date office design available and still not be able to accomplish what you need to do unless you organize your office.

These steps for an office makeover will show you how to organize your desk and your office space so that you have an office design you can both appreciate and work in.

Clear the Pathways

A friend had a coffee table in the middle of his office, which made moving from the desk to the filing cabinet a shin-cracking task for anyone without the agility and balance of a trained acrobat. As he never entertained clients in his office, the coffee table was only used when he set things on it. Moving the coffee table out gave him a clear walkway and saved him a lot of potential shin damage.

Are there furniture obstacles in your office design? Move them or move them out entirely. You need to be able to walk around.

Clear Your Desktop

There now. Doesn’t that look nice? An office design showpiece. Now the hard part. Begin to organize your office by looking at your office desk and decide what has to be there. Your computer, obviously. Put it back. Your phone, definitely. Put it back, too. But what else?

Look at all the other stuff you’ve taken off your desk and ask yourself, “Does it have to be on my office desk?” If it’s not something that you use every day to make your work easier, it doesn’t need to be there and it’s time to find another place for it.

The stack of papers you’ve been meaning to deal with? Deal with them and file them. The half-eaten doughnut from last week. You know what to do with that...

Use Caddies and Trays to Organize Your Desk and Drawers

Office supply stores and chain retailers have all kinds of plastic trays and caddies, including those that are designed to fit perfectly into a desk drawer. Use them to get your office supplies organized. Now all those loose pens, paper clips, and thumbtacks have a place to go, and when you want one, you’ll be able to find it.

To further organize your desk, stacking trays are ideal for your inbox and outbox. They’ll help you keep your office desktop neat and save space.

Update Your Equipment

What office machines are slowing you down or cluttering up your office design? Does your computer need a memory or a hard drive upgrade? Maybe it’s time to get rid of your old printer, fax machine, and scanner and invest in a multifunction printer. Or time to upgrade the primitive touch-tone phone to a speakerphone. Increase the functionality of your office machines and make some more workspace available.

Get It Off Your Desk

Clear even more workspace and organize your office by giving some of your office essentials their own separate space. For instance, your printer or multifunction copier shouldn’t be on your desk. Investing in a printer stand will keep it within a usable distance, free more of that valuable desk real estate, and give you some more shelf storage space for accessories such as printer paper.

Have a small desk and need even more room? An occasional table placed next to your desk will add an elegant touch to your office design and serve as an additional working area. Be sure to select one of the correct height so you can work at it without having to hunch over.

Is your desk cluttered with books or manuals? Invest in a bookshelf, either freestanding or built-in. You’ll be amazed at how much more space you have to work in when you just move a few books off your desk.

How else can you improve your office design and organize your office now that you've got an attractive and a functional workspace? Try these tips:

Give Your Eyes Something Attractive to Rest On

Sit in front of your computer with your hands on the keyboard and look away from the monitor, sweeping 90 degrees (or as much as you can survey comfortably without craning your neck). The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety recommends looking away from the computer screen every few minutes and focusing your eyes on more distant objects to help combat eye strain and fatigue. But is there anything attractive in your range of vision? If not, add something worth looking at to your office design, such as a painting, print, or poster that you like. If space allows and the conditions are right, a living, blooming plant can work wonders for dressing up an office space and feeding your spirits. Pressed for space? Put up a small corkboard and use it to pin up things that make you happy, such as photos of family and friends, drawings by your children, or even a colorful calendar.

Give Your Revamped Office Desk the Reach Test

Sit at your new and improved desk and work. Is everything you need within easy reach? Adjust your office design as necessary, moving the items or equipment you need the most into easy reach. You should not have to get up and leave your desk to staple something, for example. Take note of what you don’t use, too. If you don’t use it much, the organize your office rule is that it should be stored further away.

Check Your Storage Needs

Small and home offices seem to produce more paper than anything else. And a lot of the stuff that clutters our offices is just stuff that’s sitting out because there’s nowhere else to put it. Organize your office by getting another filing cabinet if you need it or adding a supplies cupboard. Then you’ll have a place to put it and keeping your office design uncluttered will be easier.

Set Up a Recycling Center

Paper, cardboard, glass, plastic bottles, and drink containers—so much of the material that we throw away in our offices is recyclable. Make it easy for people to do the right thing and get the clutter out of your office by setting up a small recycling center with labeled bins, either in or close to your office. Plastic totes are inexpensive and easy for one person to carry when it comes time to take the recycling to the curb or recycling depot.

Revamp the Window Treatment

If your small or home office has windows, remember that the window treatments are part of your office design. A new type and/or color of blinds or drapes can make a striking visual difference to the atmosphere of your office. Like what you have or don’t want to spend the money on updating your window treatments right now? Then opt for a cleaning. Nothing says spring like clean and fresh.

Realign Your Office Desk

Just because you've used one office design for years doesn't mean you can't change it. Take a critical look at how your office desk is positioned within the room. Moving your desk can give you a whole new perspective and even make you more productive. If your office desk is jammed into a corner, for example, and space allows, pull it out into the middle of the room. If your desk is facing away from the only window, move it closer to the window so you can take advantage of the increase in natural light.

Paint It Blue

If you’re serious about giving your office design a fresh, new look, a coat of fresh paint is the answer. Blue is the big color this season, in all kinds of soothing shades. Have a look at your local hardware or paint store and you’re sure to find a shade that appeals to you.

Whether or not you choose to repaint your small or home office, if you’ve worked through the other steps to organize your office, you’ve now got an office space that not only looks neater but will be easier to work in. And with the changes you’ve made, keeping your office organized will be easier, too.