An article about cognition and organization recently caught my eye. I came across the article on officeinsight.comwritten by Terry Carrol, Kent Reyling and Jay Henriott of Kimball Office. The article explores some of the different ways that minds work.
Everyone organizes his or her mind and physical space differently – generally through piles, files, binders, sticky notes or labels. Cognitive ergonomics studies how the mind processes and organizes information. How a person organizes their workspace is a reflection of how that person’s mind works.
There is a direct correlation between the phrase “out of site, out of mind” and how people organize their work. The brain can only remembers a certain amount of items at any given time. By keeping active projects off the primary worksurface, but within site, the worker can easily transition between projects or locate information that has been both physically and mentally uploaded. This also alleviates the possibility of the worker forgetting a task.
Think about when you are handed an assignment at work; it is same to assume that it has several tasks that must be completed. Most people will create piles or files (physical or electronic) for each individual task until all the relevant information is compiled and all of the pile or files can be eliminated.
There are some people that will argue that companies with a clean desk policy have less productive employees because it requires workers to recreate their environment each and every morning. The rationale is that by allowing employees to keep their information out and organized, in a way that fits their mind, the employee does not need to spend time reorganizing their thoughts each day. If employees are forced to organize their physical work in a manner that doesn’t align with the way they organize information in their minds, the employee can be less productive.
Properly designed office furniture can help people organize their work by providing spaces that allow projects and tasks to be categorized, similar to the way tasks are organized in the mind. Furniture should be flexible enough to support various work styles. According to Carrol, Reyling and Henriott, rather than a layout with specific locations for storage and files, employers should consider open surfaces where information can be located at different levels to allow workers to craft the space in a way that accommodates their style and needs. The key is to keep worksurfaces simple and open.
You can find a great variety of simple and open workstations at NewLifeOffice.com. New Life Office gives you the flexibility to specify files, overhead binder bins or open shelves according to your employee’s needs.
I have found this study to be quite interesting. I find myself with a better understanding of why I can walk into an office where a desk is piled high with papers, and that employee can retrieve the requested file almost immediately. I can only begin to imagine how my own brain must work with my piles here and there and a vast array of sticky notes plastered all over my workstation!