What Your Desk Says About You
Does your super creative coworker’s cubicle look more like a disaster relief area than a workspace? Before you start (reluctantly) shuffling some papers around, know this: according to new research published inPsychological Science, working at a tidy desk doesn’t do much for your creativity, but it does have some serious health benefits.
In a series of three experiments, researchers compared the types of ideas created and choices made by participants who kept an orderly desk and those who worked in a more chaotic environment. While the messy desk participants came out on top when it came to producing creative, more novel, and less conventional ideas, those who kept a neater, more orderly work space made healthier snack choices and were overall more generous.
In the experiment, 82% of the neat and tidy participants donated to charity at an average of over a person, while only 47% of not-so-orderly participants donated, an at an average of just .72 a person. But what does your perfect bookcase have to do with your charitable? “The tidy environment brings out the need to do the right thing, or what’s expected of you,” says researcher Kathleen Vohs, professor of marketing at the Carlson School of Management at University of Minnesota. And in terms of the researcher, donating more and choosing an apple over a candy bar for a snack is certainly more noble.
It’s not that being messy will hurt you—in fact, if brainstorming is your livelihood, you might want to take a page from your coworker. In the experiment, ideas from the messier office were viewed as 41% more creative. But if you’re looking to reconnect with your generous or righteous side, your office might be a good place to start. “We think everyone has tendencies toward being conservative, traditional, and going with what’s established, the tidy environment pulls that out of them,” explains Dr. Vohs, “but we also believe that people create environments that suit their personality.
Video: What your desk says about you
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