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Benefits of a Messy Office

Zoomer Report2020-9-4By: Libby Znaimer

Is your office neat or messy? Researchers at the University of Minnesota find having a organized workspace seems to encourage positive, generous actions, while an untidy office may stimulate creative thinking and promote new ideas.

For the study, volunteers filled out questionnaires. Some did the task in a clean and orderly space and others did it in an messy room, with papers and office supplies everywhere.

After completing the questionnaires, the participants were allowed to take a candy bar or an apple on their way out and also were given an opportunity to donate to a charity.

Being in tidy surroundings seemed to encourage people to do the right thing. They were more likely to donate more to charity and to choose the apple over the candy bar.

However in another experiment, participants were asked to come up with new ways to use ping pong balls, again in either a neat or messy room.

Those in the cluttered offices came up with ideas that were more interesting and creative, according to the research in Psychological Science. And given a choice between a new or established product, the  messy office denizens were more likely to prefer the new item.

The conclusion?  The researchers say disorderly environments can inspire people to let go of tradition, and arrive at fresh insights, while orderly environments, encourage us to play it safe.



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