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It Starts With You

It Starts With You

An employee guide to creating a better office environment


Not all workplace initiatives have to be top-down. In fact, most of the truly valuable stuff comes from the employees and staff who are executing the difficult work, not from the managers or executives supporting that work.

When it comes to instilling an office culture that centers on organization and cleanliness, you can be the spark that lights the fire. Best of all, you can gain the appreciation of your colleagues and your bosses simultaneously. The key is executing and communicating the changes without stepping on toes. It’s about getting buy in, creating allies, and developing those allies into a coalition with the same aim: A better office environment.

We all know why a clean office matters. Productivity and innovation thrive in organized, optimized environments. But what do you do when your boss is too busy with other concerns to address the growing piles of clutter quickly filling the office? And how do you even begin to approach a colleague you barely know about their unwashed mugs surrounding the shared sink?

As always, we are here to help. We have a few fresh ideas and key reminders to help you institute a radical shift in the appearance, health, and function of your office environment.


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Why You?

Why not? Leading an initiative to improve the function of your office is a great way to gain the attention of your boss and your peers. What leader wouldn’t love to see an employee take a business-building idea from inception to execution?

You are not alone out there. You have peers and team members who are tired of never knowing where to find things, or of the poor excuse for a storage closet that was created years ago to solve a problem that has only gotten worse.

Maybe you don’t need the praise of your colleagues or the kudos of your manager. Then do it because you want to work in a cleaner and more organized place. Do it because it’s healthier, and because it will make you and your peers less stressed and more productive.


It’s All About Buy In

So we know why you are the right person for the job, but how do you accomplish such a monumental task? As you sit and look into the office next door where years worth of paperwork is stacked in piles against the wall, how are you supposed to imagine installing an environment of cleanliness?

Step one is talking with your boss. You may not have access to the CEO’s time. That’s OK. It’s not about starting as high on the ladder as you can go, it’s about making sure you have support and that no one feels that they were left out. Never go over your manager’s head. Start with them, and do so by asking questions.

“Would it be OK if I took responsibility for cleaning up the break room,” you might ask. Or you could say, “I have a clean, simple filing system I’d like to implement. It won’t take any time away from my work, and it’ll really improve how we function. Is that OK?” Keep it short and simple. Before you leave the room, remember to ask if they want to be kept in the loop on your progress. Your boss might not care about cleanliness at all, and would rather you handle the whole thing alone. Or she might want to know how things are going in case you need support. You have to ask to know.


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Locating your allies is step two. Who thinks or acts similarly to you? Once again, stick with questions over statements. “Do you think our break room is messy?” sounds much better than making some sarcastic statement about Bob’s dirty mugs. Once you have identified the people who are allies in the battle for a cleaner space, take time to listen to their concerns and observations. Add your thoughts to theirs, and work together to prioritize which messes or issues you should tackle as a group. You might learn that the break room is rarely used but that everyone is going mad with the company’s outdated filing and storage systems.

Once you’ve gathered your allies together and prioritized your course of action based on their input, you’ve already begun step three. Your allies become a coalition when you work together behind a shared set of priorities and aims. Always remember to stop and listen to their concerns. They will change and evolve as you cross projects off your list.

Cultural changes are all about getting the support and approval you need from the top to make sure no one feels left out while collecting the and fostering allies around the rest of the office. When you have buy-in from a handful of people, you are well on your way to cleaning up the office.


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