· Features

HR's own wellbeing – let's talk about clutter

In a new series of wellbeing columns Karen Beaven offers advice to others in HR

How tidy is your house? Take a look around you right now. Whether you’re at home or at the office it’s all the same. Are you surrounded by order and structure, or a mixture of clutter and chaos that you have to move around and search through every time you need to find something?

There have been a number of claims made regarding the impact of physical, digital and mental clutter on wellbeing – particularly in relation to our ability to move and think. It’s argued that the more clutter the less likely we’ll be able to achieve a state of flow and get things done.

We’ve all seen the programmes about extreme hoarding. And at that very extreme end of the scale it’s easy to see the impact on our health and mental wellbeing. So I’m wondering what constitutes extreme hoarding in relation to digital clutter. And is this somehow more socially acceptable and almost a badge of honour – to be able to say you get 500 emails a day and have 24,000 in your inbox?

Further reading

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Spotting your mental health red flags

Dealing with a personal breakdown: One HRD's story

Is HR neglecting its own mental health?

Whether it’s physical or digital clutter has been proven to increase our stress levels, decrease our ability to be productive and sap our creativity. There are studies that show it can also affect our relationships and compromise our perceptions of our environment, eventually affecting our overall perception of the quality of our life and our ability to experience happiness.

This might seem most relevant to our homes, where arguably we have a larger degree of control to change things. However, also consider this from a workplace perspective – and the associated impact on the people experience and employee wellbeing. If you were to take a walk around your workplace today would you see evidence of people working in the midst of clutter – either their own or that created by colleagues? And that’s before you even start to consider the digital clutter that employees may be amassing, particularly if there is still a strong email culture within the organisation.

So how do we address this issue? If you’ve come across Marie Kondo you’ll be familiar with her concept of connecting the process of tidying with sparking joy. Perhaps there’s even space for the KonMari method in corporate wellbeing initiatives in addition to in our homes.

In a domestic environment Kondo’s process works by isolating a particular category of your possessions and collating them in one area. She suggests you start with clothes. When you have them all in one place you then pick each item up in turn and establish if it sparks joy. If it doesn’t you either sell it, donate it or bin it. Then you move on to books, then paperwork, miscellaneous items, and then any items with an emotional attachment come last.

Another key component of the KonMari method is a unique style of folding and storing items that enables you to see and find everything easily when it has been packed away. If you work through the process step by step nothing gets missed and you end up with an exceptionally tidy home and full awareness of all of your belongings. It’s a very satisfying system that definitely results in a reduction of stress, and most certainly helps with getting back to that state of happy productive flow.

So think about how you can apply this for yourself at home, and think about how clutter might be affecting your work environment. Let’s start to get a hold on that digital clutter too. And, most importantly, let’s go and spark some joy.

Karen Beaven is founder of the HR Entrepreneurs Network and an IVF and fertility coach. Visit www.karenbeaven.com and www.ivfcoach.co.uk