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Tidiness and the Techie

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Tidiness and the Techie

n0tl0b
My team has a group of desktop engineers in it. Without exception, they all lack the concept of tidiness. Every day, I look at their desks and surrounding environment and dispair: Redundant desktops, old monitors, cables, unpacked boxes, towers of CDs defying gravity, stands, semi-disected laptops, a large box of keyboards... the list could go on. We have adequate storage, albeit not on our floor, and yet it continues.

This kit could so easily get stolen or just ruined by someone kicking it, dropping it or stepping on it and it's just not good practice to just leave kit lying about the place.

The team gets a regular talking to by their team leader and yet it still goes on. I moan at them, tell them to get it shifted and yet it fails to move. I don't want to resort to disciplinary procedures because that feels like overkill, but I need something to happen.

I can't be the only one to have this problem. What are people's experiences, and in particular has anyone found a way of resolving the situation in a positive manner?
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    mjd420nova

    I used to take photos of each techs area and post them on the door. This kind of acted as a warning to those about to enter the area that they were about to enter a war zone. This usually solved the problem, the photos were seldom up more than a day before things got cleaned up. I set up cabinets for each catagory, keyboards, MOBO's, hard drives, CD's, software, power supplies ETC. At least that way they could close the doors of the cabinet. This usually happened on a two week basis, but I was happy, as they were seldom around and it at least meant they were out working and not playing games at their desks.

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    IT-Slave

    A former boss of mine made it a practice to have a place for everything and to put things back at the end of the day. He made it a ritual and generally made it a ritual for everyone. I know, I know when a server starts having problems that all is thrown to the wayside, but it only takes 5 minutes at the end of the day to clean everything up. It also gets you in the habit of putting things back while you use them, that way you can get out of the office at the end of the day if you have nothing to put back.

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    zaferus

    For the weekend out work space must be completely clean. The good part of this is that if you are in the middle of an install during the week you can leave things out and about but in a week things don't tend to get too messy before you tidy up again.

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    bitboss

    1. Constantly remind the techs that their workshop represents a health hazard. When that fails (as it will) plant some rats (really big ones) in the workshop.
    2. Post an email informing techs that on every Friday all unsecured equipment will be dumped by the maintenance crew - techies can't stand throwing anything remotely electronic away.
    3. At the monthly staff get together - sacrifice a techie to the tidiness god over an open cooking pit and inform remaining techs that they must consume their former colleague to appease the wrath of the tidiness god (they're an incredibly gullible lot - just look at Microsoft products).

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    Tink!

    I don't have a team working for me...therefore I AM the culprit around here. :)

    You may need to actually go in and help them organize for the first time...take charge and create labeled boxes, shelves, cabinets, drawers or whatever is needed to get the stuff put away, and then setup a process like mjd's photos :) to keep it in order.

    I find that once you have set destinations for things, it's much easier to keep things cleaned up. It's getting that first organization done that's the hardest.

    Tink

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    w2ktechman

    after everything gets tidied up, something new comes along, and then something else, and again...
    where to put everything???

    Personally I do cleanup often. Although my desk cannot be confused with anything but IT, it is sometimes cleaned up, for a few days at least...

    I have a storage room, and I even clean that out once in a while, and re-org, etc.
    But I have a problem trying to keep up. I mean right now I have a pile of 3 different types of docking stations. All still in use models, and 2 weeks ago it was only 2 types. Now I have to also deal with IPAQ's and Blackberries, as 2 months ago, I didnt.
    finding places for things only works for short term. I mean if I only had certain types of HW around, that would be one thing, but most IT departments support a variety of things.

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    solotech1

    I too am alone in the world of IT at my company. I am the sole IT person for a business that has multiple office locations across the state so you can imagine what my office looks like. Anything that comes under the title "equipment" is under my responsibility. It is definitely difficult at times to stay on top of it all with the limited time I have and so much to support, and as of yet I have not been given authority to purchase additional storage units despite asking for them several times over the last year.

    My two biggest suggestions to managers and supervisors of IT teams that need "cleaning up" would be as follows:

    1. Make sure your team has adequate storage for items in appropriate places.

    2. Make sure you allow time for them to clean up during their busy schedule.

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    oldbag

    I am the culprit here!

    My intentions are always good but I never seem to be able to catch up.

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    addicted2speed

    Unless you have a very rare Techie employee, my experience has been that dedicated techies are often more-focused on getting things done than keeping their work area clean.

    My solution was to make it a Friday routine to leave the labs and work areas tidy. Basically once their areas were clear, the departments were "cleared" to leave.

    Also, instead of singling out individuals, leverage the power of peer pressure, where if one technician had a messy station, then everyone stayed (including myself) to help clean up.

    Of course there are clear exceptions to this, like when there is an on-going deployment or testing, or something of that nature. The work always came first... cleanliness was a secondary priority.

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    Inkling

    is that you would stay and clean with them.

    I started my IT career in the Marine Corps, where cleanliness = Godliness.

    Bottom line is, if you aren't willing to inconvenience YOURSELF to get things done, your team most certainly won't be bothered to inconvenience themselves.

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    JamesRL

    The best practise that I have seen, and I've both done the job and managed a large team of desktop techs, is to have a "bench" room with a lockable door. This is not their office/cubcile where they sit and do emails. Its a working room with the equipment they are disecting, spare parts etc.

    This can get a little cluttered but you can close the door, and lock it to prevent theft/loss.

    James

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    jdmercha

    What do they get paid to do? What do you evaluate them on come review time?

    As long as you are paying them to resolve problems, cleaning will always be a low priority. If you really want their areas cleaned then base their reviews on tidyness not on productivity.

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    bigbigboss

    I've had "Tidying up" as my annual performance objective for many years. So, I am not the one who can fix this.

    But I know what caused the problem - lack of storage space, and lack of time to put things in the right place. I love to clean up my office. I can do that, and delay all my projects by at least a week. Or, I can do most of the project on time, and answer the calls from users, and leave the work place a mess. I can also throw all these things away, and ask my boss to buy them when I need them again, as there is no place to put them.

    So, what should I do ? Or, more importantly, what should my boss do ? Tell me to clean up ?

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    solotech1

    As I mentioned in my post above (see "Make sure you provide the tools"), my two biggest suggestions to managers and supervisors of IT teams that need "cleaning up" would be as follows:

    1. Make sure your team has adequate storage for items in appropriate places.

    2. Make sure you allow time for them to clean up during their busy schedule.

    If they can't do those two things, then they really have no basis for commenting on it.

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    NickNielsen Moderator

    but I've finally reached the point that when I replace such components, I throw them in the recycle bin. PCs are a slightly different story, but most of them also get recycled.

    Project PCs require at most 2 keyboards or mouses: one each PS2 and USB. Monitors are authorized at one per interface connector type (VGA, DVI, etc.)

    Now, I just need to find somebody to come get this 5-cubic yard bin full of computers and parts...

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    Maevinn

    Really? To me, that wouldn't count at all. Storage that isn't conveniently located to the work space will not be used. Just a fact of life. Fix that, and then work with them to get everything tidied up, and you might see more cooperation. The other thing is to review a) Safety standards--if the mess creates a safety hazard, it needs to be cleaned up or could result in fines if OSHA comes to call. b) Security--identify high-theft items, or items that may contain confidential/sensitive business information need to be stored appropriately. c) Business rules. I've worked places where the boss said desks were to be clean and orderly before leaving each day. This means that it is a priority, even if it means other jobs don't get done. End of story. In either case, clearly prioritizing the objectives resolves complaints either way come review time.

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    breadtrk

    I cleaned. Since they were stacked up in my cube, I put all of it in his office. I had no where else to store anything. I put everything in his office the night I left on 2 weeks Vacation to a Mission Orphanage in South Africa, no contact possible.

    Amazing thing when I came back to work, Cabinets, shelves, and even 3 new LCD's on my desk. I have no problem keeping clean and organized when I have someplace to put things.

    Don't bother your bread winners unless you have someplace for them to put their stuff.

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    sstuchel

    See if you have a local chapter on freecycle.com. It's a group on Yahoo that has a moderator, but often people are looking for parts or components. The only catch is that it has to be FREELY given away. I have also donated to local boys/girls clubs and startup libraries.

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    NickNielsen Moderator

    Once I figured out that you meant freecycle.ORG and found the site, I checked it out. I will keep it in mind next time I clean house. In my current job, though, the client provides all parts and equipment and requires that I return everything to them so they can dispose of it. There will also be a great deal less of it after their recent changeover to Neoware thin clients.

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    n0tl0b

    Well, thanks everyone for the responses. It looks to be a universal problem and I think it's going to continue to be a problem!

    Interestingly we've just moved out of an area where we had a bench-room/shelving with labelled boxes, etc. and that office space wasn't much better.

    You're right though, I'm not reviewing the team on how tidy they are, I review them on how quickly they resolve calls and how many they resolve so make the place tidy is going to come low down on their list of priorities.

    I think I'm going to do something along the lines of photographs and see what happens! And maybe give everyone an hour slot each week where they do nothing but tidy up.

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    arthur

    What I do, on a fortnightly basis, is to give them on Friday one hour before close of play to tidy up: If it's not done in that hour, it will eat in their own time. If someone is away, tough, the remainder of the staff will tidy up for him/her. If the tidy-up is finished before the hour is up, they can go home. It has resulted in a very relaxed atmosphere on Fridays and the place look better for it.

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    Shellbot

    for instance, on monday i sat at my desk and though "yikes, this is becoming a health hazard"

    So spent a good 3 hours tidying, sorting, filing etc

    now i can't find a dang thing! i had a perfectly good thing going, i knew what each pile contained and how long it had bene there..now i am lost.

    i realise now i should have just left it untill the christmas break!!!!!!!!!

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    nnielsen

    You couldn't just clean, could you? You had to tidy! :0

    Definitions:

    Cleaning - removing old food particles, wrappers, napkins, crumbs, soda cans, coffee cups, etc.

    Tidying - rearranging the paperwork and other material occupying your work area in an effort to make things look pretty. Often results in the elimination of an efficient informal filing system.

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    Tink!

    Organized Chaos

    That's what I live by! At home and at work.

    When you live in a mess, but know where everything is...it only messes you up when it gets cleaned up and organized. I do admit that about every 3-6 months I get a "nesting" fit and feel the urge to tidy up. Then for the next few weeks I can't find anything!

    Tink :)

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    Tig2

    When you feel the urge to "nest"... LEAVE!!! Run from your home and go to a local hotel. Stay there until the urge passes.

    I am experiencing the yearly urge to tidy and am resisting it to the best of my ability. We transformed an unused room to be an office that my partner and I will share. We plan to get furniture for it this weekend. Then we will move into it. And I will NOT be able to finish making Christmas cards or my nephew's scrapbook because I will be able to find NOTHING!

    Trust me- a few days at a local hotel will be much less stressful!
    :)

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    mdbradsh

    I've worked with people and this problem for more than 35 years. All this complaining is just excuses for laziness in picking up after themselves and being organized! I have found that most people with this problem grew up with their Momma doing it for them and they never had to do it for themselves. All this talk of ALWAYS being too busy is just plain BS! If you give them the space, place to put things, and a little dedicated time, then they should be doing it, plain and simple! Clean up should be a part of their evaluation as much as anything else. Clutter and mess are unsafe! Ask any OSHA inpector or Fire Marshall! If you can't find things after clean up then you're not doing it right! The goal is to make it easier to find things and yet keep it neat, clean and safe! That's why there are file cabinets, folders, labels, boxes, markers and the like. If your a boss, THEN BE A BOSS and lay the law down on it!

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    lfh003

    I wholeheartily agree while this rant from mdbrandsh...This pride in being messy, and bragging about it, is not an example of how an IT shop should be run. The messy techs complain of not being able to find things after cleaning up...dud! Clean up and label you resources. Don't have room? Where is your manager? If that person is non-IT, then it is time for training. How have YOU or your boss allowed this department to sink so low in priority...has it been because the department is so messy it commands no respect? Grow up or get out.

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    w2ktechman

    there are no more IT emergencies for the next week so that it can get done properly.
    Then make sure that the space is available, even when new and unexpected items arrive.
    And make sure that we have time to go over inventory (no HDD failures this week).
    And make sure that ALL end users know that the IT department is doing other tasks and do not have time to deal with problems, and leave a message telling them to reboot and everything will be OK for another week.

    It all depends on your role, space, and how busy you are. It is not just being lazy, so I have to disagree completely. When I am not busy, I often tidy up once a week. When I am busy, I am staying late without pay, crunching to make sure that a high level attorney is still up and running for the weekend, and if the legal svr team needs help, aiding them.
    just stating that if it is not always clean is being ignorant of a technicians job duties. It makes assumptions that we are all too lazy to get things done, but if management would staff better, this should not be an issue at all.

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    Shellbot

    sorry we don't meet your standards..

    50% of me says wow, i'd like to work for someone who realises that it takes time to do these things, but the other half of me says thank you god that i don't, because i'd probably walk out.

    Tell ya what, I'll stop making excuses when:
    1. I get space to store my files and folders
    2. A place to put whatever storage facilitis i may get
    3. Any dedicated time to tidy any of it up

    Below is a list of my excuses of why i cannot find time to tidy my desk:
    1. There is 1 of me mainataining and supporting a database & database application for over 280 users
    2. I do all paperwork, research, support calls etc etc etc
    3. I get dragged to meetings 3-4 times a week which are a complete waste of my time
    4. 90% of my energy goes into keeping the d@mn thing up and running while trying to impart the importance of the system to higher management
    5. Documents: higher management wants written reports on: change requests, bug reports, work done to date, work for the future, enhancements required, enhancements which would be nice, integration issues with other applications..etc etc..and they are all HIGH PRIORITY..they need them yesterday.
    6. Because all those documents have to be done first, i've over 30 open support issues..about 20 calls a day come in..
    7. IIS has to be restarted up to 3 times a day because there is a memory leak in the application..and because "we care" i have to call all depts to tell them i am doing so.
    8. I must record all support calls/emails & resolutions and file them...
    9. Oh ya, and in the run up to year end, I'm trying to do a data audit and get it clean so the statistics we release to the government are in tip top shape..
    10. Plus, with me being the only one who has any IT knowledge, I get to show everyone how to use Excel, Access, Word, Outlook..and whatever else they have on thier pc. Not sure how my SQL & VB experience will help with figuring out why the internet connection is funny either..

    But oh well..maybe you would be good enough to have a word with my boss for me? Let me know, I'll be here till 5 or so..i'll get home about 7, but by the time i put some clothes to wash and get dinner started I'll probably be to exhausted to care.
    Maybe if i get to bed before 12 i can get a bit of sleep before i am up at 6.30 to go to work..
    If i've a few minutes, maybe i'll tidy my desk..could file away all those open issues under "who gives a rats @ss"

    I have been "the boss" several times, and i didn't give a thought to my teams desks..they worked hard and got the job done..so much so that i would frequently reward them with bonuses..even though thier desks were untidy.

    Happy Monday :)

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    Tig2

    I'm considering getting the heck out of IT for just the reasons you mention. We've gone to the stupid zone on a lot of this.

    I have worked for companies with a clean desk policy. I manage to clean desk everywhere, just in case. In this sub-thread, some wanker decided that my tongue-in-cheek response to Tink was somehow serious so decided to go on a rant. Sheesh!

    I have found the perfect method of managing my paper flow. I have a shredder. It works for me.

    The reality is that I rarely need the paper I generate. I have logs of how I manage my time on a thumb drive so I can produce whatever paper I need by hitting print. But after a 10 hour day, followed by laundry, housework, supper, and, during this season, Christmas, I fall into bed late and get up early.

    So I do understand. You aren't alone.

    Don't let the wankers get to you. They don't get it.

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    Shellbot

    if men have a different take on it..but the last thing on my mind is cleaning my desk before i go home to clean the house.

    as for the all the people who are saying to just get on with it, its nice they have a job that allows them time..i wonder if they get coffee breaks as well? i bet they do..cool..

    ah, i've thought of geting out of the game, but then i think no..i like it..and just because this job is keeping me on my toes, doesn't mean all jobs will..

    i have my stuff stored electronically, but "they" like to have papers in binders..

    ugh..that post was just the last thing i needed on a monday morning after 5 hours sleep, coming in to frantic calls that the system had crashed..

    hence my annoyance. normally i don't pay them any notice..i reckon in a few years when i'm thier boss i'll make em pay..

    hahaha

    take it easy Tig..
    :)

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    Tink!

    I DO have places to store things. If I don't I FIND them or I MAKE them. We are not condoning laziness here...merely pointing out the commonplaceness of Organized Chaos due to the lack of time on our part to file or clean. I'm sure we all try to put things in a semi-organized manner...but that doesn't necessarily mean actually putting the piece of paper in the proper file cabinet drawer exactly at the time of completion due to the fact that you're already immersed in another project. More likely than not it means putting the paper in a file or stack somewhere on the desk or working area. These stacks/files will build up until someone actually says "Oh you know what this project really isn't as high of a priority as I told you...go ahead and clean"
    And since THAT doesn't happen too often...we continue in our organized chaos until we find the time ourselves.

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    Inkling

    You could be tidying up instead of posting on this blog! =)

    Happy Holidays!

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    2rs

    I find it comforting to know that other IT folks have "Clean my office" as a yearly Goal!

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    2rs

    Shellbot, thanks for taking the time to itemize my daily responsibilites. Item 10 is at the top of my excuse list & probably takes 50% of my time, especially when a new employee arrives, complete with "Knowledge of commonly used software". I need to work on tidying up after completing each task, true. Since when is an IT person bestowed the capability to use EVERY feature of EVERY software program used within the company? Is there a dust-flinging fairy that I need to meet? Happy Holidaze!

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    rhomp2002

    You apparently missed the point where the only storage was on another floor. What good is that? If you have to schlep to an elevator or stairs everytime you need something and then schlep it back when you are done you will not keep a clean neat place.

    Maybe the answer is to split up the work area and the storage area and make the two areas combination storage and work places. That way your employees can have a place to store things convenient to where they need them. Having them separate enough to be on different floors is a recipe for a mess.

    In my experience of over 40 years in the IT business I have found that some people work best in messes and some people work best in places where they have everything clean and neat. One of my friends worked for the FBI on a contract and they even went to the stage where you could only have 3 pieces of paper on you desk at a time. You saw everybody working with their drawers open and they were looking in this drawer for that item and the other drawer for the other item so they could do the job. Totally not a workable solution.

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    johnmckay

    People that have a desk like that generally have a brain that works in the same fashion. Sometimes it's more about defiance but either way I find just throwing it all into the skip outside soon solves the problem. Especially after the 2nd time! Order and structure in the workplace every time!

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    NickNielsen Moderator

    Might be compliance paperwork in that mess. Could also be your invoices from last week. Who needs to get paid?

    Good thing we're not in the same workplace...one of us would have a breakdown and I doubt it would be me.

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    johnmckay

    My colleagues are forever leaving scrap lying around with the good stuff. Trouble is you can't tell some bad parts till you fit them, and if you fit an intermittent problem in you can end up with a lot of head scratching. There is NO excuse for not keeping your workplace in a semblence of order. In fact most of the muppets ask the rest of us for parts as they can't trust what's near them. Just bin it or make them evaluate it.

    As for breakdown... If someone can't do their job it ain't my problem. One warning then take action. I don't care beyond that and certainly wouldn't lose sleep over confronting anyone about it. Stop covering up for the lazy gits and get them off their butts now!

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    Tink!

    only that the area was messy and cluttered.

    Organized chaos is commonplace...it means the area looks messy, but if you ask the tech for something or to do something...they know exactly where to go to find what they need or what you need. Organization isn't necessarily always neat...even if you have shelves, cabinets, and drawers and also have everyting labelled and tagged...all you end up with is stuffed shelves, cabinets and drawers along with a clutter of tagged stuff.

    The best techs probably work best in organized chaos...but if you give them time at the end of a week (or beginning of a week) where no one is bother them...then they should be able to put everything away.

    If techs are mixing old parts with new parts within the clutter...than that is laziness...in Organized Chaos you at least keep things like that separated.

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    NickNielsen Moderator

    Desks have paperwork, which can include invoices.

    Benches, which I believe were the original subject, have parts.

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    w2ktechman

    I have lots of things, but I keep post-its on everything (bad, good, need to check, etc.) and I also keep other pertinent info on it in case it is needed. That way, when it dies down and I have time, there is a small heap for me to go through. If it is marked as bad, I need to determine if I need to send it back or recycle it, or in the case of a HDD, do I need to scrub it. If it is marked as good, I need to put it away, if it is marked for me to test it, I place it in another area completely. When I have more time, I will go through that pile as well.

    Just tossing out lots of stuff because You are too lazy to look through it, is a bad policy. If it is a needed item, the company needs to purchase it again. Not to mention, recycling. Yes, recycling computer components are a must. Keep the majority out of the landfills. Throwing it all out may make your desk look clean, but it is not the proper thing to do

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    johnmckay

    My colleagues are forever leaving scrap lying around with the good stuff. Trouble is you can't tell some bad parts till you fit them, and if you fit an intermittent problem in you can end up with a lot of head scratching. There is NO excuse for not keeping your workplace in a semblence of order. In fact most of the muppets ask the rest of us for parts as they can't trust what's near them. Just bin it or make them evaluate it.

    As for breakdown... If someone can't do their job it ain't my problem. One warning then take action. I don't care beyond that and certainly wouldn't lose sleep over confronting anyone about it. Stop covering up for the lazy gits and get them off their butts now!

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    nebstanton

    I have adopted a clean (ish) and methodical approach to workspace at every place I have worked. I personally like my bench to be (relatively) tidy and clutter free.

    At present, I have 2 TFT wall mounted, a 6-port KVM and 2 base units (under the desk). To my right I have a shiney new galvanised racking unit with tough boxes populating it entirely. I have everything boxed and labelled from new parts to 2nd user spares).

    All bits and bobs are stored and easily accessible. Now I have to admit, the units and boxes cost ?600ish but the time saved being able to place my hands on what I want and when I want it - priceless. Plus, somebody new to the deptartment can locate things simply and without fuss.

    I have a dedicated box called the 'Graveyard' where anything dead goes (and gets emptied once a week for recycling). Any components not fully tested go into another box for a rainy day (or odd jobs for a newbie).

    A tidy workspace is a happy, efficient workspace!

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    jp

    If a messy desk denotes a messy mind. Then what does it say if you have an empty desk ???????

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    johnmckay

    Nobody said empty but you're so prejudiced you didn't get the picture! Tidy in the sense someone can walk in and find the current software cut without firing up the pile of old versions; tidy in the sense of redundant job sheets put in the bin or filed; tidy in the sense that I can pick up a DIMM without wondering if it works.

    Read the detail next time please.

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    jdclyde

    Generally, I have an average of four projects I am working on, on and off, as the day goes through. This means everything HAS to stay out until the job is done.

    Recently, I was able to finish up all of the projects, and thus FILE everything away. Guess what? The top of my desk really has a nice wood grain that I never noticed before.....

    I also got rid of a lot of the equipment that was being worked on, and am down to three monitors (all being used) and five PC's, (mostly being used).

    The main thing I do is try to get rid of furniture. Getting rid of that makes the small office look bigger.

    Oh yeah, I work in the "cursed office" The THREE people before me that had that office were all fired. (I am going on 10 years).

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    LocoLobo

    Organization is more than just neatness. If you know where everything is and can access it you're organized. imo.

    My rule of thumb is when I don't know what's under the stacks anymore, it's time to sort it out. Usually once or twice a year.

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    hyposave

    WE had the same problem, messy desktops, mountain high cd collections, enough LAN cabling to repel off the building etc. The solution was simple, everyday the manager would give a "grade" to the tech support team. The grade included overall tech support, user feedback, a few more others and of course cleanliness. Those who got a grade of 85 and above would see a bonus on their paycheck. It really did work since everyone did their part, and it didn;t really cost the firm that much.

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    leon.nel

    I am probably the worst person to give advice on this subject as my desk is always in a state. But like everyone else I go through fases where I feel the urge to tidy up.

    Its difficult to get Desktop support enigeers to do this without them seeing the benifits so every other Friday I have a planned tidy up in their calendar followed by a meeting at the pub, where I buy them all a pint.

    This way we all get stuck in and my team feel appreciated for trying to keep the place clean. UI guess the only problem with this approach is that they might just let it get untidy to get a round of beers out of me.

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    mjd420nova

    I used to take photos of each techs area and post them on the door. This kind of acted as a warning to those about to enter the area that they were about to enter a war zone. This usually solved the problem, the photos were seldom up more than a day before things got cleaned up. I set up cabinets for each catagory, keyboards, MOBO's, hard drives, CD's, software, power supplies ETC. At least that way they could close the doors of the cabinet. This usually happened on a two week basis, but I was happy, as they were seldom around and it at least meant they were out working and not playing games at their desks.

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    IT-Slave

    A former boss of mine made it a practice to have a place for everything and to put things back at the end of the day. He made it a ritual and generally made it a ritual for everyone. I know, I know when a server starts having problems that all is thrown to the wayside, but it only takes 5 minutes at the end of the day to clean everything up. It also gets you in the habit of putting things back while you use them, that way you can get out of the office at the end of the day if you have nothing to put back.

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    zaferus

    For the weekend out work space must be completely clean. The good part of this is that if you are in the middle of an install during the week you can leave things out and about but in a week things don't tend to get too messy before you tidy up again.

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    bitboss

    1. Constantly remind the techs that their workshop represents a health hazard. When that fails (as it will) plant some rats (really big ones) in the workshop.
    2. Post an email informing techs that on every Friday all unsecured equipment will be dumped by the maintenance crew - techies can't stand throwing anything remotely electronic away.
    3. At the monthly staff get together - sacrifice a techie to the tidiness god over an open cooking pit and inform remaining techs that they must consume their former colleague to appease the wrath of the tidiness god (they're an incredibly gullible lot - just look at Microsoft products).

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    Tink!

    I don't have a team working for me...therefore I AM the culprit around here. :)

    You may need to actually go in and help them organize for the first time...take charge and create labeled boxes, shelves, cabinets, drawers or whatever is needed to get the stuff put away, and then setup a process like mjd's photos :) to keep it in order.

    I find that once you have set destinations for things, it's much easier to keep things cleaned up. It's getting that first organization done that's the hardest.

    Tink

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    w2ktechman

    after everything gets tidied up, something new comes along, and then something else, and again...
    where to put everything???

    Personally I do cleanup often. Although my desk cannot be confused with anything but IT, it is sometimes cleaned up, for a few days at least...

    I have a storage room, and I even clean that out once in a while, and re-org, etc.
    But I have a problem trying to keep up. I mean right now I have a pile of 3 different types of docking stations. All still in use models, and 2 weeks ago it was only 2 types. Now I have to also deal with IPAQ's and Blackberries, as 2 months ago, I didnt.
    finding places for things only works for short term. I mean if I only had certain types of HW around, that would be one thing, but most IT departments support a variety of things.

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    solotech1

    I too am alone in the world of IT at my company. I am the sole IT person for a business that has multiple office locations across the state so you can imagine what my office looks like. Anything that comes under the title "equipment" is under my responsibility. It is definitely difficult at times to stay on top of it all with the limited time I have and so much to support, and as of yet I have not been given authority to purchase additional storage units despite asking for them several times over the last year.

    My two biggest suggestions to managers and supervisors of IT teams that need "cleaning up" would be as follows:

    1. Make sure your team has adequate storage for items in appropriate places.

    2. Make sure you allow time for them to clean up during their busy schedule.

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    oldbag

    I am the culprit here!

    My intentions are always good but I never seem to be able to catch up.

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    addicted2speed

    Unless you have a very rare Techie employee, my experience has been that dedicated techies are often more-focused on getting things done than keeping their work area clean.

    My solution was to make it a Friday routine to leave the labs and work areas tidy. Basically once their areas were clear, the departments were "cleared" to leave.

    Also, instead of singling out individuals, leverage the power of peer pressure, where if one technician had a messy station, then everyone stayed (including myself) to help clean up.

    Of course there are clear exceptions to this, like when there is an on-going deployment or testing, or something of that nature. The work always came first... cleanliness was a secondary priority.

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    Inkling

    is that you would stay and clean with them.

    I started my IT career in the Marine Corps, where cleanliness = Godliness.

    Bottom line is, if you aren't willing to inconvenience YOURSELF to get things done, your team most certainly won't be bothered to inconvenience themselves.

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    JamesRL

    The best practise that I have seen, and I've both done the job and managed a large team of desktop techs, is to have a "bench" room with a lockable door. This is not their office/cubcile where they sit and do emails. Its a working room with the equipment they are disecting, spare parts etc.

    This can get a little cluttered but you can close the door, and lock it to prevent theft/loss.

    James

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    jdmercha

    What do they get paid to do? What do you evaluate them on come review time?

    As long as you are paying them to resolve problems, cleaning will always be a low priority. If you really want their areas cleaned then base their reviews on tidyness not on productivity.

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    bigbigboss

    I've had "Tidying up" as my annual performance objective for many years. So, I am not the one who can fix this.

    But I know what caused the problem - lack of storage space, and lack of time to put things in the right place. I love to clean up my office. I can do that, and delay all my projects by at least a week. Or, I can do most of the project on time, and answer the calls from users, and leave the work place a mess. I can also throw all these things away, and ask my boss to buy them when I need them again, as there is no place to put them.

    So, what should I do ? Or, more importantly, what should my boss do ? Tell me to clean up ?

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    solotech1

    As I mentioned in my post above (see "Make sure you provide the tools"), my two biggest suggestions to managers and supervisors of IT teams that need "cleaning up" would be as follows:

    1. Make sure your team has adequate storage for items in appropriate places.

    2. Make sure you allow time for them to clean up during their busy schedule.

    If they can't do those two things, then they really have no basis for commenting on it.

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    NickNielsen Moderator

    but I've finally reached the point that when I replace such components, I throw them in the recycle bin. PCs are a slightly different story, but most of them also get recycled.

    Project PCs require at most 2 keyboards or mouses: one each PS2 and USB. Monitors are authorized at one per interface connector type (VGA, DVI, etc.)

    Now, I just need to find somebody to come get this 5-cubic yard bin full of computers and parts...

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    Maevinn

    Really? To me, that wouldn't count at all. Storage that isn't conveniently located to the work space will not be used. Just a fact of life. Fix that, and then work with them to get everything tidied up, and you might see more cooperation. The other thing is to review a) Safety standards--if the mess creates a safety hazard, it needs to be cleaned up or could result in fines if OSHA comes to call. b) Security--identify high-theft items, or items that may contain confidential/sensitive business information need to be stored appropriately. c) Business rules. I've worked places where the boss said desks were to be clean and orderly before leaving each day. This means that it is a priority, even if it means other jobs don't get done. End of story. In either case, clearly prioritizing the objectives resolves complaints either way come review time.

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    breadtrk

    I cleaned. Since they were stacked up in my cube, I put all of it in his office. I had no where else to store anything. I put everything in his office the night I left on 2 weeks Vacation to a Mission Orphanage in South Africa, no contact possible.

    Amazing thing when I came back to work, Cabinets, shelves, and even 3 new LCD's on my desk. I have no problem keeping clean and organized when I have someplace to put things.

    Don't bother your bread winners unless you have someplace for them to put their stuff.

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    sstuchel

    See if you have a local chapter on freecycle.com. It's a group on Yahoo that has a moderator, but often people are looking for parts or components. The only catch is that it has to be FREELY given away. I have also donated to local boys/girls clubs and startup libraries.

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    NickNielsen Moderator

    Once I figured out that you meant freecycle.ORG and found the site, I checked it out. I will keep it in mind next time I clean house. In my current job, though, the client provides all parts and equipment and requires that I return everything to them so they can dispose of it. There will also be a great deal less of it after their recent changeover to Neoware thin clients.

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    n0tl0b

    Well, thanks everyone for the responses. It looks to be a universal problem and I think it's going to continue to be a problem!

    Interestingly we've just moved out of an area where we had a bench-room/shelving with labelled boxes, etc. and that office space wasn't much better.

    You're right though, I'm not reviewing the team on how tidy they are, I review them on how quickly they resolve calls and how many they resolve so make the place tidy is going to come low down on their list of priorities.

    I think I'm going to do something along the lines of photographs and see what happens! And maybe give everyone an hour slot each week where they do nothing but tidy up.

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    arthur

    What I do, on a fortnightly basis, is to give them on Friday one hour before close of play to tidy up: If it's not done in that hour, it will eat in their own time. If someone is away, tough, the remainder of the staff will tidy up for him/her. If the tidy-up is finished before the hour is up, they can go home. It has resulted in a very relaxed atmosphere on Fridays and the place look better for it.

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    Shellbot

    for instance, on monday i sat at my desk and though "yikes, this is becoming a health hazard"

    So spent a good 3 hours tidying, sorting, filing etc

    now i can't find a dang thing! i had a perfectly good thing going, i knew what each pile contained and how long it had bene there..now i am lost.

    i realise now i should have just left it untill the christmas break!!!!!!!!!

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    nnielsen

    You couldn't just clean, could you? You had to tidy! :0

    Definitions:

    Cleaning - removing old food particles, wrappers, napkins, crumbs, soda cans, coffee cups, etc.

    Tidying - rearranging the paperwork and other material occupying your work area in an effort to make things look pretty. Often results in the elimination of an efficient informal filing system.

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    Tink!

    Organized Chaos

    That's what I live by! At home and at work.

    When you live in a mess, but know where everything is...it only messes you up when it gets cleaned up and organized. I do admit that about every 3-6 months I get a "nesting" fit and feel the urge to tidy up. Then for the next few weeks I can't find anything!

    Tink :)

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    Tig2

    When you feel the urge to "nest"... LEAVE!!! Run from your home and go to a local hotel. Stay there until the urge passes.

    I am experiencing the yearly urge to tidy and am resisting it to the best of my ability. We transformed an unused room to be an office that my partner and I will share. We plan to get furniture for it this weekend. Then we will move into it. And I will NOT be able to finish making Christmas cards or my nephew's scrapbook because I will be able to find NOTHING!

    Trust me- a few days at a local hotel will be much less stressful!
    :)

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    mdbradsh

    I've worked with people and this problem for more than 35 years. All this complaining is just excuses for laziness in picking up after themselves and being organized! I have found that most people with this problem grew up with their Momma doing it for them and they never had to do it for themselves. All this talk of ALWAYS being too busy is just plain BS! If you give them the space, place to put things, and a little dedicated time, then they should be doing it, plain and simple! Clean up should be a part of their evaluation as much as anything else. Clutter and mess are unsafe! Ask any OSHA inpector or Fire Marshall! If you can't find things after clean up then you're not doing it right! The goal is to make it easier to find things and yet keep it neat, clean and safe! That's why there are file cabinets, folders, labels, boxes, markers and the like. If your a boss, THEN BE A BOSS and lay the law down on it!

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    lfh003

    I wholeheartily agree while this rant from mdbrandsh...This pride in being messy, and bragging about it, is not an example of how an IT shop should be run. The messy techs complain of not being able to find things after cleaning up...dud! Clean up and label you resources. Don't have room? Where is your manager? If that person is non-IT, then it is time for training. How have YOU or your boss allowed this department to sink so low in priority...has it been because the department is so messy it commands no respect? Grow up or get out.

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    w2ktechman

    there are no more IT emergencies for the next week so that it can get done properly.
    Then make sure that the space is available, even when new and unexpected items arrive.
    And make sure that we have time to go over inventory (no HDD failures this week).
    And make sure that ALL end users know that the IT department is doing other tasks and do not have time to deal with problems, and leave a message telling them to reboot and everything will be OK for another week.

    It all depends on your role, space, and how busy you are. It is not just being lazy, so I have to disagree completely. When I am not busy, I often tidy up once a week. When I am busy, I am staying late without pay, crunching to make sure that a high level attorney is still up and running for the weekend, and if the legal svr team needs help, aiding them.
    just stating that if it is not always clean is being ignorant of a technicians job duties. It makes assumptions that we are all too lazy to get things done, but if management would staff better, this should not be an issue at all.

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    Shellbot

    sorry we don't meet your standards..

    50% of me says wow, i'd like to work for someone who realises that it takes time to do these things, but the other half of me says thank you god that i don't, because i'd probably walk out.

    Tell ya what, I'll stop making excuses when:
    1. I get space to store my files and folders
    2. A place to put whatever storage facilitis i may get
    3. Any dedicated time to tidy any of it up

    Below is a list of my excuses of why i cannot find time to tidy my desk:
    1. There is 1 of me mainataining and supporting a database & database application for over 280 users
    2. I do all paperwork, research, support calls etc etc etc
    3. I get dragged to meetings 3-4 times a week which are a complete waste of my time
    4. 90% of my energy goes into keeping the d@mn thing up and running while trying to impart the importance of the system to higher management
    5. Documents: higher management wants written reports on: change requests, bug reports, work done to date, work for the future, enhancements required, enhancements which would be nice, integration issues with other applications..etc etc..and they are all HIGH PRIORITY..they need them yesterday.
    6. Because all those documents have to be done first, i've over 30 open support issues..about 20 calls a day come in..
    7. IIS has to be restarted up to 3 times a day because there is a memory leak in the application..and because "we care" i have to call all depts to tell them i am doing so.
    8. I must record all support calls/emails & resolutions and file them...
    9. Oh ya, and in the run up to year end, I'm trying to do a data audit and get it clean so the statistics we release to the government are in tip top shape..
    10. Plus, with me being the only one who has any IT knowledge, I get to show everyone how to use Excel, Access, Word, Outlook..and whatever else they have on thier pc. Not sure how my SQL & VB experience will help with figuring out why the internet connection is funny either..

    But oh well..maybe you would be good enough to have a word with my boss for me? Let me know, I'll be here till 5 or so..i'll get home about 7, but by the time i put some clothes to wash and get dinner started I'll probably be to exhausted to care.
    Maybe if i get to bed before 12 i can get a bit of sleep before i am up at 6.30 to go to work..
    If i've a few minutes, maybe i'll tidy my desk..could file away all those open issues under "who gives a rats @ss"

    I have been "the boss" several times, and i didn't give a thought to my teams desks..they worked hard and got the job done..so much so that i would frequently reward them with bonuses..even though thier desks were untidy.

    Happy Monday :)

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    Tig2

    I'm considering getting the heck out of IT for just the reasons you mention. We've gone to the stupid zone on a lot of this.

    I have worked for companies with a clean desk policy. I manage to clean desk everywhere, just in case. In this sub-thread, some wanker decided that my tongue-in-cheek response to Tink was somehow serious so decided to go on a rant. Sheesh!

    I have found the perfect method of managing my paper flow. I have a shredder. It works for me.

    The reality is that I rarely need the paper I generate. I have logs of how I manage my time on a thumb drive so I can produce whatever paper I need by hitting print. But after a 10 hour day, followed by laundry, housework, supper, and, during this season, Christmas, I fall into bed late and get up early.

    So I do understand. You aren't alone.

    Don't let the wankers get to you. They don't get it.

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    Shellbot

    if men have a different take on it..but the last thing on my mind is cleaning my desk before i go home to clean the house.

    as for the all the people who are saying to just get on with it, its nice they have a job that allows them time..i wonder if they get coffee breaks as well? i bet they do..cool..

    ah, i've thought of geting out of the game, but then i think no..i like it..and just because this job is keeping me on my toes, doesn't mean all jobs will..

    i have my stuff stored electronically, but "they" like to have papers in binders..

    ugh..that post was just the last thing i needed on a monday morning after 5 hours sleep, coming in to frantic calls that the system had crashed..

    hence my annoyance. normally i don't pay them any notice..i reckon in a few years when i'm thier boss i'll make em pay..

    hahaha

    take it easy Tig..
    :)

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    Tink!

    I DO have places to store things. If I don't I FIND them or I MAKE them. We are not condoning laziness here...merely pointing out the commonplaceness of Organized Chaos due to the lack of time on our part to file or clean. I'm sure we all try to put things in a semi-organized manner...but that doesn't necessarily mean actually putting the piece of paper in the proper file cabinet drawer exactly at the time of completion due to the fact that you're already immersed in another project. More likely than not it means putting the paper in a file or stack somewhere on the desk or working area. These stacks/files will build up until someone actually says "Oh you know what this project really isn't as high of a priority as I told you...go ahead and clean"
    And since THAT doesn't happen too often...we continue in our organized chaos until we find the time ourselves.

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    Inkling

    You could be tidying up instead of posting on this blog! =)

    Happy Holidays!

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    2rs

    I find it comforting to know that other IT folks have "Clean my office" as a yearly Goal!

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    2rs

    Shellbot, thanks for taking the time to itemize my daily responsibilites. Item 10 is at the top of my excuse list & probably takes 50% of my time, especially when a new employee arrives, complete with "Knowledge of commonly used software". I need to work on tidying up after completing each task, true. Since when is an IT person bestowed the capability to use EVERY feature of EVERY software program used within the company? Is there a dust-flinging fairy that I need to meet? Happy Holidaze!

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    rhomp2002

    You apparently missed the point where the only storage was on another floor. What good is that? If you have to schlep to an elevator or stairs everytime you need something and then schlep it back when you are done you will not keep a clean neat place.

    Maybe the answer is to split up the work area and the storage area and make the two areas combination storage and work places. That way your employees can have a place to store things convenient to where they need them. Having them separate enough to be on different floors is a recipe for a mess.

    In my experience of over 40 years in the IT business I have found that some people work best in messes and some people work best in places where they have everything clean and neat. One of my friends worked for the FBI on a contract and they even went to the stage where you could only have 3 pieces of paper on you desk at a time. You saw everybody working with their drawers open and they were looking in this drawer for that item and the other drawer for the other item so they could do the job. Totally not a workable solution.

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    johnmckay

    People that have a desk like that generally have a brain that works in the same fashion. Sometimes it's more about defiance but either way I find just throwing it all into the skip outside soon solves the problem. Especially after the 2nd time! Order and structure in the workplace every time!

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    NickNielsen Moderator

    Might be compliance paperwork in that mess. Could also be your invoices from last week. Who needs to get paid?

    Good thing we're not in the same workplace...one of us would have a breakdown and I doubt it would be me.

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    johnmckay

    My colleagues are forever leaving scrap lying around with the good stuff. Trouble is you can't tell some bad parts till you fit them, and if you fit an intermittent problem in you can end up with a lot of head scratching. There is NO excuse for not keeping your workplace in a semblence of order. In fact most of the muppets ask the rest of us for parts as they can't trust what's near them. Just bin it or make them evaluate it.

    As for breakdown... If someone can't do their job it ain't my problem. One warning then take action. I don't care beyond that and certainly wouldn't lose sleep over confronting anyone about it. Stop covering up for the lazy gits and get them off their butts now!

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    Tink!

    only that the area was messy and cluttered.

    Organized chaos is commonplace...it means the area looks messy, but if you ask the tech for something or to do something...they know exactly where to go to find what they need or what you need. Organization isn't necessarily always neat...even if you have shelves, cabinets, and drawers and also have everyting labelled and tagged...all you end up with is stuffed shelves, cabinets and drawers along with a clutter of tagged stuff.

    The best techs probably work best in organized chaos...but if you give them time at the end of a week (or beginning of a week) where no one is bother them...then they should be able to put everything away.

    If techs are mixing old parts with new parts within the clutter...than that is laziness...in Organized Chaos you at least keep things like that separated.

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    NickNielsen Moderator

    Desks have paperwork, which can include invoices.

    Benches, which I believe were the original subject, have parts.

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    w2ktechman

    I have lots of things, but I keep post-its on everything (bad, good, need to check, etc.) and I also keep other pertinent info on it in case it is needed. That way, when it dies down and I have time, there is a small heap for me to go through. If it is marked as bad, I need to determine if I need to send it back or recycle it, or in the case of a HDD, do I need to scrub it. If it is marked as good, I need to put it away, if it is marked for me to test it, I place it in another area completely. When I have more time, I will go through that pile as well.

    Just tossing out lots of stuff because You are too lazy to look through it, is a bad policy. If it is a needed item, the company needs to purchase it again. Not to mention, recycling. Yes, recycling computer components are a must. Keep the majority out of the landfills. Throwing it all out may make your desk look clean, but it is not the proper thing to do

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    johnmckay

    My colleagues are forever leaving scrap lying around with the good stuff. Trouble is you can't tell some bad parts till you fit them, and if you fit an intermittent problem in you can end up with a lot of head scratching. There is NO excuse for not keeping your workplace in a semblence of order. In fact most of the muppets ask the rest of us for parts as they can't trust what's near them. Just bin it or make them evaluate it.

    As for breakdown... If someone can't do their job it ain't my problem. One warning then take action. I don't care beyond that and certainly wouldn't lose sleep over confronting anyone about it. Stop covering up for the lazy gits and get them off their butts now!

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    nebstanton

    I have adopted a clean (ish) and methodical approach to workspace at every place I have worked. I personally like my bench to be (relatively) tidy and clutter free.

    At present, I have 2 TFT wall mounted, a 6-port KVM and 2 base units (under the desk). To my right I have a shiney new galvanised racking unit with tough boxes populating it entirely. I have everything boxed and labelled from new parts to 2nd user spares).

    All bits and bobs are stored and easily accessible. Now I have to admit, the units and boxes cost ?600ish but the time saved being able to place my hands on what I want and when I want it - priceless. Plus, somebody new to the deptartment can locate things simply and without fuss.

    I have a dedicated box called the 'Graveyard' where anything dead goes (and gets emptied once a week for recycling). Any components not fully tested go into another box for a rainy day (or odd jobs for a newbie).

    A tidy workspace is a happy, efficient workspace!

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    jp

    If a messy desk denotes a messy mind. Then what does it say if you have an empty desk ???????

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    johnmckay

    Nobody said empty but you're so prejudiced you didn't get the picture! Tidy in the sense someone can walk in and find the current software cut without firing up the pile of old versions; tidy in the sense of redundant job sheets put in the bin or filed; tidy in the sense that I can pick up a DIMM without wondering if it works.

    Read the detail next time please.

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    jdclyde

    Generally, I have an average of four projects I am working on, on and off, as the day goes through. This means everything HAS to stay out until the job is done.

    Recently, I was able to finish up all of the projects, and thus FILE everything away. Guess what? The top of my desk really has a nice wood grain that I never noticed before.....

    I also got rid of a lot of the equipment that was being worked on, and am down to three monitors (all being used) and five PC's, (mostly being used).

    The main thing I do is try to get rid of furniture. Getting rid of that makes the small office look bigger.

    Oh yeah, I work in the "cursed office" The THREE people before me that had that office were all fired. (I am going on 10 years).

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    LocoLobo

    Organization is more than just neatness. If you know where everything is and can access it you're organized. imo.

    My rule of thumb is when I don't know what's under the stacks anymore, it's time to sort it out. Usually once or twice a year.

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    hyposave

    WE had the same problem, messy desktops, mountain high cd collections, enough LAN cabling to repel off the building etc. The solution was simple, everyday the manager would give a "grade" to the tech support team. The grade included overall tech support, user feedback, a few more others and of course cleanliness. Those who got a grade of 85 and above would see a bonus on their paycheck. It really did work since everyone did their part, and it didn;t really cost the firm that much.

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    leon.nel

    I am probably the worst person to give advice on this subject as my desk is always in a state. But like everyone else I go through fases where I feel the urge to tidy up.

    Its difficult to get Desktop support enigeers to do this without them seeing the benifits so every other Friday I have a planned tidy up in their calendar followed by a meeting at the pub, where I buy them all a pint.

    This way we all get stuck in and my team feel appreciated for trying to keep the place clean. UI guess the only problem with this approach is that they might just let it get untidy to get a round of beers out of me.