PSYCHOLOGY SERIES: What the State of Your Desk Says About You

The state of your desk can reveal a raft of information about you, your habits and even your personality 😳

As per The Telegraph, desk types can be broken down into 5 basic groups:

1. The Clutterer


Image Source: shredit

Papers stacked, materials seemingly placed randomly, generally quite messy! Sound familiar? These characteristics are strongly associated with creative extroverts, who are more focused on work-place relationships and the task at hand rather than the hygiene of their desk.

2. The Minimalist


An extremely tidy and organized desk, usually kept clean and doesn’t change very much from day to day. This desk type indicates a goal-orientated person, who likes to make plans and following routines.

3. The Expander


Image Source: shredit

The Expander’s portion of the desk seems to grow a little more each and every day, until it takes up all the available space! This can include paper-work, food or even personal items. This type behavior indicates that the owner is potentially less sensitive to others around them and exhibits domineering behavior in the workplace.

4. The Surveyor


Image Source: Chaos to order

This desk is usually spaced away from others, either on the periphery or towards the back of the office. Somewhere where the occupier achieves focus through isolation. This is often the choice of introverts, who tend to be cooperative and sympathetic within the workplace.

5. The Personaliser


Image Source: pinterest This is probably the most indicative type of desk when it comes understanding someone’s personality. You can usually see a variety of books, artwork, travel photos and random mementos placed throughout this person’s desk. It’s usually distinctive and stylish, indicating an intellectual and creative person occupies this space, who’s open to new experiences.

Does a clean desk impress the management?

Not really. A survey conducted by Office Team suggested that 10% managers aren’t very comfortable with a desk that’s too clean and tidy or with nothing on it, as sometimes an empty desk gives the impression you don’t have any work to do.

A messy desk doesn’t necessarily mean low productivity

Compared to a clean desk, most peoples' desk could be classified as somewhat messy. With documents, snacks and coffee cups piling up it’s common to have trouble finding your mouse. However according to a study by the University of Minnesota a messy desk could be a sign of genius 🧐

After conducting a test to see how well participants came up with new ideas while working both in tidy and messy environments, it was found that the state of the work-place didn’t affect the number of new ideas, however the ideas generated whilst in a messy environment were found to be far more interested and creative when evaluated by an impartial panel.

This study went on to show that a tidy environment encourages people to be more socially responsible and exhibit conformist /preferred behaviors (like eating healthily and donating to charity.) And conversely that working in a messy environment encourages people to try new things and come up with creative ideas.

What does a celebrities’ desk look like?

Well, there are loads of famous people who have unexpectedly messy desks, such as Albert Einstein, Mark Zuckerberg, and Max Levchin, founder of Paypal and their former CTO.


Image Source: Tiphereth

Mark Zuckerberg and his desk.


Image Source:

Max Levchin, co-founder and former CTO of PayPal.


Image Source: Albert Einstein and his desk.

Sophia Wong

Brand and Marketing Strategist in Hong Kong, writes about career, job hunting and interview tips.

2 min read

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