@2012Introduction The Chief Executive Officer Marius Kloppers and the top management at BHP Billiton, a top mining company in Australia released new employee regulations in which among other things, hot food was banned at the workplace. Children’s finger-paintings are to be removed from workspaces and food with strong smells not to be brought into the workplace at all (Pascoe, 2011). Although they might appear harsh, BHP Billiton’s office desk rules are not unreasonable because they can be justified within the modern workplace. This paper discusses the role of orderliness and cleanliness in ensuring productivity and competitiveness at the workplace, with reference to the BHP Billiton case study. Calligeros (2011) highlights that the new regulations further included the requirement that nothing is to be stuck onto workstation walls, doors or dividers and any additional clothing will have to be put in specific storage areas and not at workstations or on chairs.
The eating of food at work and the use of MP3 players and iPods were banned. The volume of mobile phone ringtones was also to be kept at the lowest and calls diverted to voicemail whenever the owner was away from the workstation.
Kloppers’ rules may be criticized as being unlikely to be effective and are therefore unnecessary. This is because although tidiness and cleanliness are important in the enhancement of the work environment, the rules in the BHP case do not seem to have been aimed at addressing productivity, but rather are the ideas of the company’s CEO. According to Clements-Croome (2006), the Human Resource department or the employees themselves would have been the best placed to determine the right measures to be implemented.
However, it did not, and only appears to be a victim of the CEO’s whims. Employees are different, and there are some who may be having close attachment to what is regarded as clutter, for instance their children’s finger paintings. As for food, it is just as the case study’s author says that Kloppers just hates the smell of curry. It is all about his comfort. According to Chadha (2007), many modern organizations tend to be characterized by disorder and chaos. For this reason, it is important to find ways of eliminating disorder and improving harmony.
People have a critical role in ensuring success of the organization and therefore orderliness will always have to be understood, restored and institutionalized. Elsbach & Pratt (2007) explain that although general cleanliness is the management’s responsibility, it should be a team effort and not just a matter of issuing edicts. From the implementation of ‘clear desk’ policies to establishment of clear rules on where staff should consume their food, company staff could have been involved in creating rules for success.
Failure to do this would result in ineffectiveness. At BHP, employee participation appears not to have been considered. Although they may appear to be harsh however, the new desk rules actually bring about a number of positive effects. First, it helps to eliminate visual distractions. According to Ellis (2008), a clean desk for instance will usually ensure that no items exist around the worker to distract him or her. There will be no visible paper piles containing unfinished tasks or magazines which may be interesting. The emptiness around will help to make the worker to focus only on the task that he is supposed to finish.
In addition, desks will usually become empty and in the process offer adequate space for putting all relevant work in manner that is more orderly on the desk. Venezia et al. (2008) suggest that this will help in getting work done conveniently as there will be no papers occupying space or paper piles that will tumble onto the ground.