The Continuous Improvement Blog

Tackling low morale of office staff with 5s workplace organisation

Written by Colin McArdle on 30 May 2018


For many service companies, the back office is where customer requests are fulfilled.

But small, daily frustrations can build up and lead to poor staff morale, and low retention rates. And this can have a significant impact on productivity, and ultimately, customer satisfaction.

It’s for these reasons that having a motivated and productive workforce in your back office is crucial for business success.

So what’s the solution?

In this blog post, we argue that introducing a 5s system is the first place to start.

5s workplace organisation

5s is a workplace organisation system that promotes a clean, tidy and well-organised workspace. It can be applied to almost any work environment, from office spaces to warehouses, hospitals, and factories.

Implementing 5s reduces the time people spend looking for things, minimises the risk of equipment stopping or breaking down, and prevents people carrying out tasks in non-standardised ways.

Applying a 5s approach to the office environment can positively impact productivity and your ability to deliver a quality and timely service to customers. But it also creates an environment conducive to a proactive, motivated and highly engaged office workforce.

Creating a 5s workplace involves five ordered steps:

Sort- Eliminate what is not needed.

The first step is to remove any unnecessary clutter from the workspace. This means sorting through every cupboard, shelving unit, filing cabinet, under and behind desks and so forth. Any items not required on a daily basis should be removed, such as obsolete files or paperwork, equipment lying around that isn't needed to perform tasks, as well as obstacles that prevent easy movement between workspaces.

Set In Order - Arrange items so they can be located quickly.

Once unnecessary items have been removed, remaining items should be organised, labelled and placed in locations where they are easily accessible to workers. This may involve changing the office layout so that documents can be easily passed and the right people can work together. You may want to consider the location of basic items like printers. Are people wasting time collecting documents from remote printers? Do they have to hunt down toner cartridges in cluttered backrooms?

The simple idea is to look at everything your staff need on a daily basis, and organise it for easy access.

Shine - Keep equipment ready to use.

The workplace and equipment are cleaned on a daily basis so that any signs of potential problems can be easily spotted and addressed to avoid more serious breakdowns or delays. It could be a build up of documents or an overflow of documents at the printer that are yet to be collected. These may seem like arbitrary problems that have little impact on a daily basis, but they can cause delays and frustrations.

Standardise - Implement standard ways of working.

Standardising your office practices ensures everyone is on the same page as to what they are supposed to be doing and when. It alleviates any uncertainty about the tasks at hand and ensures everyone is working to the highest standard.

Sustain - Keep to the rules and continue to improve every day.

It’s all well and good putting these systems into place, but it needs to be sustainable. 5s emphasises the importance of maintaining standards through regular auditing, transparency of progress and celebrating success.

So how does all this impact staff morale?

Removes frustrations

As much as your workforce may love their jobs, there will inevitably be things that frustrate or slow them down on a daily basis. Things like having to locate equipment, search systems, or trawl through computer files to find the right document are typical frustrations your staff may be experiencing.

A 5s system eliminates these frustrations. For example, moving an item an employee regularly uses to a more convenient place, can have a significant impact on how easy it is for them to do their job.

Improves quality

5s involves setting standardised ways of working that are in line with ‘best practice’. If staff are following these best practice guidelines, they’ll know they are doing the best job they can, and will feel more fulfilled as a result.

Reduces delays

Delays can occur when a regularly used item is lost or suddenly stops working. A well-organised workplace means any problems can be quickly identified and addressed to avoid any potential delays. And processing time in general is reduced as equipment, documents and information are all within easy reach.

Improves health and safety

It may sound simple, but your staff want to work in a clean and safe working environment. Achieving this is a key goal of 5s. A clean working environment free from clutter means any health and safety issues can be easily spotted and removed before they risk causing injury.


By providing a better organised, safer, and well-maintained work environment, your workforce will be more engaged, more motivated, and happier in their jobs. This improved morale will mean a greater commitment to the business, leading to increases in workforce retention and reduced workforce complaints and grievances.


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Topics: service industry, lean services

Colin McArdle

Written by Colin McArdle

Colin McArdle, the Founder and Managing Director of Kaizen Kulture is a Lean and Six Sigma Master Black Belt who has over 30 years industry experience. Kaizen Kulture's mission is to be true to the ethos of continuous improvement.