I work in a small r&d company where we do a lot of prototyping and fabrication. All the mechanical work (cutting, soldering, etc) takes place in a single area of the room.

The problem is that people never place back what they use. I've made sure to include plenty of storage and designated areas for storing tools and materials, but after a day or two, the whole desk is a total mess. Even worse is that most of them wont put items like drill bits in the right place so it becomes impossible to find out which bit is which unless you get out the calipers. All this is due to the fact that most employees use the station for less than 5 minutes at a time and therefore don't take the time to place back what they used.

Because of this, I'm forced to clean up after everyone if the lab is to maintain a minimum level of cleanliness and organisation since either no one else cares, or no one wants to take the time to take care of it.

How can I get people to properly place back the items they used after working for short periods of time?

  • 2
    You could adopt a variation of my dorm's kitchen policy: if dirty dishes were left out, they belonged to the first person who was willing to wash them. In a shared lab space, I'd suggest that tools be explicitly checked out, and failure to check them back in means you can't check them out again for some reasonable amount of time. Note that this is self-regulating w/r/t borrowing tools from each other; if you don't either return the tool or check it back in, the lender loses access and stops being willing to lend to you.
    – keshlam
    Apr 22, 2016 at 4:02
  • You hinted at the need for organization by "includ[ing] plenty of storage and designated areas" but have you tried directly speaking to your colleagues about the issue? At a minimum, you need to take that first step.
    – user45590
    Apr 22, 2016 at 11:50
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of Issue of working in untidy and dirty environment Apr 22, 2016 at 17:53

2 Answers 2


If you're the manager, then just tell everyone to do it and discipline them if they don't. I wouldn't tolerate a messy tool area.

If you're not the manager, then take it up with the manager.

  • If not the manager, I would first speak to colleagues directly about this. But otherwise, yeah.
    – user45590
    Apr 22, 2016 at 11:11

Seeing as one of your tags is colleagues I'll assume that you're not in a position to force managerial policies.

As Kilisi's answer suggests, it would be smart to take it up with your manager. However, the manager may not see this as a problem as he has never heard complaints from others and could see this as you stirring up trouble. To prevent this, I'd suggest giving the manager a suggestion on what could be done.

You could suggest that a "cleaning up for yourself" policy is instated where you are required to clean up after yourself directly after or during the use of this station. Hereby it's important to note that this is to keep a safe and clean environment that is pleasant to work with.

If you ARE in a manager position, you can still do the above suggestion and emphasize on the safety issue. A clean environment is a safe environment.

If you don't have a managerial option or don't wish for this to go through any sort of management. Then you'd need to convince a large group of colleagues who don't care for this situation. It'll be like talking to a wall or swimming up a waterfall. I'm not saying it's impossible though. For this you need to make sure they understand your predicament and you wish for this to be a professional workplace at all times. If they don't understand your problem, they wont be willing to accept any changes.

You'd need to "talk" to them, take them aside for a second. Tell them your story and ask for their opinion. Asking for their opinion will make them think more objectively on the subject and lets you know how much or how little they value this problem. If they actually care about this, it won't be a problem to get this to work. If they don't care, then the only person who can change anything would be a manager.