Coffee-stained mugs on a cluttered desk, surrounded by piles of paper tilting at dangerous angles. Tie askew. Scant regard for personal hygiene. These are all sure signs of an office slob.

Not only are they quietly shunned by co-workers, but experts say office slobs are less productive than their neater teammates. So how can you tell if you are the office lazybones?

Behavioural researcher and strategist Dan Gregory says there are multiple species of office slob, but they all have one thing in common: disrespect.

Christopher Paterson says some office slobs might not even realise they are causing problems.

"Offices are microcosms of our broader communities. They reflect a value system," he says.

"It's not just about being tidy, neat and meeting others' expectations, it's about respect for others and self-respect."

Gregory says there are three categories of office slobs: those who take no pride in what they wear, those who never clean their desk or kitchenware, and those who are lazy thinkers.

Slovenly thinkers are the worst type of slob, he says.

"Even when they are diligent and hard-working, if they are a bit lax in their thinking they're just working in the wrong direction," he says.

"You end up with people producing a lot of the wrong things."

Casual wear might be the trend for creative types, but there's no excuse for sloppy dressing, Gregory says.

"In the past office culture was all about homogenising people, getting them to leave their personalities at the door and a suit does that perfectly," he says.

"But that's changing as we focus on results and innovation. People are now more free to be themselves at work, but that doesn't mean we can be slobs.

"Whatever you wear, wear it well."

Hot-desking has put untidy office workers under pressure to curb their slothful ways, Gregory says.

"It's a huge problem that creates emotional conflict," he says.

"We need to construct our spaces around our personalities, but with shared spaces such as hot-desks, they should look the way they do when you arrive for work."

Self-confessed office slobs are inclined to disagree.

Journalist Claire* says she was too busy putting her nose to the grindstone to give her desk a spring clean.

"My first ABC boss complained that my desk was too messy and asked me to tidy it," she says.

"There were stacks of paper strewn everywhere and half-filled, cold cups of tea. The desk was in a thoroughfare, so plenty of people saw it.

"I didn't tidy my desk. He came back a week later and said he'd changed his mind. He said, 'I've never seen anyone do as much work as you. Have your desk as messy as you like'.

"It's not true that a messy desk is the sign of a cluttered mind - it might just be the sign of a busy, creative person."

Food analyst Linda* says her messy ways earned her a massive office upgrade.

"My desk was so extremely messy that my boss asked me to move into an office - a big, nice office with nice windows too," she says.

"They said I can close the door when and if it gets too messy, so no embarrassment when we get visitors.

"I moved into that office six months ago. One way of scoring a big office."

Sharing office space with a slob is one thing, but managing them is another.

Christopher Paterson, managing director of Alchemy Career Management, says some office slobs might not even realise they are causing problems.

"Not everyone has strong self-awareness," he says.

"Often once they are made aware, they're so horrified by it and that's all the impetus they need to change."

Yet for more wilful office slobs, it takes a lot more hard work to open their eyes to the damage they are causing, Paterson says.

He recommends that managers tread lightly.

"If it's having a deleterious impact on their performance at work, it's time to have a clear, frank discussion," he says.

"If you just tell them what to do, it's not going to inspire deep personality change.

"I'd be talking to them about the issues of brand and strong performance. Ask them about what brand they want and then ask them if leaving that sandwich on the desk for three days is going to promote that brand."

If all else fails, it's time to get specific. Ask for desks to be cleaned, mugs to be washed, papers to be filed.

Paterson recommends providing feedback and doing so using humour.

"Use levity – you don't want to be a schoolmaster," he says.