How To Optimize Your Office For Increased Productivity
When you organize your office and work environment, you optimize your surroundings for productivity and increase your ability to work effectively.
Benefits Of An Organized Office
Better communication. An organized office environment encourages better internal communication. With a central area for staff communication, it is easier to share sales news, track targets, and plan and monitor projects.
A manageable budget. Organized spaces will allow you to quickly see what you have, what you need, and when you might need more. This supports the creation and sustaining of budgets, especially for supplies and equipment.
Increased work ethic and morale. When you and your staff take care of your surroundings, it makes the workplace a more pleasant place. Taking care shows that you value your work and the people who work for you.
Better time management. Simply put, you spend less time looking for things and more time actually working. An organized office will complement and support your time management strategies.
Step-By-Step Workplace Audit
Complete the following steps by literally walking around your office with a notepad and making observations. This is intended to be a positive exercise, so try not to get overwhelmed. Small changes are the best changes to start with.
If your office is already pretty organized, complete the audit anyway and identify any opportunities that exist to improve you and your team's work environment.
1. Start With Your Own Office
Since this is where you're likely to need to be the most productive, it make sense to start making some changes here. Make some observations about your office as it is now, using the following questions.
What can be found on your desk?
Where are your current files located?
Where are your old or inactive files?
How many personal items are visible?
What is on the walls?
Where are your office supplies?
How much paper is on your desk?
How many files, binders or books are on your desk?
Where is your in tray and out tray located, and how much is piled in them?
Based on your notes and the suggestions and guidelines below, identify opportunities for improvement. Would your office benefit from a better layout? A better filing system? A smaller desktop monitor? A paper shredder?
Clear your desk of everything but your computer, your daytimer, your current files, your inbox and your telephone. Depending on the size of your desk, you may wish to put your current files or inbox on top of a filing cabinet within arm's reach to maximize desk space. Anything you don't need on a regular basis should be stored out of arm's reach.
Choose one central system for managing your notes, tasks, to-do lists, brainstorming and scheduling. If you have a daytimer, use it. If you prefer electronic systems, use those. Having too many binders and notepads and calendars gets confusing.
Make a habit of tidying your desk at the beginning and end of each day. Keep loose papers pinned to your to-do list, or have clear and organized folders. Use drawer organizers to keep your stationery drawer clean and easily accessible.
Organize your loose paper, inbox and action items in a file sorter or stack of paper trays. Use categories like to-do, to review, waiting response, on-hold and to file.
Put your phone on the left if you're right handed, and on the right if you're left handed, so you have the appropriate hand free to take notes when you're on a call. Keep a notepad or post-its by the phone to record messages and conversation notes.
Personal items can be distracting when they're in your primary line of vision, and encourage daydreaming. Photos and memorabilia have a place in your office, but relocate any items that are in direct sight.
2. Move On To The Common Areas Of Your Business.
This is a list of the areas that you may find in your business. If your business has other areas, add them to the list. Most businesses will have the top five areas listed.
Office supplies storage*
Team communication center*
Point of sale or reception area*
Printing and photocopying*
Staff room or kitchen*
Employee and management offices
Product stock storage
Shipping and receiving area
Financial paperwork and accounting
Move through each of the areas and answer the following questions, as applicable.
What is the distance between your office and areas you frequently use, like the printer or photocopier?
How much loose paper is found around the business?
What is hung up on the walls?
Where is the central communication point?
How is the team communication center organized? Is it up to date?
How much old stock are you storing?
How are your office supplies organized?
Are boxes and shelves labeled?
Do your staff members have organization systems for their own desks?
How many files are used on a daily or weekly basis?
Where are old or outdated files kept?
Again, based on your notes and the suggestions and guidelines below, identify opportunities for improvement.
Put doors on shelving so cluttered spaces are not visible. Label boxes, containers and shelves so everyone knows what goes where.
Create a consistent filing system. Provide enough shelving and filing cabinets to store files in a systemized fashion. Ensure your system keeps files out of the way and out of sight when not in use, but maintains easy accessibility.
Return or sell unused stock and overflow office supplies, like stationery. Locate other unused items that you can potentially sell or donate to create more space. Consider renting out unused portions of your office to independent consultants or small businesses.
Ensure each staff member has access to the organizational materials they need to keep their offices neat. Provide stacking trays or file sorters, and suggest systems that may help them. Remember that you can't control their work environment, but you can provide the support they need to stay organized.
Minimize the distance between your office and the areas you frequently use (like the printer or photocopier). Locate your office so you have a clear line of sight between you and the most productive area of your business.
3. Finally, Make Sure Your Business Has The Tools You Need To Run An Effective, Cohesive Operation.
A team communication center for all team members to review on a daily basis for important information about sales achievements, targets and company news.
A whiteboard in the team communication center or the boardroom to use for brainstorming, diagramming, project planning, marketing planning or any other strategic use. This is an excellent tool for both internal and external meetings.
A sales board in your team communication center (a private location from clients) that is customized to your business. Use thin black tape to create columns and rows to chart sales on a weekly or monthly basis, or to compare based on weekly, quarterly or yearly targets.
A 12-month marketing planner to keep your eyes focused on the big picture. This is where you schedule campaigns and plan promotions. Use dry-erase marker so you can make changes easily, and use color-coding for easy visibility.
At the end of your audit, you'll likely end up with a lot of paper you don't know what to do with, but can't throw away. Use these effective strategies for managing paper, filing and other information commonly used by everyone in your organization.
System and Steps
Create a filing system and color code it
Group vendor files (accounts payable) and assign a color
Group client files (accounts receivable) and assign a color
Group project or product files and assign a color
Sort each filing category by date or alphabetically by name
Sort vendor or supplier files by name
Sort client files by client number or name
Sort project files by project number or name
Keep tax-related documents together
File all receipts, donations and other tax related information in the same filing cabinet. Make copies of documents you need to file in more than one place
Create a binder of master lists for regularly accessed information
Vendor contact information
Use a bound notebook
Keep track of phone calls and messages
Put the date on each page
Eliminate loose notepaper
Create a business card management system
Throw away old business cards
Organize cards by last name or company name in a binder or rolodex
Enter the information in a data management program, then throw away the cards
Get rid of magazines and other reading material
Throw away industry magazines and newspapers
Keep relevant articles of interest
Sort them into files, if necessary
Once you make some initial improvements and set up systems to manage your data and organize your supplies, the hard part is over.
A clean and organized office is easy to sustain once it is in place.
Remember to be patient with yourself. Depending on the state of your work environment, this may be a project that takes a little while. Take your time, and follow the steps in this blog, and you'll get the job done.
To Your Success,
Simon Zryd, Productivity and Business Coach