The beginning of the year is a typical time for offices to get messy – as we start to get busy again after Christmas; our workspaces often become a dumping ground for paperwork and rogue files. The key to protecting against encroaching clutter and to keep your office an effective place to work is better storage, but simply bunging everything into a desk won't solve the problem – we need storage systems as well as just extra space. Here are our top tips to combine the two and get the most out of your office:
Easy File Retrieval
The mistake many people make when organising their files is to store things too far away from their desk in a place that's not easily accessible. It's often prudent to have three storage areas – a local "live" file (e.g. a desk drawer or anywhere that's within reaching distance) for the documents you use most often, a "dead" file (e.g. a filing cabinet) for the things that have been processed but might still need to be referenced occasionally, and a "buried" area (e.g. a storage room) where you can keep things like last years tax receipts, which you won't need again in a hurry.
The Inbox of Doom
Another trap is using an ineffective "inbox" folder system – files go in, but they never get resolved and so accumulate, making it harder to sort important documents when you actually need them. A better solution is to have two folders: an "Action This Week" and a "Waiting on Reply" folder and then be militant in adhering to each of them. Every Monday, go through the folders and weed out anything that needs chasing or resolving. If the file doesn't fit either folder, you can scan, label and store the document so it doesn't clutter up your workspace.
Instigate Cull Days
To keep your office efficient, it pays to be ruthless and book in a couple of times a year to go through all of your paperwork and archive/destroy anything you don't need for the effective running of your business. Good times for culls include the beginning of spring, after the summer holidays and the period between Christmas and New Year.
Making the transition to the "cloud" can make some businesses feel nervous, but virtual alternatives can help reclaim space and put it to better use – online collaboration tools like Basecamp can help to keep all of your project management virtual (cutting down on paper trails) and uploading your documents can cut clutter. Once you've invested in a scanner, uploading services like Dropbox or Google Drive are great repositories, which can be shared by your team or with your clients. There are several smart phone scanner apps that do a great job now too.
In the current economic climate, shared offices are becoming much more popular. To take advantage of the 'rent a desk' movement, look at unused or poorly used space in your business premises and remove extra furniture (putting it into self storage for example) and lease out the space to a small company or freelancer to keep your overheads down (this is an especially good solution if your business goes through a short-term downsize) and help de-clutter your office space. Self-storage can also be a great place for archiving, affording you secure off-site storage to keep contracts, receipts, invoices and other important documents.
Drew Davies works with Big Yellow Self Storage. For more information on storage see their business section.