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Small office efficiency

Updated on August 12, 2010


Small office efficiency has become even more important in the current economic environment. Businesses have less money to spend on resources that are not directly related to generating income. Improving office efficiency looms as a possibility for improving the bottom line, which is always attractive in good financial times and in not-so-good financial times.

Types of Resources

The efficient small office optimizes two classifications of resources; human and non-human. Non-human resources include consumables such as printer paper, ink, and other office supplies. If the office is consuming too many staples, it's a simple matter to limit access to the staple drawer. However, human resources must be addressed differently.

Efficient Office use of Non-Human Resources

Non-human resources can be tracked down to the single paper clip and the individual ream of copier paper. One useful tip is to keep office supplies 'locked up' in order to prevent casual use by well-meaning employees. Theft is always a possibility, but casual use probably consumes more office supply resources than outright criminal behavior. The average employee will stop and think just long enough to optimize his or her time instead of blindly using an extra few sheets of paper to obtain a test print. If the employee knows that another ream of paper will cost a extra few minutes of walking across the office, obtaining a key, and unlocking the supply closet, then they will probably take a second ot third look at their documents on their computer monitor rather than make the long trip to the supply closet.

Of course, locking up office supplies and requiring a sign-out policy may also cause some frustration in the office. Efficiency may actually suffer because employees feel as if they can't be trusted. As a middle ground, consider simple contests or informative posters that alert the entire office about the cost of office supplies. A few well-placed posters near the supply closet may increase office efficiency by convincing employees to conserve. Most employees would be shocked at the hidden cost of office forms and other paper-based supplies. Create the posters without accusing or indicting anyone; simply give the employees something to think about and allow them to come to their own decisions. Office efficiency can only improve.

Efficient Office use of Human Resources

Human resources can also be used more efficiently in the small office. One common problem is the workflow for handling office forms and other paper. The goal should be to 'touch' the paper as little as possible. The more people who handle a piece of paper, the more human resources are consumed for no reason; office efficiency decreases as a direct result. When a document arrives in the office, whether it's a FAX or a letter, someone in the office should be the designated as the initial point of contact. That person is responsible for deciding the disposition of the document and also for making sure the issue represented by the document is resolved. Ideally the document should be scanned and stored online, thereby eliminating the paper handling all together.

The efficient office also keeps track of where everyone is. There's an old saying that asserts "A place for everything and everything in its' place." That may be true for non-human resources but most people prefer not to have a place and strongly resist being in that place 8 hours a day. Because people tend to move about throughout the day, we need a more elaborate tracking system for them. We also need to avoid making it appear that they are being tracked to any great level of detail. The traditional In/Out magnetic board works well in most situations. Each employee has a 'dot' that they are responsible for moving to the appropriate column to indicate their current location. Sometimes the columns are simple categories such as "Shop Floor", "Sales call", "Lunch", and "Out". Many of these magnetic boards also allow employees to add an annotation indicating when they plan to return to their desk or assigned workplace.

A more high-tech option for tracking employee locations is the GPS. A Global Positioning System works well for company vehicles and will certainly increase office efficiency by providing immediate and real-time information as to the location of each employee and vehicle. Employees may resist at first, since this strategy brings to mind images of a Big Brother style corporation that tracks every movement of resources. People tend to feel objectified in these situations. There are advantages to the employees, however. Employees have incontrovertible evidence that they are making efficient decisions when they are on the road in company vehicles. Just as the GPS units 'catch' slackers, they also reward hard workers by tracking delivery times and logging driving routes.


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    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 6 years ago from Ohio, USA


      "Good stuff. Often I think it comes down to efficiently using your time. Here's a FREE resource for helping you track your time and find out what interrupters can be eliminated. Check it out at ."

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 7 years ago from Ohio, USA

      @Mrs. Obvious: Thanks!

      @hege : It's great to meet another fan of small office efficiency in these days of tight economic times.

    • profile image

      hege 7 years ago

      I lolled

    • Mrs. Obvious profile image

      Mrs. Obvious 8 years ago from Northern California

      Good info! Thanks.