Every office harbors inefficiencies fax machines that don’t work properly, files disorganized or missing, high-traffic areas that make productive work impossible. But the number of businesses that simply adapt to poor setups, rather than eliminating them, is surprising. Look around your office for these common office-productivity drains, and follow these eight tips to address them. Outdated technology Computers, printers, software and other technology that have outlived their usefulness can quickly eat into productivity.
For example, a graphic designer who works on an underpowered PC may have to wait 20-30 seconds each time an image loads or is saved. Employees who access the Internet with slow dial-up connections face similar problems when Web pages can’t be loaded or, worse, crash their PCs. How do you know your technology is dated? As a general rule, if your computer can’t run the latest version of a key program, it is probably time for an upgrade. Your investment in new equipment may quickly be recouped in increased workflow. Poorly designed workspace
Spend a few days monitoring work patterns to highlight inefficiencies built into the way you work. For instance, you might move to another room anytime you need to lay out papers because you lack enough desktop room. Or maybe you type up notes after finishing a conference call because your phone is too far away from your computer, preventing you from taking notes during the call. Fixing these kinds of productivity saps is often a matter of reorganizing physical workspace. It may be as simple as transferring books away from a countertop or getting a phone extension cord.
Inefficient filing systems Disorganized files make it harder to find the information you need when you need it, which can double the amount of time spent on a paper chase. To fix messy filing practices, make sure you and your staffers have the necessary supplies to keep files organized. Assess whether or not you need additional file cabinets to allow all staff members to have easy access to the papers they need. Finally, consider moving inactive files to a storeroom to make it easier for workers to find active files. Untamed information flow
The increasing availability of technology such as e-mail and cell phones has inundated the work environment with news, marketing messages, junk mail, and personal communications. These outside influences can steal attention from work and lower productivity. Reduce the amount of distracting information you receive at work. Unsubscribe to e-mail newsletters you don’t read, and create e-mail filters to separate personal from business communications. Turn off your cell phone when you’re at your desk. And reduce traffic by handing out your e-mail address and/or cell phone number sparingly. Badly run meetings
Holding unnecessary or unfocused meetings crushes productivity and morale. When employees gather to discuss a topic, it’s not uncommon for sessions to run long, decisions to be postponed, or topics to shift to issues beyond the ones the meeting was meant to address. Before holding a meeting, always consider whether or not the topic could be managed offline. If a meeting is necessary, give it a time limit and use an agenda to stay on track. Assign a meeting leader who is responsible for taking quick action if the group shows signs of getting side tracked. Substandard research resources
Relying on information from unreliable or dated magazines, Web sites, white papers and other sources can make it necessary to extend or duplicate work. You can encourage the use of more valuable research tools by subscribing only to those publications that you should and will actually sit down and read. That means discontinuing the newspapers and magazines that never get read and clutter up offices, lobbies and libraries and distributing a list of quality Web-based information sources to your staff. Also, look for opportunities to move from printed information to searchable databases.
For example, if your company relies on directories for its work, find out if they are available on CD-ROM. Distractions When you’re operating in close quarters as many small businesses do noise from louder co-workers, ringing phones, clacking keyboards, office door buzzers, and other sources can lower office-wide productivity. Pay attention to noise pollution in your work areas and take steps to reduce it. Lower the volume on ringers, turn off speakerphones and computer speakers, and talk to loud chatters about toning down conversations.
Address visual noise as well by using screens, plants and other methods to create a sense of privacy in open office space. Clutter When you look at the desks of many successful executives, one thing stands out they are free of clutter. Disorder often breeds disruption and eats into efficiency. Look around your office and find places where chaos lurks. It might be an untamed phone cord that’s constantly knocking over desk supplies, a box in the middle of an aisle that stands in the way of a file drawer, or broken equipment that takes up valuable desktop real estate. Move unused items out of sight, and dispose of things you no longer use.