Whether you work in a team of 5 or 500, great work depends on having a productive office environment. A disorganized and inefficient workplace, both physically and digitally, can have a dramatic knock-on effect on work performance further down the line. 

That’s why we’ve compiled 6 simple ways to streamline your office space. Keep reading below to find out how you can achieve an organized, efficient, and effective workspace for your team.

What are the benefits of a streamlined office? 

From multinational superbrands to fledgling startups, the office plays an important role in keeping day-to-day operations flowing smoothly. Your office space shouldn’t be an obstacle to productivity – it should support it. An untidy, disorganized, and poorly laid-out office space makes it difficult for both you and your employees to get work done.

Imagine the chaos of trying to find a single invoice under stacks of papers, a desktop full of files you haven’t touched in years, and office supplies overflowing from your desk drawers!

Streamlining your office space will not only calm the storm, but also improve your productivity and keep your employees and your clients happy. Remember, your workspace reflects your business as a whole! 

How to streamline office space in 6 easy steps

Step 1. Digitize your paperwork

Say goodbye to archaic filing cabinets and say hello to your new best friend – the cloud. Keeping stacks of paper around your office is aesthetically unpleasant, takes up a lot of space, and can cause unnecessary risks such as lost or damaged files. We all know just how easy it is to lose an important note amongst a pile of not-so-important ones. 

With online platforms like Google Drive, Dropbox, or Sharepoint all offering cloud-based file storage, there’s no longer the need to keep printed documents lying around. What’s more, paperwork digitized in this way becomes much more readily accessible to members of the team when they need to get to it – eliminating the hassle of folder-diving and keeping documents, PDFs, spreadsheets, and other files contained, secure, and organized. 

The creation and editing process also becomes substantially more streamlined for documents stored in this way, with the ability for teams to collaborate more quickly and effectively than they would if the process was handled through email.

You may also want to look towards other paper-eliminating software and apps to truly become a paperless business. For example, rather than sending paper invoices, there are a wealth of apps available that you can use to create and send your invoices digitally. That way, you always have a copy safely archived on the cloud, and you can eliminate the waiting period that comes with using snail mail.

Instead of relying on to-do lists, another great way to streamline both your office space and your team’s productivity is to utilize an online task management app. Having one place for you and all of your employees to manage workloads increases efficiency and removes the need for all those sticky note reminders you have hanging around your desk space. 

See also: How to Store Receipts: 6 Strategies to Slim Your Wallet & Office

Step 2. Reorganize the physical layout

As your business grows larger, the temptation to forgo detailed space planning in favor of simply finding “where an item fits” can be great – but a simple change of office layout can often provide big benefits for those willing to put the time in. 

When it comes to switching up your office space, first consider the roles of each staff member: who will they interact with daily? Does their work often require focused thinking? Will they benefit more from the privacy of quiet, individual spaces, or larger sections with less division? 

Nowadays, many businesses are ditching the typical cubicle layout for more egalitarian open-concept spaces. While this layout is meant to promote collaboration, studies have shown open offices tend to decrease employee interaction by 70%. Before making the switch, consider what works best for your team. We suggest discussing work habits and preferences with your employees before deciding on the design of your office’s layout. 

If you have different workstation types, it could be beneficial to place team members who require privacy and focus (think developers, finance staff, and senior management) in places where they can put their heads down without distraction.

Whether you choose an open space or a traditional layout, you’ll want to organize the space in a way that provides clear pathways across the room, considering the desk space where people would be best placed for their day-to-day roles. 

Finally, consider the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on workforce habits. With more people working from home than ever before, you may benefit from reducing your office size or even forgoing a physical office altogether. 

For those looking to reduce their space, we suggest implementing hotelling stations instead of assigned desks for each employee. These stations will be shared amongst all employees, who can sign up to use them whenever they choose to come into the office. Having a remote-first policy while still providing the option to come to work in-person provides your employees with more flexibility and has the added benefit of being cost-effective for your business.

Step 3. Enforce a clean desk policy

From pens and scissors to notepads and sticky notes, these essential office items can quickly become a nuisance when they’re sprawled across every visible surface. A “tidy desk, tidy mind” philosophy in your office could be more beneficial than you might think, improving productivity, output, and focus. 

There is a right way to do this. Have you ever searched your desk for a pen and found every stationery item except what you were looking for? 

You don’t want your desk to be too cluttered – but you also don’t want it to be completely devoid of office supplies. Being able to reach for a sticky note in the middle of a phone call is handy indeed. 

We recommend cutting down on mess by designating an area where staff can find stationery when needed. This could be as big as a well-organized closet or a few drawers in a common area dedicated to office supplies. 

You’ll also want to enforce a clean desk policy to keep other clutter at bay. Consider purchasing desk organizers and limiting the amount of stationery at each work station to whatever fits in it. 

If you need a little inspiration, here’s Marie Kondo giving someone’s workspace a clean-up makeover. 

“Marie Kondo Helped Me Organize My Desk,” BuzzFeed Nifty

Step 4. Simplify your receipt management and expense tracking

Like we talked about in step one, nothing creates more chaos on a desk than loose papers. Receipts are small and tend to appear everywhere and anywhere if we don’t have an appropriate management system. You’ll find them hidden in your briefcase/purse, lining your pockets, or even taped to your monitor as a reminder to file them. 

Perhaps some of your receipts are destined for the trash can – you don’t need to keep your daily coffee receipts – but don’t be so quick to throw them all out. You need to keep all of the receipts for business-related expenses.

Utilizing a receipt management system eliminates clutter, keeps you organized, and mitigates risk by avoiding lost or damaged receipts. This is a seemingly small step that will make a big impact on your journey to streamlining your office space. 

That’s why we recommend Shoeboxed’s receipt management app. Simply scan your receipts using your mobile device’s camera and Shoeboxed will store them in the cloud. 

Turn your receipts into data and deductibles!

The paid version of the app also offers optical character recognition (OCR), which transcribes your receipts so you can easily sort through them and retrieve them using the search feature. 

You can also use Shoeboxed’s app to scan and digitize other paper documents and business cards. If you’re looking to implement step one, consider killing two birds with one stone by using this app for both steps. 

If you have a lot of receipts, it may seem tedious and overwhelming to scan each slip of paper. Shoeboxed subscribers can turn to the Magic Envelope feature. All you need to do is put all of your receipts in the pre-paid, pre-addressed envelope and send them off to Shoeboxed’s headquarters. Our team will do the legwork for you! 

See also: 10 Top Tools to Help You Go Paperless

Step 5. Utilize an online visitor management system to streamline office processes

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses have introduced various ways to manage visitors to their physical offices to help prevent the spread of the virus. While some have adopted more traditional methods by using paper sign-in forms, others have chosen to embrace the shift to digital by turning to virtual registration forms instead. 

The form is usually embedded into your company’s website. That way, your visitors can fill it out before their arrival. This not only cuts your business’ paper waste, it also prevents unnecessary contact between your staff and visitors if they present with symptoms of the virus. It also saves time for your office manager or receptionist, which they can allot to other more important tasks.

Depending on the software you use to manage the forms, you may have the option to develop reports that track visitors as well, providing a great source of internal data for your business.

According to G2, the top visitor management systems are the following:

  1. Envoy Visitors
  2. Traction Guest
  3. The Receptionist
  4. Proxyclick
  5. WorkInSync
  6. SwipedOn
  7. VAMS
  8. Veris Welcome

Step 6. Clean up your computer files

So far, we’ve talked a lot about streamlining your physical office space, but have you considered streamlining your virtual workspace as well? We all know how quickly junk can accumulate in your computer. Before you know it, your “Downloads” folder is overflowing, your desktop has icons for programs you’ve never used, and your bookmarks are filled with recipes and articles you’ll probably never read. 

That’s why we recommend taking a little time out of your week, every week, to sort through your digital files and delete anything unnecessary. You should also be grouping and organizing your folders to make sure they work for you. You don’t want to waste time searching for the file you need. There are a lot of great guides out there to help you get your online self organized. Here’s one we like: 

“The Best Way to Organize Your Computer Files,” by Thomas Frank

Frequently asked questions

What are the benefits of a streamlined office? 

The office plays an important role in keeping day-to-day operations flowing smoothly. An untidy, disorganized, and poorly laid-out office space makes it difficult for both you and your employees to get work done. Streamlining office space will improve your productivity, keep your employees and your clients happy, and reflect well on your business as a whole! 

How do I know if I need a physical office space for my business?

There is a shrinking demand for physical office spaces. After the pandemic forced businesses to shift to remote work, employees quickly recognized the benefits of working from home. No commute means less wasted time and lower costs. Less face-to-face contact removes the need for rigid business suits, with many opting for more comfortable, casual clothing. 

There’s also the flexibility of being able to work from anywhere; many people took this opportunity to work from their summer homes, travel, or visit family. What’s stopping you from taking your laptop to the beach in LA or sitting meetings in a cafe in Paris? 

As long as you’re connected, your ability to work can’t be hindered. Now that countries are loosening their restrictions, however, many businesses are moving to bring employees back into the office. There are upsides and downsides to this – employees who have embraced the remote lifestyle have been quick to leave jobs that forced them to work in-person. But many look forward to the return of the collaborative environment and feeling of connectedness that comes with a physical office space. 

Before you choose to invest in or get rid of an office space, it’s best to consider the following 5 questions:

How many employees do I have?
Very small teams don’t necessarily require a physical space, and it may be more cost-effective to remain online.

Where do my employees currently live?
Many businesses hired nationwide, or even worldwide, to take advantage of remote working during the pandemic. Do you have any employees that live too far to commute to the office?

What costs will I incur/save by investing in or moving out of an office space?
It’s important to understand the cost benefits and disadvantages that come with a physical office space. 

Do my clients want to attend in-person meetings?
Will you be hosting meetings in your meeting rooms, or will they become glorified storage areas? If you don’t need to bring clients into the office, you may want to opt for a smaller space. 

What are the environmental impacts of transitioning to remote work?
Office chairs, desks, filing cabinets, and more – where is all this waste going as you move away from a physical office space? Check out this article by Hootsuite that details the surprising ways moving your workspace online can negatively impact the environment. 

Final thoughts

When it comes to offices, disorganization can cause big problems. This includes hindering productivity, risking lost documents, negatively affecting employee satisfaction, and displaying a poor reflection of your business’ internal operations. 

Transforming a workplace into a well-oiled machine won’t happen overnight, but the steps to get there don’t have to be difficult—and, by following our six tips to streamline your office space, you’ll be well on your way to office organization heaven

Originally published on December 5, 2017. Updated on August 22, 2022.

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