With all the other things small business owners and entrepreneurs have on their plates, it can be hard to put cleaning and organization on the list of priorities. But these aren’t just “nice-to-haves.” An orderly and tidy workplace improves productivity, boosts morale and reduces absenteeism.
“Go through papers, files and drawers and get rid of those things that are no longer needed or outdated,” says Mitzi Weinman, a Needham, MA–based time strategist and author with Time Finder.
1. Higher productivity & accuracy. Cleaning and organizing is crucial to help employees do their jobs more effectively. Reducing germs in the workplace keeps your team healthier — which is important when you consider that a Staples survey found that employees experience a 50 percent drop in productivity when working while sick. Organization keeps staff focused. “If you’re sitting at a desk where exactly what you need is within reach, you don’t have to go look for something,” explains Amanda LeBlanc, professional lifestyle organizer and designer for The Amandas, with offices in Birmingham, AL and Metairie, LA. A few minutes searching for something at your workspace or in the supply cabinet adds up over a week, but research shows the lost physical time is amplified by lost mental time. Researchers at Michigan State University discovered that interruptions that last a scant 4.4 seconds triple the rate of errors on the work we return to. So minimizing unnecessary distractions like looking for a stapler or file boosts output and accuracy.
2. Fewer injuries. Having a safe place for everything, including office equipment, storage items, etc., reduces the likelihood that employees, vendors and visitors will get hurt and file worker’s comp and health insurance and even liability claims. Slips, trips and falls account for more than 9 million emergency room visits each year, according to the National Floor Safety Institute.
3. Lower absenteeism. Businesses lose 111 million workdays each year to the flu alone, according to the CDC. “A clean environment helps promote better health,” says Marie Stegner, the consumer health advocate and blogger for Atlanta-based Maid Brigade, Inc. “Dirt, germs, dust buildup and poor indoor air quality all contribute to colds, the flu, viruses, asthma and allergic reactions.” So clean up those work surfaces, break-rooms and bathrooms.
4. Accurate supply inventories. Organizing supplies lowers unnecessary spend and downtime. Keeping supplies in a central, organized location minimizes over-ordering. By some estimates, businesses with fewer than 5 employees spend up to $1,844 per employee on office supplies and furniture, software and technology, and cleaning and breakroom products. When you can easily see what’s in stock, you reduce duplicate orders and lost time from last-second runs to the office supply store. Another great way to cut costs is purchasing store brands, which often offer a better everyday value without sacrificing quality or performance.
5. Proper document storage & retention. “You never know when you are going to need certain financial records and other business data,” Weinman cautions. “Not having it could lead to legal repercussions.” Establish a records management system to properly retain important documents like contracts, receipts, tax returns, etc. It’s also important to make sure you’re storing sensitive information appropriately. The 2014 Cost of Data Breach Study in the United States calculated the cost of each lost or stolen record containing sensitive information was $201 in 2014.
How do you make a cleaner office happen? Make a plan! “Not having a plan at the outset can create chaos and take more time than necessary,” Weinman explains, “taking away from the business of making money.” Our experts suggest a few must-have products to help you keep the office uncluttered, clean and organized all year long:
All-purpose cleaners & disinfectant. “Both products, used simultaneously, will clean and disinfect any surface, thereby reducing germs,” Stegner notes. “First, use an all-purpose cleaner to remove the dirt.” She prefers nontoxic, eco-conscious ingredients, free of chemicals. “And second, apply a disinfectant to get rid of the bacteria.”
Microfiber cloths. “They trap the dust and dirt instead of releasing it back into the air,” Stegner says. “Microfiber is engineered to trap dust and dirt better than terry or other cloth materials, so usually less cleaning fluid is needed to be effective.”
All-in-one printer. “Most important is the scanning feature,” says New York-based professional organizer Donna David. “I scan nearly all of my important documents and store in My Documents and in the cloud so I can shred the original paperwork.”
Shredder. “Constantly utilize this to properly discard your confidential documents and paperwork,” David adds.
Plastic storage boxes. “Great for keeping office supplies together and contained,” notes Monica Friel, chief executive organizer of Chaos To Order in Chicago. They come in many sizes for different types of items, including files, books and project supplies.
Label maker. Make it easy to know what’s in those boxes and files. “You can color coordinate with different colored tape for different areas of the office,” says Melissa Shmalenberger, an organizer and simplicity expert in Fargo, ND.