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Saving Time in The Office: Time Management Tips & Tools

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            Small business owners, managers, and office workers looking for time savers in the office have many options at their disposal. Several simple and often overlooked changes in the office or workspace can significantly save time, improve productivity, and increase job satisfaction.

How to Save Time in the Office Via Better Organization

            The more organized an office and its workers are, the less time will be wasted searching for necessary items and information. Here are a few ways to tackle all the clutter and ensure that necessary or urgent items are easily accessible:

  • Desktops should be clean and orderly. Workers can easily eat up precious time searching for a pen that works, digging out their keyboard, or otherwise trying to locate some lost, but essential item (such as desk space!) on their desk top. Some organizations can benefit from hiring an administrative staff and a cleaner to support.
  • Work-from-home has sped up considerably since COVID-19 began. To help workers become more organized in the home office, organizations can benefit from having a newsletter that comes out every once in a while, to remind employees of the benefits of keeping the office clean.
  • Make sure the office is stocked with the necessary supplies and that all the needed equipment is present and working properly. Maintaining an action items list can be beneficial to some.
  • A clear, detailed paper filing system is a must! That is especially true for highly regulated industries and corporations. Be sure to maximize file holders and cabinets. A tremendous amount of time can be lost searching for that illusive customer invoice or purchase receipt. Many organizations have seen a vast improvement in record keeping by moving their data into digital format, including the cloud.

Organizing an Employee's Schedule to Maximize Productivity

            Most people recognize for themselves that certain times of the day are more productive than others. The goal in time management is knowing how to maximize the productive times and better manage, while even making use of the down time if necessary.

  • The ubiquitous to-do list or action item list is a simple, yet highly effective time management tool that should be used in some form throughout the day. It is also a good idea to spend a few minutes at the end of the day thinking about the follow day’s agenda.
  • Office workers should try to do related tasks in groups or “batches” when possible.
  • Make sure there is sufficient time for breaks scheduled into the day as well as the work week and year. It can be a break from the same activity, or to give some time to think of a technical issue. Where possible, this includes scheduling yearly vacation time as well as sick leave and personal days. In moderation, revitalized employees are likely to be more focused and productive. There are multiple solutions that allow for out of office scheduling within the team, it can range from a specialized software, SharePoint, to a simple Excel.

                  Every organization is faced with administrative or maintenance work. They are often laborious and dull to some, yet are essential to the functioning of the organization in the long-run. Workers should have a list of down time activities, such as filing, cleaning up clutter, technical debt, and answering emails. The low end of most cyclical work cycles such as the end of year and summer break (parents taking time off) is a good time to accelerate some of the administrative and maintenance work that has been postponed.

      Organizing the Workspace with Time Management in Mind

                  The actual set up of an office can greatly impact time management and productivity and in short, itself be a big time saver. Here are some tips business owners and managers should keep in mind when setting up their office:

      • There should be adequate lighting and ventilation and the office temperature should be kept at a comfortable range. According to the Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety, the optimal temperature range is between 21-23 C (or 69-73 F).
      • Office equipment should be purchased and set up with worker ergonomics in mind so that less strain will be placed on the body and thus fewer breaks will be needed. Ergonomic materials can be costly and may vary greatly in efficacy from employee to employee. Therefore, it is often preferable to have a basic set of equipment while giving employees the option to opt-in for something slightly more robust for their own personal need. Some organizations will have an ergonomic specialist point of contact to help the employee decide what would work best.

        Some Technology Time Savers for Office Workers to Improve Efficiency

                    All the technological advances in mobile computing and communications can and do have two contradictory consequences: 1) numerous tools exist that can greatly improve time management in the office environment and; 2) at the same time, many of these tools can be big attention-grabbers, time-guzzlers and can easily become overused. Here are a few time management tips for technology:

        • First, workers should make sure that their computer desktops are well organized.
        • Work time spent on social networking sites, such as Twitter, Facebook and even Slack which are well-known time-guzzlers, should be limited. Unless that is necessary for the duties of the worker(s).
        • Concerning email: workers should do away with email updates that can constantly interrupt workflow. Email messages should be filed in inbox folders with labels such as, “Urgent,” “Read,” and “Personal.” Where possible, a separate email account for personal messages should be created and used. Separation of work and personal material is a cybersecurity concern, therefore both employer and employees should take it seriously.
        • Office workers should choose the standby option on their computer instead of shutting it down when they step away for short periods of time. Do not leave electronics unattended whenever possible and always get used to physically and digitally lock-it in. Laptop Locks and Windows Key+L command should become a habit.
        • When dealing with a lot of customer information, business owners and managers should look into the numerous corporate software applications designed to store, manage, analyze, and back up vital and sensitive business information so that this info can be easily located and accessed by those who need it. Data governance and cybersecurity considerations are essential. Some of these apps, such as Redmine, are even free. There are also several collaboration tools, such as Google Docs, that can save valuable time by improving information sharing and communications. Do not keep customer, supplier, and employee’s personally identifiable information (PII) in non-secure systems.
        • Finally, it is worthwhile for all office workers to be fully trained on any of the software tools that they are using. Many programs have underutilized features, such as mail merge, that can be big time savers in the office.
        • For supervisors interested improving their activities within the organization, refer to the Toolkit for a Successful Manager.

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