The recession of the past several years has basically decimated the contingency plans of even the most well-established small businesses. Times were tight for quite a while, and consumers have just recently begun spending again with anything resembling the frequency and quantity seen prior to the economic downturn. Many companies are hanging on by the skin of their teeth, and no business of any size has been completely immune. Success today is as much about keeping a tight handle on expenses as aggressive expansion, and a small workforce that does a stellar job is far more valuable than a massive staff that just goes through the motions. To optimize around the office, check out these five tips to help you run your business more efficiently.

Have you ever considered creating part-time telecommuting opportunities? Bringing in full-time employees is an expensive endeavor. It’s not just those salaries that you have to handle, but their benefits and all of the tax implications as well. If the company workload has increased and you are concerned your employees are taking on too much, and therefore working less efficiently overall, farm these extra tasks out to freelancers working from home. You only have to pay for the work that is done, and you can put a timeline on the tasks that fit with your needs. If all goes well, you might find your in-house employees get more done, and you can allow some of them to telecommute one day a week as well.

Another key to an efficient business is to maintain standard operating practices around the tasks that have to happen all the time. This is often seen within accounting departments, but shouldn’t be relegated to crunching numbers alone. There are tons of jobs inside your company that have to be performed regularly, on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Make sure that your employees, new or old aren’t reinventing the wheel each time. Create a standard of procedures and make sure everyone has it in hand.

Next, take a look around the office and think about how the space is being used. Clutter may be a sign of a genius mind, but it certainly isn’t conducive to an efficient business. Every quarter you should organize a massive declutter around the office. Every employee should keep their personal space put together and clean, but think long and hard about how the space is laid out. Is the current structure of desks and cubicles helping people work together, or is it creating more boundaries? A change in the office organization could make a massive difference in the work that gets done.

Now it’s time to turn your attention to the computer systems used for daily tasks. Technology is on your side when you’re trying to improve the efficiency of your office. And that goes well beyond internet connectivity. Are the computers in your office connected through a cloud system? Cloud services help your employees share documents in real time, and drastically cut down the amount of emails that need to be sent out and the workload on the office printers.

Finally, reach out to your staff once a quarter and discuss improving training techniques. There are often advancements to be made, as new technology is released and past practices are improved upon. But if these changes aren’t brought together for the whole company to take advantage of, they won’t be effective. Use online training, structured meetings and team building activities to get everyone on the same page, and allow your employees to contribute to this process.

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