Basic Principles For Running An Efficient Office

Putting in place simple office procedures and systems, which are quite often overlooked as they are not direct to your revenues, can ensure that your office runs smoothly. Improving your business systems will allow you to work in an efficient manner which in turn brings fewer frustrations, lower costs, more time and value to your business.

It would be very easy for me to sit here and tell you to do this and do that when running your business; but we all know that we have different personalities, work patterns and run different types of businesses. However, we all have to manage the day-to-day demands and the decision-making processes unique to our business. Having an efficient office can improve your success and help you achieve your goals.

Below are some specific points to consider when putting in place office systems:

Office Layout

For an office to be efficient you firstly need to think about your furniture and equipment. Avoid using built-in desks and other furniture if possible, as your business grows your workflow will change and movable equipment is easily rearranged.

Think carefully when planning your office space. Save precious time in your day-to-day work by having active storage – organise what you need to be nearby and where you use it. Use your common sense, there is no point filing a book you use daily right on the top shelf. Avoid placing equipment and supplies where you’ll have to move them again and again to reach other items.

Business Documents

Design your logo, documents and fonts to reflect your business. Documents include letters, invoices, emails, compliment slips and signatures for example. Setting up standard templates ensures consistency.

Filing system

A filing system is only useful if you know where to find the information you need and a good one means that a piece of paper only needs to be handled once before it goes where it belongs.

Your office filing system should separate all information into logical and easy to find categories. All documents that are important e.g. correspondence, reports, minutes, proposals, accounts, contracts and job descriptions should be filed.

Unless clients regularly visit your office, the efficiency of your system is probably more important than how it looks.

Archive documents to minimise expensive office space – microfilm, storage containers, PST files, CD/DVD copies are some ways of achieving this.

Information Systems

Everyone in your office should have easy access to certain important information. This can be achieved by setting up an Intranet, placing charts/lists on walls or setting up a paper file centrally in the office. Examples of information that should be available are:

  • Standard Office Procedures (Further information can be found at Knoji)
  • Company Aims and Plans
  • A calendar of important dates e.g. business meetings, deadlines, staff holidays
  • A chart that maps progress of projects
  • A list of employees, contractors and services with contact details
  • Blank forms and templates e.g. timesheets, financial claim forms
  • But all of the above needs to be up to date. Plan in time to ensure that the above is reviewed


Your computer will run more efficiently if you regularly check for updates to your machine, ensure antivirus software is current and regularly back up files. Ensure that you are consistent with filenames and where electronic information is filed. Make sure you schedule in time weekly to ensure these tasks are fulfilled.

Time Management

Good time management, and planning, helps to improve business. Keep task lists, plan your time and set yourself realistic time frames. Don’t flit between jobs and tasks, you will lose the thread and often feel that you haven’t accomplished anything.

Below is a list, which although may seem very basic will help you to be in control and free up time for paid work.

  • Set up a timetable for regular tasks e.g. beginning of the month for your accounts.
  • Friday morning file, once a month or once a week update your contacts, banking on a Friday, stock take on a Monday… whatever suits your needs?.
  • Between 9 and 10 is a good time to make phone calls as most people are at their desk then? or early in the afternoon.
  • First thing in the morning deal with emails, then again after lunch and just before you finish for the day?

Office Housekeeping

Office housekeeping requires skill, time and patience and is an essential part of keeping your office running smoothly. Applying the concept little and often will keep systems running smoothly, emails and paperwork easily accessible and your in-tray a place you want to be.

Information, people and resources are the lifeblood of any organisation. If you do not have systems for managing and controlling all these things your organisation can become inefficient. Setting up these systems will help you now and in the future as your business grows. These procedures will already be set up and as you employ more people procedures will be in place for them to follow.

Eliminate stress, clutter, and unnecessary interruptions and your office will run more efficiently. Time is money and any system which frees up your time to work on generating profits is essential to your business.

This article has been kindly written by Emma Windsor who is a Virtual PA. You can also follow Emma on Twitter

Image: Simon Howden /

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11 thoughts on “Basic Principles For Running An Efficient Office

  1. I work as a solo act, but most of this information still applies. I’m pretty flexible with my schedule, but I’m super organized and my office set-up is more efficient than what I ever had in a traditional office environment. It’s a lot easier to be focused and successful as an entrepreneur when we set up our work space and organize our tasks in a way that supports our work.
    .-= Jean Sarauer´s last blog ..Top Blogging Mistakes Revealed =-.

  2. I am just in the process of making my ‘study’ at home less like a study and more like an office. I have been concerned for some time that the room I use working from home has too many distractions and not enough desk space. I also need more space for files and in a place that make them easier to access. Previous to being self employed I had my own office in which I spent one day a week processing my admin in a very efficient way. When I can afford it I am looking to rent office space. Does anyone else feel like me that working from home does not always support an efficient way of working?

  3. Hi Adrian
    Working from does work for many people. You do need however to create a space or have a room that is away from the general everyday activities happening in the home. Some have found having a garden office works well as it is separate from the home but is convenient and cheaper than renting an office.

  4. Another important aspect to running a successful office and business in my mind is to make it somewhere people WANT to be. Perhaps have a room solely for thinking (depending of course on the job, thinking is vital for designers and the like) or looking at inspiration (perhaps lots of posters, or a fishtank?) and another room for lunch, which could have a pingball machine or a large selection of food.

    This of course depends on the size of the business, I know places like Google and Pixar already have this kind of office and find it VERY successful.

  5. I am very pleased that my article has sparked off some great discussion points.
    Adrian, when I set up my office I cleared everything out and then only put back in what I needed for work. Sometimes people feel the need to have everything around them when in fact many things could be archived. I suggest to people that they only have what they need daily on the office desk or reachable without standing up and then other items that are not need as regularly can be put out of reaching distance.
    I am not saying you are like this but I do go into many offices that are just overloaded with paperwork, emails and documents. To be efficient and able to work in a clear and organised manner we have to be ruthless and de-clutter. If you are unsure about throwing some things out then put it in the loft. You’ll know soon enough whether or not it is needed.
    And don’t forget Accounting papers, Health and Safety documents, Staff & Employment Records etc. need to be kept for several years

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