It's great to be your own boss, but it’s challenging to stay focused when no one's watching over you. Productivity can slip for any number of reasons, whether it's getting distracted by personal email or feeling fidgety after sitting still for too long. So, how can you be the boss and still improve productivity for the company?
Naturally, there's no one-stop solution for productivity issues (if there were, we'd all be successful entrepreneurs). But there's one factor that will affect you no matter who you are or what industry you're in; your workspace.
An unproductive workspace will undermine any attempt you make to improve your productivity. Even if there's no magical solution, there are a few tricks that you can use to optimize your physical space and make sure you're free from time-wasting distractions. Implement a couple of these, and I'm certain you'll see the results in your productive output.
4 Ways to Improve Productivity in the Office
Go Paperless and Categorize Your Documents
You can't go wrong with a clutter-free office, but paper always invites clutter. It’s best to go digital wherever you can. We already live paperless lives to some degree, but what about the tax and legal documents that are only sent to you by paper? I’ve personally taken to scanning all of my documents so that I can quickly refer to them if I need them.
When you’re storing away your hard copies, be rigid with your categories and subcategories. Get a dedicated folder for any grouping of documents that's uncomfortable to sift through by hand (anything over 10-20 pages, say). The next time you need to look up a tax document, you won't have to waste time digging through an archive of unrelated receipts and statements to find it.
Stock Your Kitchen
It's been empirically demonstrated that employee happiness increases when workers have access to snacks, and naturally there are links between happiness and productivity.
Does that mean a pantry full of Oreos is the key to success?
In a sense, yes. While you don't want to distract yourself with frequent trips to the kitchen, you'll work better if you're snacking on something that you enjoy, whether it's Oreos or low-fat yogurt.
Along the same lines, consider investing in quality coffee or tea if you enjoy those drinks. Coffee, in particular, has a strong placebo effect in our culture (is there any workplace that doesn't have a coffee machine?), so it's worth investing in something you like if it gets you fired up.
Dedicate a Space to Meetings and Phone Calls
If you can spare the space and you don't have an official meeting room, consider partitioning your office to create a small private area. Some of the benefits of doing this are obvious: quiet, private spaces are ideal for phone calls and for in-person meetings with contractors, freelancers, and even full-time employees. What's less obvious is the psychological impact a private meeting room has on your own mindset.
Dedicated meeting rooms are valuable for the same reason why people recommend that remote workers set rigid boundaries for where work gets done in the home office. Mentally, it's healthy to have a separate place for work and leisure. It helps you stay focused when you're at work, and it helps you relax when you close the laptop and declare that you're done for the day. Likewise, using the meeting room exclusively for focused, productive discussion helps to keep you from veering off topic.
Make Collaboration Easy
With the rise of coworking spaces for startups and open office layouts at large tech companies, there’s no end to the talk about how collaboration improves office productivity. There are two sides of the coin, of course—some oppose the open office, explaining that noise and distractions decrease productivity. But in a small-scale, controlled setting, offering the opportunity to collaborate makes it easier for employees to share ideas.
Some of the tips that coworking space owners use to design collaborative workspaces are relevant here. The first step is to listen to your team: understand how they like to work, and what they count as a distraction.
Once you find the target sweet spot between open and private layouts, you can begin experimenting. Try different formations of desks and different degrees of noise damping until you hit the target.
Office management is a job in itself, and you can't expect to become an expert overnight. That’s why some choose to rent managed coworking spaces instead. But even if you're not an expert, it's like everything else about being an entrepreneur: you'll learn, over time, to do a good enough job for your own needs. Just don't forget that there's a legitimate productivity upside to proper workspace management.
Stefan Bhagwandin writes content for Share Your Office, a real estate tech startup that offers on-demand listings of offices, meeting rooms, and coworking spaces.