Employees lose about two hours per week searching for lost digital documents. Clutter, in general, affects work performance and productivity, raises stress levels and creates distractions. As a small-business owner, it's your responsibility to set reorganization goals and come up with a strategy to accomplish them. This way, you will not only keep your work space clutter-free but also improve the work environment and boost team morale.

Why the Physical Workspace Matters

When you start a small business, you only have a few employees and may not need a lot of space. A couple of desks, computers and records are more than enough. However, as your business grows, you may need to expand or reorganize your work space. This will prevent documents from piling up and give your office a welcoming vibe.

An organized work space can lead to greater productivity and motivation. The brain gets easily distracted when there is a lot of clutter.

If your employees can easily find what they need, they work more efficiently. Plus, they won't waste hours searching for documents and records. Place identity, a concept that describes how people feel about the space, has a direct impact on employee engagement, loyalty and relationships.

The physical work space can make or break the employee experience, but it also influences your company's image. If, say, you own a consulting firm, you want to make your guests feel comfortable — after all, those guests might be potential customers. A cluttered office could turn them away and reflect negatively on your brand. Those who step foot into your office might think that you don't value your team enough or that your staff is disorganized.

When to Reorganize the Workplace

Depending on your particular situation, you may need to move your office or simply reorganize the workplace. For example, many companies are switching to open spaces to improve communication among employees, foster collaboration and maximize flexibility. However, the open office layout isn't for everyone. As a small business, you need to develop a reorganization plan based on your employees' needs, corporate culture and type of business.

In general, it's easy to tell whether you need more or less space. If, say, you find yourself surrounded by piles of documents and lack the space needed for new computers and office equipment, then it's time to do something about it. Watch out for the following signs as well:

  • Employees are bumping into each other

  • Morale is low

  • Inefficiencies are rampant

  • Your office location is holding you back

  • You're experiencing unexpected departmental growth

  • The work space is poorly laid out for your needs

  • Your office looks dated and worn out

  • Your inventory is growing

  • Rent is too high

  • You simply need more space

Reorganizing the work space doesn't have to take weeks. Small touches like new lighting, fresh paint and ergonomic desks can make all the difference. It all comes down to your reorganization goals. Digitizing your documents, for example, can free up office space while improving collaboration among cross-functional teams. A different office layout may increase employee productivity and engagement.

Change Your Office Layout

A simple way to reorganize the work space is to change your office layout. Open-plan offices create the impression of space and promote collaboration. Plus, they can be reconfigured easily. Depending on your reorganization goals, you may replace desks with multi-person work tables or line them up side by side.

If your employees prefer to have privacy, then cellular offices are a good choice. These layouts may improve focus and concentration, eliminate distraction and foster autonomous work. On the negative side, they hinder communication between employees and take up a lot of space. An alternative is the low-partition office layout, which allows for more interaction among team members.

Team enclosures, on the other hand, are suitable for organizations that assign different projects to different teams. This type of office layout is ideal for creative spaces and fosters collaboration. A digital marketing agency, for example, may have separate enclosures for its web design teams and sales teams. Depending on how much space you have, you can set up idea banks, easy-to-move laptop desks, standing desks or flexible work spaces and meeting rooms.

Get Rid of Clutter

Working in a cluttered space is a lot like driving during rush hour when it takes you hours to arrive at the destination. A disorganized work space can hinder productivity and affect your company's bottom line. To organize your office more efficiently:

  • Get rid of everything you don't need or use anymore, from old computers and decorations covered with dust to duplicated documents

  • Digitize your documents and store them in the cloud to keep them secure and to free up office space

  • Invest in cabinets, drawers, containers and other storage solutions

  • Set up a drop zone where your employees can leave their cellphones, keys, briefcases and other personal belongings

  • Establish regular cleaning days with snacks, beverages and team competitions

  • Stop stockpiling office supplies; your employees don't need 10 pens on their desks

Leverage technology to free up your space. Conference room projectors, for example, can be replaced with wireless presentation hardware. This way, you won't have to waste time searching for the right adaptor.

Also, try to digitize paper documents instead of keeping them on your desk or setting up storage rooms. Use this strategy for payroll records, financial records, sales reports, partnership agreements, client lists and contracts. Keep both paper and electronic copies of any documents containing sensitive data. Sort them into categories and set up a clear file-naming system so you can locate them more easily.

Brainstorm Reorganization Strategies

Try to come up with reorganization strategies to optimize your workplace. Start by eliminating spaces that serve no purpose and could be used in a more efficient manner.

Consider turning empty spaces into cozy common areas where employees can work together. If you need more space, you may turn the main lunch area into an office and set up small areas with snack bars and water dispensers.

If you're trying to boost employee well-being, set up areas where they can chill or exercise. IKEA, for instance, has on-site gym facilities, meditation rooms, quiet rooms and shared work spaces at its headquarters in Älmhult, Sweden. Its employees enjoy flexible seating options and have access to outdoor workstations and snack bars on each floor of the building. The work environment is relaxed and welcoming, which reflects on the company's performance.

Low-Cost, High-Impact Solutions

As a small business, you can resort to low-cost, high-impact solutions to keep your staff happy and to maximize the work space. Setting up multifunctional spaces, for example, is a great way to free up valuable desk space. The reception area can double as a lounge and chill zone in small offices.

Replace heavy desks with lightweight furniture pieces that can be easily moved around, and opt for pale colors to create the impression of a larger office. Use vertical storage spaces for mail, office supplies, inspiration boards and other items.

Another option is to allow your employees to work remotely. This way, you'll free up physical space, cut costs and reduce stress in the workplace. Plus, you may find it easier to attract and retain talent, especially young professionals who prefer a flexible work environment.