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Workplace Strategies To Boost Your Bottom Line Without Firing Anyone!

Workplace Strategies To Boost Your Bottom Line Without Firing Anyone!

Even though we are all familiar with the economic uncertainties that time has brought, particularly in the face of downsizing and restructuring the gravitational pull is now towards the optimisation of workspace and human capital.

In this edition of series of guides we present 23 workplace strategies to boost your bottom line without firing anyone.

1 – Let offsite storage companies free up expensive desk, floor and office space

If you are like most organisations you and your staff will have perfected the art of negotiating a route around the bundles and boxes of documents and files that have become an accepted part of everyday life at work.

You probably realise that most of the information is hardly ever needed, know it should not be clogging up corners, cupboards and corridors; accept that it is a health and safety hazard and would wager that no-one could lay their hands on information quickly even if they needed to do so.

So why not free up expensive desk, floor and office space by calling in a team of document management and storage experts.

Storage enables those records that are no longer current, but which cannot be destroyed for reasons of infrequent administrative use or legal imperative, to be stored in a secure, monitored environment at a rate much cheaper than office rent.

All good offsite storage companies understand that the control of your files is as much a part of the management function as control of any other vital asset. They treat records as a significant corporate resource, and have developed solutions that will boost your efficiency levels and reduce occupancy costs.

Most will have both large areas of warehouse space for non-current records, and

environmentally controlled media rooms for the storage of vital electronic data at the correct environmental conditions.

2 – Sublet vacant or unused space

The sublease market has been a consistent growth area in the office sector during the past few years, driven mainly by corporate restructuring and downsizing, but also by companies seeking to convert surplus office space into additional income.

Before considering subletting or assignment, it is wise to have the relevant clauses in your lease scrutinised by a competent commercial property lawyer. A consultation with a commercial property agent will enable you to be realistic about the availability of suitable tenants and the terms you should offer – particularly in a tight market. Also, factor into your budget the cost of any refurbishment work required, together with professional fees and marketing costs.

Your property agent will advise you whether to offer different rents for subdivided space on different floors or with different views. If the premium space is leased first, make sure you are not left with remaining space rendered almost unlettable.

Your sublet space should be in a well-maintained, marketable condition. Always take professional advice from your appointed property agent, and a reputable firm of office fit-out consultants, to clearly ascertain what works need to be carried out prior to putting the space on the market.

In short, configure your space so that it hits the hot buttons:

• Refurbished ready for occupation

• Light, bright and airy

• Fixed service charge

• Flexible terms

• Accommodating landlord

• Furnished

3 – Invest in the latest technology

We have not just been imagining it – as far as working life goes, everything is getting smaller.

The cutting-edge products on the market today, from mobile phones to laptops, are more compact and bijou than ever before and have transformed efficiency and productivity levels.

Among the best examples of the contribution made by IT to space optimisation is the advent of compact and lightweight LCD monitors.

Not only do they take up less of your desktop space, they can also be used in many places where a larger monitor cannot fit. Typically, a 12″ LCD monitor with a stand takes up only about one-third of the desk space of a typical 14″ CRT monitor.

Besides being compact and space saving, LCD displays offer several other benefits. For one, LCD monitors consume much less energy than CRT monitors which, of course, has made them great for laptop and portable computers. Secondly, CRT monitors are known to emit harmful radiation, whereas LCD monitors do not and thirdly, the development of LCD monitors has spawned a raft of space saving furniture and storage systems, which allow more people to work in less space.

An LCD monitor will cost more up front, but they will produce far less heat than CRT monitors, which will generate savings from reduced office cooling requirements. So, although on the face of it the savings may not seem much for an individual user, in an office where 50 displays are in use the savings can quickly become much more of an issue.

4 – Renegotiate with your landlord

The current recession has confronted landlords with the need to be much more flexible in the lease terms they were prepared to agree, and many continue to understand the need for a realistic and commercial outlook.

Whether you want to reduce your rent in return for a longer term, or take advantage of your landlord’s plans to redevelop the building, it is worth consulting with him and learning more about his long-term plans for the building.

In some circumstances you might also want to take advantage of the current market by extending the lease or creating an opportunity to renegotiate some of the nastier lease clauses out of the agreement – e.g. introduce a Service Charge cap or renegotiate onerous dilapidations clauses.

If you meet with your landlord often, have good dialogue with him and feel confident handling the negotiations yourself, it might be wise to consult a commercial property lawyer to review the covenants within your lease to ensure you get the best deal.

If your landlord is a faceless name, it will be wise to instruct an experienced commercial agent with whom you can discuss options, learn about prevailing market conditions and benefit from similar deals secured by him for clients in situations such as yours.

5 – Investigate relocating to new offices

When market forces place the balance of influence in the hands of the tenant, it is an excellent time to prospect the market for alternative space.

If you are not using all your existing space, moving into smaller premises, for instance, could make a dramatic contribution to reducing overheads without any commensurate loss of productivity. Indeed, having staff working closer together in well-designed space, can actually improve morale and efficiency levels.

If space is not your issue, moving could be an option if the original benefits of your prime address are now outweighed by the reduced rent or property costs of a less prestigious part of town or an out-of-town site.

And as a flip side to that coin, if you do feel the need to move to a high profile location, be sure to launch marketing and awareness-building campaigns to leverage the prestigious address or landmark building you have chosen. The additional kudos and new business that may stem from your choice of up-market location could offset the higher occupancy costs.

Of course, before considering relocation always ensure that you take professional advice from a property agent and an experienced fit-out consultant to make sure that all aspects of the project have been taken into consideration, planned and accurately budgeted.

6 – Consolidate premises

If your business is multi-sited, perhaps as a result of acquisitions, consolidating facilities can quickly strip superfluous costs and make a significant contribution to profitability.

The downside is that the process of combining even two locations can often become a logistical nightmare, so it is just as well that there are experienced fit-out firms with move management expertise available to advise you and project manage the entire process.

The good ones understand that move management must be handled like a military exercise if pitfalls are to be avoided and costs controlled. Without a safe pair of hands on board, the process can end up costing you thousands in lost productivity.

Be sure to interview and study several companies before instructing the one you want to work with. Pay close attention to the type of questions they ask. Satisfy yourself that they are not just concerned with showing you project planning charts and catalogues of office furniture, and are instead genuinely interested in learning how your business functions, so that they can make recommendations that will increase your business efficiency.

Planning is where the battle is won. Careful management and scheduling will make a world of difference. Be sure to take professional project management advice.

7 – Consider moving to serviced offices

For many companies it is ideal to have flexible office space in a good location and to pay for it with one monthly payment, which could typically include rates, service charge, electricity, and cleaning as well as furniture, receptionist and secretarial services.

Add to the mix the chance to have access to modern office equipment without having to buy it, and all the support services needed to conduct business in hand on an as-you-need-them basis, then it is not surprising that serviced offices have grown in popularity in recent years.

Neither are today’s serviced offices necessarily more expensive. For smaller companies, in particular, many of the deals currently available have been configured to work out cheaper, whilst allowing maximum flexibility and freedom.

8 – Investigate hot-desking

If you stopped to calculate it, there is a good chance that you would be alarmed by the true cost of providing your staff with workspace (proportion of rent, rates or building purchase costs, heating, lighting, fittings, furniture, services, etc).

Add to the cost the fact that many ‘office staff’ actually spend considerable time away from their offices – at customer s premises, at meetings, onsite, at conferences, etc – and it is easy to see why more and more companies are looking at hot-desking in its various guises.

The concept originates from an old practice in warships, where, to save valuable space, bunks were shared by sailors who were on different shifts.

Today, hot-desking applies to the sharing of a desk/seat/workstation arrangement by more than one member of staff.

If it is a real consideration for your business model, it might be worth speaking to your fit-out or furniture consultant about cost planning.

9 – Allow certain staff to work from home

For many individuals, actually being in the office each day is as important a part of working life as the role they perform while undertaking their job role.

Although some may rise to the challenge of home-working, do not underestimate the culture change that remote workers will experience and must embrace in order to remain productive. In some cases, the negative impact on productivity may outweigh any overhead savings.

One of the things home-workers say they initially fear most is isolation; losing touch with their colleagues, and not being up-to-date with any changes in their company. That is why, if you introduce home-working, you should consider setting up an Intranet with dedicated community spots. It pays to even go to the lengths of introducing informal gossip and chat rooms so that remote workers know what everyone is up to.

From your own perspective, security may also be an issue. Apart from impressing upon individuals the importance of safeguarding equipment from theft, it is essential that your IT infrastructure is sufficiently tight to keep unwanted users out.

Think about introducing a home-workers code of practice or charter that explains to people what is expected of them. When people are working nomadically, it is particularly important that you have the technology needed to back-up data, and the discipline to make sure that it is done.

Viruses are another home-working headache. A lot of viruses are caught during home surfing, particularly as individuals are likely to be using their machines for personal use as well as business purposes. Make sure your IT and webmasters have the very latest in anti-virus software and firewall protection in place.

10 – Commission a Workplace Audit to make sure your business is running at

optimum efficiency

Successful businesses know how dramatically their profitability can be enhanced when their business runs at maximum efficiency, and it is the role of experienced workplace consultants to help you streamline operations, identify savings and reduce wastage.

They explore management and staff attitudes to layout, processes, location and workflow, they assess working styles, relationships between departments, paper-flow, and access to equipment services and facilities, and then consider business forecasts for growth or shrinkage.

They study your existing technology infrastructure, and identify any functions that could be outsourced. At the end of the process they produce frameworks and principles to apply to new chosen workplaces.

They establish whether the space within your building supports staff in their efforts to meet their operational objectives. They audit space utilisation and illustrate findings on layouts using CAD plans and visuals, which are then presented to you for comment and feedback.

The market leaders will then be able to plug their findings into a competent design and fit-out solutions business, which will deliver the programme of work needed to boost your efficiency levels and productivity.

11 – Make sure you are taking full advantage of available Capital Allowances

Throughout the life of a business, investments are made in fixed capital assets for use in the business. Over a period of time, as the assets are used, they will generally fall in value and this reducing value will be reflected in profitability.

However, capital costs are not directly tax deductible like overheads and so instead a relief is given by way of Capital Allowances that are deducted from taxable profits and which reflect the depreciation in value over the life of the asset.

Whilst you cannot deduct expenditure on items of a capital nature directly from business profits, you can deduct Capital Allowances and it is worth making sure your bottom line is enjoying the maximum advantage.

The allowances themselves are based on the cost of the capital item and can include the cost of some elements of an office fit-out and refurbishment. Be careful though to distinguish between repairs, which can be set off against profits and fit-out costs that are treated as capital.

Take advice from a capital allowance or tax specialist to ensure that you achieve the optimal tax position.

12 – Look at the feasibility of a sale and leaseback deal

Even though commercial property is traditionally the second or third largest balance sheet item for many owner-occupiers, its relative importance has not always been recognised because property is often seen as an inflexible consequence of existing as a business rather than a strategic asset.

If you are a property owner, restructuring the basis of your ownership through a sale and leaseback arrangement can free up a significant amount of working capital for reinvestment into the business be it for acquisitions, or for the purchase of plant and machinery, the returns on which often outweigh the cost of renting the building back.

13 – Review the business rates you are paying

The rateable value of your business premises and the amount you are actually paying is substantial enough to warrant regular reviews.

If you are paying too much, the possibility of a reduction would be welcome, and even if you are not, there is the peace of mind of putting another tick in a good housekeeping box.

It is particularly important to look at business rates if you are considering subletting, or planning to enter into lease negotiations with your landlord.

You should consult with the rating department of a commercial property agent who will review the rateable value of your property and secure a reduction on your behalf, if appropriate.

The agent s team will ensure that your claim is optimised, and in many cases, will be prepared to work with you on a shared gain basis. They will also advise you whether half rates are available on your unused office space.

14 – Weigh up the pros and cons of outsourcing

One of the battle cries in business today is to determine the one thing that your business does best, become even better at it, and outsource absolutely everything else.

There is certainly a lot to be said for taking a careful look at every function in your business and asking yourself if you should outsource it, particularly given the raft of specialist companies who have entered the market in recent years.

In buoyant markets, outsourcing will avoid having valuable resources sucked into often menial and routine processes, and in a challenging trading climate, outsourcing gives you the chance to utilise certain services on an as-you-need-them basis rather than as a permanent overhead.

Either way, there are significant cost savings to be made, but take a hard look at the numbers before you decide to jump on the bandwagon.

Areas to focus on are facilities management, debt factoring and IT.

15 – Reduce the impact of workplace stress on productivity

Over 90 million working days each year – a third of all sick leave taken across Britain – are lost because of stress.

Not only is this absenteeism likely to cost you dearly in direct terms, but also the negative effects of stress can reduce employee efficiency and motivation. There is also the spectre of compensation claims against you relating directly to stress.

One solution is to familiarise yourself with the sources of stress, and the ways in which you can mitigate it. In many cases the causes are apparent and easily avoided or remedied.

Even where they are not so obvious, any effort on your part to take an empathic approach and address stress-related aspects of your workplace or operations, can serve you well if litigation should come your way.

There are now numerous specialists available to share their research and wisdom on stress and its impact on your bottom line. Most can also recommend cost effective solutions that could, in the long run, make a major contribution to your profitability.

16 – Exercise your break clause

Understanding the nature of the break clause in your lease is as important as making sure you have the right approach to exploiting it.

Around 50% of companies that seek to exercise their break discover to their dismay that they have failed to do so before a deadline. If you intend to exercise a break clause, it is crucial that you check your lease now to make certain that you understand your obligations.

Good housekeeping suggests that you should do this at least 12-18 months before the break date in order to give the relevant notice to your landlord. You might also have to vacate your premises much earlier than you had originally envisaged to ensure there is sufficient time to carry out any dilapidations to your old space, and fit-out works to your new space.

17 – Make sure your air conditioning system is not wasting money

If you do not regularly make sure that your air conditioning system is operating efficiently and only when you need it, there is a good chance that you will be incurring unnecessary costs.

Proper planned preventative maintenance will ensure your system performs to its maximum efficiency, as well as contributing to the system’s longevity. A poorly maintained system can push up energy costs as well as expensive repair and maintenance bills when the system eventually goes wrong or fails to perform.

It is very important to check how the system has been set up and programmed as many companies have reported the heating from their air conditioning working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, when in fact their office only ran for 10 hours a day, 5 days a week.

Many companies also forget to adjust their system for holiday periods such as Christmas and Easter and once again money could be wasted.

A wise move would be to have the system completely checked by a competent firm of consultants and sign up for a fully comprehensive maintenance contract to avoid future problems.

18 – Check for Sick Building Syndrome (SBS)

If your office staff have started to complain of headaches and nausea, feeling lethargic and dizzy, or suffering allergic reactions for the first time, your workplace could be faced with the silent epidemic of Sick Building Syndrome or SBS for short.

Although it may seem that working conditions are so over-regulated that the only illness or injury likely to be suffered from work is strangulation by red tape, experts estimate that 30% of offices have something environmentally wrong with them and that as many as one in three work absences are building-related.

Indeed, because its negative impact on productivity and profitability is considerable, SBS has recently been the focus of huge attention by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). There is said to be a greater likelihood that office staff and their efficiency and productivity will suffer if their working environment features:

Poorly maintained air conditioning

Inadequate ventilation

Fluctuating temperatures

Low standards of hygiene

Poorly designed workstations

High glare and flickering lighting

19 – Ensure that your telecoms provider is pulling its weight

Competition within the telecoms sector means great news if you are looking to optimise your telephone system and reduce your call costs. The very first step in controlling the telecom dragon is commissioning an audit of your current system and the way in which you use it.

This should include a study of your contracts, bills and current network configuration and, ideally, should be unbiased. If you commission a service provider to carry out the audit, expect it to also be free – although you will be expected to take their advice and implement their proposed solutions. In most cases this will feature the best rates available from the best networks and buying power to make sure costs are minimised. Review your call restriction policy on premium numbers, international calls and mobiles where costs can easily run away with themselves. Consider installing a phone logger to

monitor those areas of the business that spend the most.

20 – Think about how you could reduce your utilities bills

Utility costs are a major item of expenditure for most companies, and even a small adjustment can bring about worthwhile operational savings that find their way straight to your bottom line.

Many of the measures are obvious and can be taken immediately. They include adjusting thermostats, installing water flow restrictors, checking heating seals and ducting, replacing air filters, sealing off unused areas, turning off equipment at the end of the working day and generally encouraging employees to be energy conscious. To be sure you have every measure covered, it might be wise to commission a complete building management system audit. Your office fit-out & refurbishment consultant will have teams available to carry this out.

21 – Try to control runaway IT costs

IT hardware and infrastructure costs can so easily become a black hole.

Many business owners are uneasy with rising IT costs, but are either reluctant to meddle with existing infrastructures for fear of disturbing vital network services, or guilty of being too liberal with capital expenditure budgets.

The idea that “if it isn t broken, don’t fix it” often guides the decision to stay with the IT status quo, no matter what it costs. But the truth is, when it comes to IT, it does not have to be broken to need fixing. New technologies emerge, new hardware comes along, and new ways to improve productivity, eliminate downtime, streamline backup processes and squeeze more out of less become available every year.

Investigate the use of portable wireless equipment which allows email, diary management, Internet access and mobile phone use in one handheld device.

The cost of a `Smart Phone’ and other such units are only a fraction of the cost of a laptop or desktop pc and allow the user to access its diary and email anywhere in the world using the GPRS service.

22 – Optimise the workplace

An uncomfortable poorly planned and inefficient working environment invariably reduces employee productivity, morale and absenteeism and leads to a lack of creativity, a greater propensity to make mistakes and poor internal communication.

Europe’s leading ergonomist, Dr Jason Devereux, was commissioned to launch an investigation into the way in which office design and fit-out affects workplace productivity and staff morale. Using his team at the University of Surrey’s European Institute of Health and Medical Sciences, he produced a scientific study on the impact of an office fit-out on productivity.

After workplace optimisation the companies surveyed reported the following:

• Staff morale improved in 80% of companies

• 61% of companies said efficiency increased

• The mood of the employees became more positive in 70% of companies

• The optimisation made staff better organised and more in tune with each other in 87% of companies.

In a similar study in the United States, the Bank of Boston reported that 25% fewer staff produced the same amount of work in 30% less space following the optimisation of its working environment.

Significantly the whole project paid for itself in less than 24 months.

23 – Turn meetings into money

It is 9 am. You have an important report due by the end of the day, at least a dozen phone messages to return, six clients to call, and your email inbox is already screaming for attention.

What you did not anticipate on this exhaustively busy day at the office was an impromptu, unplanned meeting. By 10 am you are checking your watch, and by noon you have pretty much given up any hope of completing that report or getting to your clients because this meeting has got out of hand.

Relax, you are a victim of “Meeting Mania”; a malaise which is stifling productivity, turning the work day into wasted time, wasted energy and most importantly lost profits.

In fact, it is surprising to learn that out of an average day, 37% of a mid-level manager’s time is devoted entirely to meetings. Among top executives, that figure rises to an amazing 75%.

Of course, not all meetings are a waste of time. Some actually do generate great ideas, solve problems, and create solutions. The problem is that most are just too lengthy and take an exorbitant amount of time to overcome the barriers that prevent meeting effectiveness.

Make a start today to end the crass waste of time and money, by introducing a culture that streamlines the meeting process – and watch how quickly huge benefits build up for the company and your employees.

Most UK companies overestimate the amount of meeting space required when in fact 40% of meeting rooms that have been booked in advance, are never actually used.

Source by Alan F Whitehead

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