Not that long ago the idea of a paperless office belonged to a sci-fi future in which people derived sustenance from pills and flew their cars to work. Today, advances in technology have meant that organising paperwork in offices everywhere has meant less clutter, but that doesn’t mean there’s no more admin to do. We explore some administration tips that will help you to keep your working space tip top and clutter-free.
Organising paperwork can feel like a big headache to small business owners who are busy with a host of other daily demands, so it’s tempting to put all your small business paperwork in a pile to worry about later. But small business admin can become much easier to manage with a few good organisational practices. The main thing is that admin needs to become a regular habit. An hour or so a week is all that’s needed to stay on top of your admin by filing your paperwork, emails and correspondence logically in places that are easy to find should you need to access something quickly.
The savings you make by not hiring a working space are often offset by the physical limitations of working from home. If you’re lucky you might have a dedicated office or outbuilding from which to work, but with many businesses being run digitally often only a phone and laptop is needed, which means working at a kitchen table is just as possible. Of course, how much space you need depends a great deal on the nature of your business. If you’re working in a trade, for example, then it’s possible you’ll need a proper workshop space and somewhere to store materials and tools, however, if your business is primarily communications or service-based then perhaps a laptop will suffice.
Doubtless in the course of your work a degree of admin and paperwork will be generated, so you’ll want to keep on top of it. Be sure to archive old files and resources in secure archive boxes that you can store away. If you don’t access something regularly then have a think about how useful it is to keep those materials out. Invest in a few joined-up hours to sort through previous years’ work so you can focus on what’s happening in your business right now.
So what kind of paperwork will a small business generate? Well, presumably you’re offering some kind of product or service, in which case you’ll need to keep tabs on your orders, sales and your financial incomings and outgoings. There’s the correspondence, invoices and receipts, agreements with banks, possible staff contracts and associated paperwork, tax documents, insurers’ certificates, and so on. The detail involved in running a small business can be substantial, but not unmanageable. All of these bits might well find their way into an ever-mounting in-tray, but a few simple home office organisation ideas can keep paperwork chaos at bay.
1) Get hold of some lever arch files
2) Code them by colour, e.g. blue for banking, etc.
3) Organise your files by date (most recent content at the front)
4) Create folder titles: Banking, Customer correspondence, Insurance, Invoices out, Paid invoices in, Receipts, Staff, Insurance, Utilities, etc.
5) Divide the paperwork pile between your files logically
Decluttering your paperwork is the first step to achieving an orderly working space and will assist you in maintaining proper records like bookkeeping or accounts that are required by HMRC. Keep files accessible and orderly so you can delve into them at any time to rectify a query or to cross-reference something. It’s also much better to work in a clutter-free context so you can get on with running your business.
Where home office organisation products are concerned, less is more. Keep your surfaces clear so you can use your space for working rather than storage. A quick online search reveals plenty of home office organisation tips that can help you to get a handle on office clutter.
A good place to start is to keep everything ergonomic by ensure your working position, chair, desk, etc. is comfortable. If you’re going to spend a lot of time there then the last thing you want is to be uncomfortable in your work. Also try to ensure there’s enough natural light and fresh air coming into your workspace and illuminate where necessary.
Magazine racks and closet shelving systems are a good alternative to chunky filing cabinets. Stock up on the stationery you need so you don’t need to keep replenishing supplies, and investigate clever storage solutions to maximise your space so you know where everything is at any one time. A clear working space also has the advantage of giving you space to think clearly too.
Of course, nowadays, the majority of ‘paperwork’ exists in digital form. With the exception of documents like insurance papers that require a physical signature, the digital equivalent usually exists and can be stored in the appropriate file on your computer. While going entirely digital helps you to declutter your office it’s important to backup your files to ensure they remain secure. Using cloud-based software to keep track of your bookkeeping and receipts can further reduce the need for backing up your files or filling your office with paper, so it’s worth considering using software that keeps your documents orderly and backed up.
Having a tidy and orderly home office is great, but if your insurance cover isn’t in order then far greater risks are presented to your business than a stack of paperwork falling over. Get small business insurance from NatWest to keep yourself covered against mishaps. Getting the right insurance is the organisational investment every small business needs.