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CleaningHouse_Body.jpgby Heather Chaet.


Whether your office is in the corner of your basement or takes up three floors in a downtown high-rise, maintaining an organized space to conduct business is just as important to your bottom line as that marketing plan. Think about it: if you can't find that marketing plan under a pile of folders on your desk, how can you implement it? Even small organizational tweaks to your office can lead to big gains in business productivity, higher profits, and increased growth.  


Look at what doesn't work first

Before you buy new filing cabinets and white boards, figure out how you and your company work best by getting rid of what doesn't work. “Declutter your office leaving only the items you absolutely need. This can save you hundreds of dollars in unnecessary purchases and will
ultimately give you more space,” says certified professional organizer (CPO) Janet Bernstein of Janet Bernstein Organizers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After you’ve decluttered, think about how you operate and stay organized on a daily basis—and how you don’t. Realize what kind of system will work best for you by examining how you think. “If you're very visual and tend to forget where things are once placed in 
a closed cabinet or drawer, then consider [equipping] your office with open 
shelves or cubbies. Everything can still be organized if items are
 appropriately stored and labeled,” says Bernstein,  “Investing the time to strategize what you really need and where things 
should go will pay huge dividends in time, money, and productivity.”


Zone and conquer

Whether it is your desk or the company storage closet, make sure everything has a “home.” Denise B. Lee, CPO and organizer coach
 who owns Clear Spaces in St. Louis, Missouri, suggests splitting your desk top into zones. “[Have] a corner for storing projects—that's where a vertical stacker or
file box goes, [Then, a] corner for the phone with a note pad next to it for jotting notes, and a corner for the open planner so you can see what your day holds,” explains Lee. The blotter, or space right in front of your chair, Lee adds, should be a sacred place reserved for your current priority. “Only the project you are
 working on can go there, and it can only hold one project at a time,” she adds.


Within your office’s storage areas and closets, divide shelves into smaller zones and label where everything should go, a small effort that will save you time and money. “Having 
a designated ‘home’ for every item will save you from re-buying multiples
 of the same. Imagine how much time you will save when you no 
longer need to frantically search for the stapler or the ink cartridge,” says Bernstein.


CleaningHouse_PQ.jpgPut information where you need it

You need information to complete current projects and to know what is coming next. It’s essential to have that timeline, goal, or project outline where you can access it easily. “A big white board that is within sight of the desk is a great place to list all projects with milestone and deadline dates,” says Lee. Melissa R. Monti, organizer and owner of ShipShape in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, helps her clients keep their projects accessible while on the go. “Have a ‘To Read’ portable file where everything you need 
to read goes. Keep it on or right by your desk [so] it’s easy to
 grab on the way out the door to a conference, a train commute, or a
doctor's appointment. It also keeps all the loose articles marked ‘to read’ from 
being scattered all over the desk,” Monti points out. With information at your finger tips and organized in a few central locations, owners and employees can stay focused on what’s important, maximizing their energy and time.


Keep it simple

If your filing system is too complicated, you won’t use it—and if that happens, then one or two files carelessly stacked on top of each other suddenly breed into a colony of paperwork scattered all over the floor. To combat this, Monti suggests color-coding. “Choose a color for each primary business function—red for PR, blue for
 accounting, green for HR, purple for training, and so on,” says Monti. Renee Kutner, chaos advisor and owner of Peace by Piece Organizing in 
Atlanta, Georgia, has another filing method mantra. “Sort all of your papers by verb; file them by noun,” instructs Kutner, “As long as you
still have an action to take with a particular piece of paper, define that
 paper based on what needs to be done (i.e. read, pay, call, etc.), not 
based on what it is (i.e. bill, invitation). Once you have taken the 
necessary actions, then file it away
 based on what it is so you can find it again later.” A key element to successful organization is making the system you choose a company-wide system. If everyone follows the same organizational mantra, a seamless flow of work is ensured in situations where someone takes over a project or transitions into a new role, saving time and resources.


Take the home out of home office

Kutner advises owners who work at home to separate the home from that office area, a strategy many small businesses in large, shared office spaces can use as well. “Even if it is a multi-purpose
 space, try to create a separate ‘work zone’ within the room. And
 then protect it. A home office that is allowed to fill up with kids' toys or other non-office related items can quickly
 become too distracting of an environment in which to effectively work,” Kutner notes, emphasizing every type of office space should be well-stocked. “When people don't have what they need in their offices, they end up
 getting up multiple times during the day to go retrieve items from other
 areas of the home or space. Each time leads to a potential distraction,” Kutner says. Distraction and wasted time translates to decreased focus and productivity, all of which can be avoided with solid organization.

With the Thanksgiving holiday officially behind us, ‘tis the season for holiday celebrations with family, friends and of course, your employees.


While there are many ways to celebrate your employees – I can give a great example of how NOT to throw a holiday party. Back in thSteve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.pnge day when I worked at the big law firm with the big clients and made the allegedly big bucks, the firm decided to throw a big holiday party. They rented a beautiful room in a nearby hotel and planned the party for 1:00 in the afternoon.


We thought it was an odd time, but then concluded that we would go, have a few libations, and probably get the rest of the afternoon off. We tried to deny the additional strangeness of the proceedings when we were told that spouses were not invited.

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss



Then, the morning of the party, the weirdness continued: A memo went out stating that attendance at the party was mandatory. The final indignation was this, we weren’t getting three hours off to go to the holiday party, instead, we were expected to make up that time later. Many of us glumly went to the party, and then went back to the office to work until 8:00 p.m. that night.


Worst. Party. Ever.


The good news is, that sort of tin-ear management is more the exception than the rule. I find that most small businesses want to take care of their staff because it is in fact a small group and often employees become part of our extended family. The question is – how to do so without breaking the bank?


Here are 6 easy and affordable ideas you can implement to celebrate your employees this holiday season:


1. Extra time off: We are all so busy this time of year trying to get everything done that there are few things you can do to endear yourself to your employees more than giving them some extra time off, especially in the middle of the day. They can use this to go shopping, run errands, whatever. It won’t cost you much, but it sure will engender a lot of loyalty.


2. Create a gift-wrap station: Consider buying plenty of gift-wrapping materials and setting them out in a designated area for the staff’s use. Your people will appreciate your thoughtfulness and take advantage of your kindness.


3. Give reasonably-priced, thoughtful presents: We often say, “it’s the thought that counts,” and that proves to be especially true at work. If you run a small business, your employees know that you likely run a pretty lean ship, and as such, they likely don't expect extravagant gifts from you. But they do expect something. A bottle of wine, a gift card, tickets to a game – if your gifts to your employees are more thoughtful than expensive, it’s all good.


4. Holiday potluck: Throwing a party (like my firm tried to do) is all well and good, but it is expensive. Instead, consider having a potluck Friday. Have everyone make their favorite recipe and bring their treats in to share with the gang. They will love to show-off their best dish and you will love saving hundreds of dollars.


5. Awards: End-of the year awards are a great way to give people recognition for the work they do. The only caveat here is that you need to make sure that everyone gets an award, otherwise the whole thing could backfire resulting in bad feelings.


6. Other recognitions: Of course Dec 4 Pull Quote.pngeveryone’s favorite holiday recognition is a bonus, and if you can give one, go for it. But if you cannot, the second best sort of recognition is acknowledgment itself. This can take many forms:


  • Single people out in your company newsletter for a job well done.
  • Write a handwritten note to the family of your employees, telling their loved ones what a great job their dad (or mom or whomever) does and how important they are to your business. People love this.
  • Take out a notice in a trade magazine or website that your team reads regularly, telling the world how great they are.


The bottom line is that you don’t have to kill your bottom line to make this a happy holiday season for you and your team. (just as long as you don’t make your holiday party mandatory!)


How are you planning to recognize your employees this holiday season? Please share your stories below.

About Steve Strauss




Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here.

Wellness_Body.jpgby Iris Dorbian.


One of the biggest health hazards is ignoring the mind-body connection. Stress and anxiety can exact a punishing toll on one’s health, leading to serious ailments. In the workplace, lowered employee morale and absenteeism can result. Although many small business owners are aware that their employees’ health is critical to productivity, few are doing anything about it.


According to a recent report commissioned by the National Small Business Association and Humana Inc., a heath insurance provider, 93 percent of employers say that employee health is important to the bottom line; however, only 22 percent of small firms offer wellness programs. The reason cited is a lack of confidence in their ability to implement such initiatives for employees.


It’s a dichotomy that has unsettling consequences. Consider this: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unplanned absences among workers are costing American businesses an average of 2.8-million workdays each year, translating into a loss of $74 billion. In this vein, small business owners have a lot to gain by instituting best practices that can improve the health and wellness of employees, while increasing overall productivity and reducing health care costs. But how can every entrepreneur—even those who lack the financial resources to execute ongoing programs—encourage their staff to adopt a healthier lifestyle?


Wellness_PQ.jpgFoster healthier eating habits

Just like a guitar or a piano, your body is an instrument that needs to be maintained and fine-tuned on a regular basis. Outside of exercise, one of the best ways to achieve this is to eat a healthy, balanced diet, which includes daily intakes of protein, fruits and vegetables and avoidance of processed and deep fried foods.


Rosalie Moscoe, a Toronto-based nutritional consultant and stress relief expert who has worked with numerous small businesses, suggests having a “healthy eating” day.  “Each employee can bring in a healthy snack in the form of nuts, fruit, or homemade muffins with low sugar and whole grain flour,” she advises. “Or they can buy something from a health food store.  Keep in mind that sugar lowers immune function, so it’s best to avoid all sugars when you are sick.”


But you don’t need to wait for specific themed days. Stock up your work kitchen with all sorts of healthy food, ranging from yogurts to protein bars. Also, include blenders for employees to make smoothies and similar drinks using fresh fruit. Joel Gross, founder and CEO of Coalition Technologies, a Los Angeles and Seattle-based web design and marketing firm, adheres to this practice as routine.


“My employees are valuable assets and keeping them healthy and productive is a high priority,” he says. In addition to providing employees with an abundance of high-protein, healthy snacks, Gross also likes to keep multivitamin packs, Vitamin-C chews, zinc tablets and other nutritional supplements available and in the company kitchen.


Promote exercise and non-sedentary activities

Having a healthy and fit body is integral to maintaining good wellness habits and keeping stress at bay. Gross notes that small business owners can practice what they preach by offering free memberships to a local gym as a employee benefit or by encouraging their staff to partake in non-sedentary activities throughout the day, like an invigorating walk around a nearby park. (Gross does both.) Similarly, many health insurance plans now offer discounts to members who enroll in gym memberships


“I want to encourage [my employees] to get out, exercise and work off the stress that can build up working in an office,” Gross explains. Not all employees follow his advice, but, he notes, “I am constantly looking to enroll a greater number” to take advantage of the gym membership.


Punit Dhillon, CEO of OncoSec Medical, a two-year old San Diego-based biotech company that develops treatments for advanced-stage skin cancer, goes one step further: He keeps several “communal” bikes in his office to encourage his staff of 10 to use them during lunch. He also encourages them to take midday walks or runs, even going outside to play a game of frisbee.


Dhillon feels these are necessary supplements to what his company does. “Because of the program we’re working on, we’re trying to complement that with a positive environment, which comes down to not only building awareness of having a healthier lifestyle, but employing practices associated with it, like exercise and physical activity,” he explains.


Improve employee work/life balance

Very often absenteeism may be attributable to an employee having to handle responsibilities at home, which a stringent work schedule might not allow. Give your staff the option to work from home during those days when they feel their presence is urgently needed or create a schedule that’s more flexible. 


Initiate wellness seminars

Invite an expert from a local spa or wellness center to come to your workplace to share health-related tips. This can run the gamut from relieving stress and getting better sleep to boosting nutrition and improving time management. “These are all great topics to help boost immunity and morale,” says Moscoe, who is the author of Frazzled Hurried Woman! Your Stress Relief Guide to Thriving…Not Merely Surviving.


Defuse an intense work environment with laughter

This doesn’t mean you should use important meetings as a pretext to do stand-up, but if you can incorporate some levity into the work proceedings, then do it.


Lani Anderson, a Los Angeles-based holistic practitioner who has been working with small businesses for 10 years, cites a client of hers that always includes a humorous anecdote in their customer newsletters. “He and his staff share funny jokes and stories for inclusion,” she says. “Humor brings great health benefits and this team effort brings staff together, like a family, which is the way many in small businesses feel and it's healthy.”


Maintain cleanliness

Many small business employees work in close quarters, meaning infections like colds and the flu can often spread quickly. So, it’s important to keep high traffic areas in your workplace—especially shared surfaces like doorknobs, telephones, and other commonly-used items, as clean as possible as a preventive measure. Of course, a good way for this to happen is through the full participation of employees. But an owner should also take an assertive role here.


“Send expert health tips to your employees electronically and post reminders on message boards,” adds Moscoe. “ You won’t want to sound like their mothers, so try and keep it light and informative. Let your staff know that they should stay home when they are sick.”


Just because you have a small business doesn’t mean you can’t successfully inaugurate and implement a health and wellness program for staff on a budget. Whether it’s loading the kitchen with nutritious snacks or encouraging employees to take a work break with a walk around the block, these measures can be critical to boosting employee morale and immunity. Understanding the mind/body connection is critical to productivity and success. 

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