OVER YOUR HEAD?
Office overheads are some of the most frustrating cost bases in a typical business. They can rise even as your volume of work decreases, and paying out for heating and printing in a down month feels profoundly unproductive. But it is possible to put a dent in those office costs.
One of the biggest outlays for a typical business is the rent or mortgage on a premises. Depending on your company’s situation, your opportunities for reducing this will vary. However, it’s important not to fall into the trap of sticking with an inappropriate set-up out of inertia – you’re missing a real opportunity to reduce costs.
Many businesses at present are sitting in offices that are, quite frankly, too big for them. The headcount has fallen as orders decline from their peak, and the result is a bank or two of empty desks. You can address this issue in one of two ways.
If your lease is relatively flexible, or at least has an exit procedure that is not too onerous, you need to be looking around seriously for more cost-effective places. Owners of commercial space are getting desperate for occupants, and anyone who hasn’t tested the market in the past five years will be pleasantly surprised at what they could get. Even if actually following through with a move doesn’t appeal, you can use it as leverage when negotiating a decrease with your current landlord.
If you’re committed to a mortgage, or have an ironclad lease, you should consider subletting out some of your space – either to groups in the community or another business. There are many companies casting about for cheap office space, and having a fellow occupant will help towards meeting your monthly payments, while also keeping the building warm. Even if this entails taking a day to reorganise the space your company has, the benefits will be significant.
Like any household cutting back, there are ways and means to save on the consistent expense of utilities. You don’t need to have your employees shivering, for example, to reduce the heating bill – it’s just a case of being smarter about it. Many businesses and homes simply blast the heating on when it gets too cold, and leave it for a few hours before it gets too hot and they turn it off. But programmable thermostats mean that you don’t have to adopt this inefficient practice. Instead, try setting the heating to blast on for an hour before you open up, then for 15 minutes in each hour until you close. You’ll get a more consistent heat throughout the working day, while having the heating on less.
There’s no need to have spiralling electricity costs either. If you haven’t switched the office lighting to use energy efficient bulbs, get it done. Also, get your staff to turn off their computers and appliances like printers during lunchtime and when they’re not in use. Replacing standard plug boards with boards that actually switch off – cutting the power to devices that might otherwise use 10% of their regular power on standby mode – will also make a difference.
There are several other ways that you can chip away at the costs of running the office from day to day. Double-sided printing will cut your paper bill, while you should also shop around for cheaper toner – or a more efficient printer. Similarly, consider ditching the instant coffee in the office and installing a regular coffee machine – which will pay for itself over time. And even locking the stationary supply cabinets, so that employees actually need to ask for office supplies, will markedly reduce the amount of pens and notebooks you go through. These are all minor measures but, when you’re on a serious cost-reduction drive, every little step matters.