Making Office Space Work

Many practices will eventually face the inevitable question of whether or not they have outgrown their current office space. The options are to move to a bigger space or get rid of clutter. Which is best for you?

Many practices will eventually face the inevitable question of whether or not they have outgrown their current office space. If you are consistently struggling to find suitable workspaces for your employees or temporary hires, it may be time to change location and find something a little larger that can accommodate your practice. The last situation you want to be in is to have to ask some of your employees to share an office or workspace during your busiest time. This can result in temporary employees feeling even more disoriented than they are naturally going to be and is going to irritate your existing employees during a time when you need them to be most productive.

Finding temporary workspace for people in non-traditional office areas, for example storage or supply rooms, can be a costly decision when it comes to morale and motivation. An employee asked to put forth their best effort in cramped quarters will probably have an organizational problem when there are others going in and out of their "office space" looking for supplies or backlogged files.

Our office was placed in such a situation when we were forced to either purchase more expensive space or sacrifice morale and productivity. Both were costly, unattractive options. We searched for an alternative solution by reevaluating our current use of space. After a careful review, it was apparent that our office was being held hostage by a tremendous number of electronic office products.

Over the years, our office, like most practices, had acquired a multitude of hardware and software to enhance our productivity. These include multifunction peripherals (MFPs; c copiers, scanners, and fax all in one machines), desktop computers, network servers, color printers, and large telecommunication handsets. However, we acquired these devices without disposing of their obsolete counterparts (typewriters, standalone faxes, standalone scanners, and file cabinets). The insidious, aggregate clutter of electronics occupied a significant amount of precious office space, creating many problems.

We consolidated many of these office devices, keeping the minimum number needed to remain productive. Specifically, we replaced a redundant fax machine with an MFP already in use. Next, we scanned all of our patient education articles to PDFs, eliminating our reliance on a large desktop file cabinet. Third, we removed a typewriter whose utility had long since passed. Fourth, we placed all of our computer desktop units underneath the desk with only the keyboards, mice, and flat-screen monitors exposed. These changes not only increased the available desk space, but also decreased the clutter from the exposed computer cables, making our office more aesthetically pleasing. With cleaned up areas, we were able to provide our staff with a personal space without construction, without any additional expense, and most importantly, without any compromise to patient care.

Jennifer Bassell, one of our patient care assistants, has been an employee for nine months. Previously, she had no personal space in which to do her work and was forced to share an already cramped area in the office. After two weeks in her new desk space we interviewed her to see how the changes have impacted her work:

What do you like most about your new workspace?

The freedom to organize my workspace to suit my personal needs has been invaluable. I can now work at my own pace without feeling that I am interfering with the rest of the staff. Furthermore, I am more efficient because I do not have to hover over the shoulders of my coworkers as I vie for a place to work.

How has having your own workspace impacted your productivity?

My new space has certainly increased my productivity. I am able to take more phone calls, interact with patients more, and anticipate Dr. Baum’s needs better. And with my own space, the other staff knows exactly where to find me. Overall, my new space has enabled me to be not only more

productive but also more accessible to both the patients and staff.

Changing offices is a costly and stressful process. If you have decided that your practice has outgrown its current office space and is ready for a change, start assessing your new office space size requirements. You should not only determine how heavily staffed your offices are during your busiest times but also factor in projected growth over the next few years. Once you have assessed your office space needs, begin reevaluating how you currently use the space, and get rid of unnecessary clutter.

If these changes cannot meet your demands, you should find an office that is either already configured to house the number of employees you want to allow for, or find a space that can be economically outfitted to accommodate your needs. The more space you allow your people, the better they will tend to perform.

Effective and efficient use of office space is not a topic that is discussed in medical school or in residency training programs. However, optimal use of office space is critical to the success of your medical practice. By making good use of your office spac,e you will increase the efficiency of your practice, enhance staff morale, improve patient satisfaction, and ultimately improve productivity.

Dr. Phillip Parry is a neurosurgery resident at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Dr. Neil Baum is a physician in New Orleans, Louisiana and the author of Marketing Your Clinical Practice-Ethically, Effectively, and Economically.