There are many great mysteries in life, but one I never understood is the infatuation (my wife included) people have with office supplies. I’ve seen people jump for utter joy when they are presented with the (fill in office supplies store of choice) catalog and told to order whatever they need. Seriously, do you really need a Dustbuster for your pencil eraser?
For as much elation that office supplies provide some people, they can also prove somewhat costly, especially when there are no restrictions or standardized processes in place for acquiring them. Now I’m not saying you need to legislate every piece of paper and pen that gets used in the office (this isn’t the NFL). However, monitoring use and having certain rules to reduce waste will save your company money in the end. Here’s a few tips to reduce office supplies expense:
One of the first things I do when working with a new client on a cost-related project is talk with the IT person/department about printer defaults. By defaulting all printing to dual-sided, black & white prints, you will cut usage down by approximately 35-38% assuming about 70% compliance and adjusting for prints that require color or one-sided printing. Many companies already have this in place, but many (both small and large) do not.
There are instances where departments will order supplies on a scheduled basis without adjusting for what they actually need. One sales team I once observed had a closet full of supplies, yet most of the reps were out of the office 4 days a week. Other departments would just submit the same order regardless of need. Supply swaps are great in that it not only allows your company to use the items already purchased, but also builds some camaraderie and relationships across the organization, especially if this is promoted as an employee engagement event. Although, supply swaps take care of the symptoms; this next tip addresses the actual problem…
If you are one of those companies that allow your staff to order whatever they want, consider limiting their options. Instead of letting them select the headset that’s $100, give a choice of 3 with the top of the range coming in at around $45-$50. It still gives your staff a sense of autonomy and choice when choosing the tools they will use to do their jobs. Even for small firms, ordering should be centralized and conducted by your administrative staff. Taking an inventory (formal or informal) of what’s on hand should also be a part of the process.
“Going Green” campaigns are always a great way to get employees to be more mindful of waste. A previous client wanted to stop supplying coffee cups as a way to save money. Although the expense was minimal, they insisted that it was a waste. My suggestion was to wait until April (about 2 months away) and announce it as a “Green” initiative. Instead of company-branded mugs, we used blank ones that could be designed by the staff. The staff got on board and it fostered some great competitiveness as well.
Ultimately, most of these tips to reduce office supplies expense is about getting your staff involved which will make them advocates for your initiative and not just the victims of what they may interpret as their company’s Scrooge-like behavior.