Any office that uses large amounts of paper documents relies on a good filing system. But starting one from scratch — or, sometimes worse, from a bad system already in place — challenges any office manager. To help you find the right system for your busy office, here are five key steps to follow.
1. Consider What Is Needed. Your needs for different files or papers depends on how you use each. A veterinary office, for instance, might access records based on customer last name whereas a tax preparation office might also need to file records based on the tax year. Long before you narrow in on a physical organization system, determine how you'll need to access things and for what reason.
2. Assess Your Space Needs. How much room will your filing system take up? This is a tricky question, and it is one that many offices fail to answer satisfactorily at first. To find an accurate size requirement, you'll need to know your current file size as well as an approximate growth rate based on prior history. Talk with management about future goals, such as client expansion, to ensure you don't run out of room.
3. Find a Good Organizer. One piece of good news is that there are a variety of physical filing systems to meet many different needs. Depending on where you plan to put your files, you might opt for a large cabinet system, a series of filing drawers, a vertical shelving system that takes advantage of height, or even a set of rolling space-saver shelf units. Look for a system that can grow with your projected needs.
4. Set-Up Guidelines. A filing system will only work as well as those using it. If everyone does things slightly differently, your records will soon become less efficient and even messy. Create written instructions for using colors, naming conventions, and addressing unusual situations (such as hyphenated names or the word "the" in businesses).
5. Check Back on Your System. Once you create a filing system, check in on it after a period of time to assess real-life reactions. Even if you have to do some backtracking and re-work, making the system work better will yield time and money savings in the long run.
No matter what your office needs to file, store, and access, a thoughtful paper filing system will go a long way to making everything run smoothly. Look for a professional who can help you with your office filing system.