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How to clean up a messy back office fast

To maintain a professional operation, an office has to maintain a professional appearance throughout. People think if they work in a back area, they can be messy and have food and clutter on their desks, says the practice administrator for a four-physician, seven-staff surgical office in New York City. Wrong. The billing office needs to look as nice as the front desk even though patients never enter it. And one way she has achieved an all-around professional atmosphere is with shelving.

It’s easy to walk into a room and see clutter and think there’s nothing that can be done about it, she says. But there’s always wall space available. In her office, the walls have both open and closed shelves, depending on what’s being stored.

The open shelves are mostly for forms and items people reach for throughout the day. Each item is labeled on the shelf edge, and to keep things looking even neater, the labels aren’t handwritten but are printed with a labeler.

One of the most useful open shelves is over the copier, she says. It holds all the different types of paper right where they are needed so nobody has to disturb another staffer to reach them.

The closed shelves are found mostly at the front desk and in the exam rooms. They’re for the supplies and items that are less attractive to look at such as toner, rubber bands, and so on. And there’s order inside, because once again, the edges are labeled.

In the exam rooms, the items such as cotton-tipped swabs and bandage supplies that need to stay on the counters are kept in matching clear containers with lids, all of which periodically go into the dishwasher.

The closed shelving has also made it possible to combine the conference room and library, she notes. That room has open shelves for books and periodicals but closed cabinets for patient information, so even though the room is full of paper, it always has a clean appearance.

Shelving has even made it possible to turn a small storage room that was cluttered with file cabinets into work space. The office got rid of the file cabinets and put in shelves plus laminated desks on three walls like a horseshoe. The outcome was a huge work area, large enough to accommodate the two billers in an orderly space, the manager reports.

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