How to effectively organize a medical office or chem lab
Clutter. Whether in our homes, our offices or even in our own heads, clutter has become so normalized that there are entire methodologies and professions—think life-coaches—that specialize in eliminating it.
And why wouldn’t this be a big issue to address? We live in a world that demands more and more productivity, creativity and efficiency, and clutter brings the exact opposite. What’s more, with new technologies and “must-have” devices (especially in science and medicine), clutter has become as impossible to avoid as that box of cords in the bottom of your closet is to untangle.
What workspace clutter does
When it comes to the workspace, clutter doesn’t only kill creativity and efficiency but it can also mess up interactions with clients and co-workers. Besides cooperation becoming harder, client satisfaction and trust can also be harmed—all because a messy environment is not the welcoming and relaxing place it should be.
These facts could not be truer for medical practices and laboratories.
To bring the reality of clutter to life, just imagine working in a laboratory. You want to focus on your project, but your lab bench is a mess and you’re having a hard time finding even the most basic tools to work; even your personal protective equipment is buried. Or, if you’re a doctor, clutter not only affects your productivity but it will also elevate patient blood pressure as their comfort and confidence in your care plummet.
All of that said, clutter can realistically be tackled by devoting an hour each week to properly cleaning and organize your working environment. The outcome will not only increase creativity and efficiency, it will strengthen the bonds between co-workers and increase client satisfaction.
This article will shed some light on why decluttering a workplace is important, and add practical tips on how physicians and lab professionals can declutter their ultra-specific workspaces. Let’s start!
Why decluttering is important
Maintaining a well-organized workplace increases productivity and, ultimately, efficiency. Imagine how distracting and debilitating it is to be surrounded by so many sheets, folders, and everyday-use tools that have nothing to do with the project at-hand. Focus and clarity become harder, and even the most mundane tasks become complicated. Clutter leads to:
- Time lost looking for papers and materials
- Heightened stress as the clutter “closes in” while you try to work
- Heightened sense of all the work you have to do
- Increased procrastination (as daily tasks become a bigger chore)
- Essentially working with one hand tied behind your back
In the case of lab and medical professionals, in particular, disorganization can also lead to inflated costs due to lost materials, duplicated or late orders, and more.
Productivity aside, the image of a workspace also reflects the work and quality of a professional in the eyes of clients. And a cluttered medical practice certainly doesn’t reflect professionalism. And having a well-organized, clean environment not only reflects competence, but it can greatly contribute to the overall quality of care provided.
A recent study by Franklin Becker has shown that there are positive correlations between attractive environments and higher levels of perceived quality of care, patient satisfaction, staff interaction, and reduction of patient anxiety. As though this weren’t enough, another study by the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh has shown that physicians serve as health role models, and their habits play a key role to helping patients adopt a healthy lifestyle. If you’ve even heard of the TV show Hoarders, you can appreciate how having a clean environment promotes a healthy lifestyle.
Above all else, a well-organized workplace establishes a sense of order. And besides the measurable outcomes for productivity and professionalism, a sense of order has positive mental outcomes as well. It promotes team spirit and reduces stress, but most importantly, an organized workplace assists in having organized thoughts and ideas while you get your job done.
Medical office organization tips
As mentioned, a cluttered medical office can reduce both productivity and patient satisfaction. In this section, we will focus on tips to organize your medical office to improve these metrics and to make your office a happy place to be—for both employees and patients.
Start with cleanliness
A point we can all agree on is that the single most important factor of decluttering a medical office is cleanliness. Start by taking a look around your office. If your office is not well-organized, chances are that you will see piles of papers on counters, overfilled folders, piles of magazines in your waiting area, supplies bursting from closets—and the list goes on.
The first step to a more functional and sanitary office is to evaluate what is necessary, and what is necessary to have out at all times. Should those piles of papers be on the counters? Are your cabinets filled up with the right tools and materials?
After this initial evaluation, you can start the first of what will be regular organizational sweeps of your environment. Find the proper place to store papers and folders, use decorative baskets for the magazines in your waiting area, sort out the supplies in your closets, eliminate unnecessary stuff and put everything in its permanent home. The key factors here are two:
- All these things should be in a place that they won’t be directly visible to you or your co-workers to avoid distractions. However, things that are essential to your daily tasks should be easy to reach by you or your staff.
- To this end, it’s essential to prioritize what is most important in daily practice and to keep it in close reach. Prioritization goes a long way, and you should make it your new norm to stick with it. Optimize every storage space, even your desk drawers. Put the most important things in close reach, and the less important things out of the way.
After cleaning and eliminating, it’s time to make this new norm stick by getting organized. Typically, in medical offices, things get messy because there is a high number of staff members working within small areas while sharing supplies. You can imagine how easily a mess can be created if these supplies don’t have an organized and well-communicated place. Every staff member will leave things in different places without that communication, requiring other staff members to spend valuable time finding what’s needed when they need it.
But there is an easy way to eliminate this issue, and that is to set up places for every supply and tool. Find the best space to put them, and use labels to clearly mark their location. And don’t stop there—send out a communication to the whole office that outlines your new system. This will not only keep your working environment clean and organized, but it will also bring greater productivity and efficiency to you and your team. This type of organization will also strengthen the bond between co-workers, because you’ll be eliminating the intra-office politics of staff members known for “creating a mess,” leaving others upset or challenged in the work they do.
There are also other, smaller tricks you can apply to make your workplace a more organized and productive place to be. Some things to consider include:
- Cable management: Those cables left under and even on top a desk can create a mess in short time. To solve this issue (which is now more common than ever), you can use inexpensive solutions like plastic rain gutters to store cables in a tangle-free manner. Or, take it to the next level by using specific cable management products like cable management ducts, racks, and panels.
- Enlarge your storing space: The most common cause for clutter tends to be a very real lack of space. If you have too many important things you need to keep in close reach, consider enlarging your storing space by using extra selves on the walls or even utilizing the space under your desk for a shelving unit. As long as everything is organized, you will perform all your work better with a decluttered space.
Declutter for patient satisfaction
It’s become clear by now how important a well-organized medical practice is for patient satisfaction. Patients should feel welcomed and relaxed throughout their whole health care experience. This will eliminate stress and make the whole treatment process easier. A clean, well-organized medical practice will inspire trust and professionalism, and can also help in growing your client base due to higher patient satisfaction and greater referrals.
To focus on client satisfaction, start with your front office. Is it clean and organized enough? Or do patients need to push aside pens, papers and boxes of tissues to make eye contact with the employees at the front desk? Get your front office organized, and consider leveraging technology and leveraging more EHRs (Electronic Health Records).
In addition, you can focus on the aesthetics of your facility. The key here is to make your medical practice a welcoming place for patients. Modern design, artwork, or natural window views can calm patients and greatly improve their care experience. And we don’t need to mention that these environments will certainly look better than a pile of papers attracting attention from the front desk.
Finally, consider adding furniture in the examination rooms, if space allows. Decorative (but comfortable) chairs can work great here, even in smaller spaces. While this will not directly help with decluttering, it can certainly increase patient comfort. Instead of spending the entire visit on the examination table, patients can sit on chairs when it’s the time to discuss treatment methods and test results.
Laboratory organization tips
An organized laboratory can have an enormous impact on productivity, efficiency and reduction of cost. Chen Guttman, a Ph.D. biotech lab scientist, stated that there is a hidden cost when it comes to labs today: the cost of disorganization. Late or canceled orders, the waste of expensive materials, and the time spent looking for tools and materials are just a few of the negative outcomes of disorganization, and can actually be harmful to your relationship with clients and add extra cost to your operation.
Let’s get to specific tips on how to organize your lab environment.
Naturally, the needed cleanliness in medical practices applies to labs as well. Evaluation, organization, elimination, and placing all materials and tools in specific places are the same key steps for a well-organized laboratory. Be sure to apply these processes to every aspect of your lab, including the refrigerator, your chemical inventory and your equipment rooms. In addition, based on our experience and that of Dr. Chen Guttman above, here are some specific tips to keep your lab clean and organized.
Organize your lab bench
For many lab professionals, your bench is the most crowded place in the work environment. It’s the place that holds many of your necessary tools such as pipets and solutions. As a result, clutter is a common problem. Here are some tips to avoid it:
- Keep your pipets, tips, and tools on the side of the bench that mirrors your dominant hand. And you don’t have to keep all the types of your pipets in the bench unless you frequently use them all. Instead, keep only the ones that you use most and store the rest of them elsewhere. Your trash bin can be put on this side of the bench, also.
- The other side of the bench (mirroring your non-dominant hand) can be used to store commonly used solutions. Again, you should put only the most frequently used solutions there. The rest of the solutions can go on the upper selves and elsewhere in the lab.
- If possible, keep your own scissors, tape, markers and other consumable items on your person (in your lab coat). This will eliminate both the cluttering and the unnecessary walks to the lab to find such items. Be sure to pick the tech-friendly designer lab coat with the right pocket options for you and your devices, and you’ll be amazed how much it helps you to stay de-cluttered.
Keep your supply spreadsheets organized
If you’ve ever had duplicate orders, or come to the point of running out of or having unnecessary volume of supplies, you can create or organize your supply spreadsheets to reduce unnecessary costs.
By keeping an organized track of your orders and supplies, you can reduce cost and avoid unhappy clients due to delayed orders, too much or too few supplies, and even waste of expensive materials that aren’t used up on time. Keeping your supply spreadsheets organized is an ongoing process, and you should work up to updating your spreadsheets frequently—if not daily.
Wrapping it all up, keeping your medical practice or lab clean and well-organized comes with many benefits. It makes your co-workers more productive and your life easier, keeps you more efficient and engaged, and you look professional in the eyes of your clients or patients. Decluttering doesn’t have to be a hard process. But in order to be successful, a degree of patience and determination are necessary. So, arm yourself with the right attitude and the tips you’ve just read, and we promise you will see a transformation in your working environment and output.