Creating and maintaining an awesome office environment – one that makes your team feel both productive and comfortable – can be pretty expensive. On the one hand, you’ve got non-negotiables like computers, software, desks, decent chairs with back support and a great coffee machine. There’s not much you can do about those. But if you’re willing to think outside the box, there are some pretty smart ways to reduce the money you spend.

1. Reduce your utility bills

Utilities can be a hidden cost because the amount spent fluctuates month-to-month depending on the time of year. But here’s the good news: you don’t need to check the meter all year round to make cost savings. Most modern appliances come standard with an Energy Star rating so it’s easy to see the average cost of running an item before buying it. You can even arrange to have your local utility company or government agency audit your office to look for inefficiencies.

An energy audit can help you find a lot of savings. You may even get extra tax incentives for going green. But while you get all that arranged, here are some quick fixes you can try immediately:

  • Plugging computers and peripherals into surge protectors that can be turned off when the office is closed
  • Updating your printers and scanners to something with a power save feature
  • Setting the office thermostat on a timer so it’s not running when there’s no-one around

2. Share office equipment

How often do you use your photocopier? What about the fax machine? Provided you’re in an office building where other companies also have space, it might not make sense to pay for dedicated equipment. Talk to your office neighbors and see if you can share equipment and split the costs.

If that’s not an option for you, you can look into managed equipment services – MES – and only pay for what you use. This is especially useful if your office deals with sensitive data or you don’t share a building with another company. An MES is particularly good for high-end, expensive printers and scanners. A well-managed print service can help you find out what your office needs to run more efficiently and reduce unnecessary monthly overheads

3. Look at alternative office spaces

Finding your office space was an arduous endeavor – one you’re not in a hurry to repeat. But costs tend to rise year over year so switching may be a smarter alternative.

Take the time to look over your current space critically. Do you need this much room? Or is the current office a little too small? Think about the age of the building you’re in: does it have double glazed windows? How old is the roof insulation? You may be losing money by staying put (and paying higher utilities).

4. Join local organizations

Joining your local Chamber of Commerce can often lead to getting great discounts on services or products from other members. While this certainly isn’t universal – and you shouldn’t just join for the discount – it’s worth taking a look at the organizations operating in your area.

Local organizations are a great way to get inspiration from other business owners on the best ways they know of to cut costs. They can point you toward tax credits that might apply to your office or they may know the most affordable contractors for a particular job.  You can also see if members might need your business service.

5. Understand where your utilities come from

If you’re operating an office in a metro area, you can typically choose who delivers your water and power. You may have signed up for the same companies that you use at home and thought no more about it. But is your home provider good for your business?

We may spend a lot of time in the office but the hours that businesses keep are different than the ones we spend at home. Cheaper energy in the evenings and weekends may be a great deal for a house but it’s less attractive to a business that isn’t open during those hours.

Shop around. By this point, you’ve already spent some time figuring out how much power you use and when, so put that work to good use when looking for your utility providers. Ask the members of your local organizations who they use and remember to take seasonal rates into account before making a final decision.

6. Cut the cord

As long as you have an internet connection in your office, you can reduce or even eliminate your costs for telephone service. There are a variety of VOIP tools that let you take phone calls through the internet and call landlines and cell phones.  Look for a service that makes sense for your business.

7. Get healthy

Whether or not you can offer health insurance, healthy employees are less expensive. You don’t have to worry about as many sick days, lost productivity or hiring temps to cover flu season. The same thing goes for you. Losing time to mild illnesses can be a big drain on your business, so take junk food out of the vending machine or organize group trips to the gym. This can help increase productivity and bring more money in.