The other day I opened my office door after coming back from running an errand during my lunch break and someone asked about my lights being turned off. “Do you always turn your lights out when you close your door?” I laughed and explained it was just habit. However, as I thought more about it I realized I had brought many of my frugal habits to the office, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Here are a few ways to be a frugal employee, starting with the one that inspired reflection on the topic.
Turn off the lights when leaving an office or conference room. This is by far the easiest solution to implement. Just because you are not paying the electric bill it doesn’t mean you cannot take the same energy-saving approach at work as you do at home. Flipping off a light switch requires very little effort, but it will reduce your company’s energy usage. Not only is conserving power good for the environment, but things like this have a cumulative effect on decreasing your company’s overhead expenses. This will help your boss look better by improving the company’s bottom line, and increase your chances for career success.
Try to eliminate printing to hard copy. This one is easy for me, because if it winds up on my desk in paper format it is likely to get lost in the shuffle. I would much rather have something electronically stored with an adequate backup system. A good electronic file system is more searchable and secure than paper copies floating around the office. It is also more friendly to the environment and cuts down on the overhead costs of stocking reams of paper. I also like to order my own business cards, rather than take the 1,000 box supply that comes standard with a new job. When I left my last job I had 996 left.
Repair or upgrade technology when possible. Often times when a PC is bogging down a simple increase in RAM, a disk cleanup, or a defrag would to the trick. But impatient employees, and spend-happy IT personnel often just replace the machines with a new one and “retire” the other machine. Take time to investigate what the real problem is and make small corrections as long as possible to extend hardware’s useful life. If a replacement is in order try to find ways to save money on your next computer.
Have a pot-luck lunch rather than going out as a team. Pot-luck lunches are like the ultimate brown bag at the office. Create a theme, such as “Backyard BBQ,” and set up a sign-up sheet for team members to select something to bring. If some team members aren’t up to cooking a dish ask for plates, forks, cups, drinks, etc.
Spend company money like you spend your own. This idea assumes that you are a frugal spender at home. At my last employer I was given a healthy per diem to cover food expenses while on the road, and if entertaining clients or going out as a group with fellow employees I could charge dining expenses to my company credit card. I wasn’t much fun to go out with! I didn’t see a need to eat steak and lobster every meal simply because someone else was paying for it. My typical meals on the road looked like a continental breakfast in the hotel lobby, Subway for lunch, and a grilled chicken salad or similar for dinner. I typically spent about half my daily food per diem, and rarely used the credit card for allowed entertainment purchases.
Don’t be cheap when it comes to raises. One mistake frugal managers make is being cheap when it comes to handing out raises. The people most valuable to an organization should be near the top of the pay scale, and it’s your job as a leader to recognize their value and compensate them accordingly.
What are some other ways to be frugal at the office?