Winter Is Coming! Is Your Office Energy-Efficient?

Although it seems like 2020 has lasted the equivalent of a few decades, wintertime has finally arrived. As a small business owner, you have more to think about than most other people: You have another property (your office) and employees to look after. Walking through your house for winterization is stressful enough, but your office building needs just as much love as your home. After all, you spend so much time there, it basically is a second home. What are the best techniques for winterizing your office this year?

Give the Whole Area a Deep Cleaning

We’re all tired of hearing about the royal virus, but remember that wintertime has always been flu season. Now that the cold air is upon us and sick season is here, give your office a deep clean to kill any potential sickness-causing bacteria. You can either do this yourself or hire a commercial cleaning service to do so for you, but be smart as far as your budget allows.

Take care of the staffroom. The places the employees spend breaks and lunchtimes should be one of the first places you start in the office. Clean all surfaces like counters and tables with an all-purpose cleaner (Dawn, water, and vinegar work well in a spray bottle), and make sure that you use a bleach solution afterward to sanitize. Don’t forget about cabinet doors too, especially if there are spills, dried food, or stains on them.

The bathroom. Restrooms are the nastiest places in any office building, not only yours. Give the sinks, faucets, and toilets a deep cleaning with a disinfecting cleaner like Ajax or Comet, making sure to finish with a sanitizing bleach spray. You can even use bleach to clean the surfaces first, but it’s up to you. Some people don’t like bleach for its corrosive tendencies, but in such a bacteria-ridden room, we vote that you show no mercy. On the same token, make sure that you have plenty of soap and hand sanitizer available not just in the bathrooms, but in the whole building.

Clean off commonly-touched places. Light switches, cabinet doors, doorknobs, handles — anything you can think of that people touch regularly. Walk through with a clean rag and all-purpose cleaner to get the surface clean first, then sanitize with your bleach solution. Don’t forget about places like microwave panels, keyboards and mice, and file cabinet handles.

Double-Check the Building’s Ductwork

You can expect your HVAC system to be working overtime this winter, so make sure it’s in the best condition first. An efficient spiral ductwork system keeps clean air circulating throughout your clinic, office, or whatever kind of business you run. A clogged duct system circulates unclean air, leading to coughing and respiratory issues for sensitive clients.

When an HVAC specialist comes to your office, you can expect services such as:

  • Minor repairs like tightening loose parts, replacing broken pieces, etc.
  • A total cleaning and flushing system. This is may be costly, but when was the last time you had your HVAC ducts cleaned? Don’t remember? It’s overdue.
  • Offering advice on long-term air conditioning repairs and solutions. For example, a specialist will tell you any warning signs of a system that is on its way out. You might be offered suggestions on when and how to have the unit completely replaced, but listen carefully to these suggestions. Not everybody wants to scam you, and if you’ve properly vetted your specialist then you should be able to trust them.

If you aren’t sure about the suggestions your HVAC person is offering, consider getting a second opinion. Your heating and cooling system are much more advanced than you even know, and people with HVAC licenses know the ins and outs better. If you’re on the fence about spending the money to replace the entire system, hire a second HVAC specialist to take a look.

Maintain Your Building’s Roof

In the winter, sturdy roofing in excellent condition is more important than you might realize. It isn’t until your roof is leaking or falling apart that you can truly appreciate a well-maintained roof, so don’t wait until that happens.

Roofing services are available for not just home use, but commercial use as well. Contact commercial roofing services in your area to find someone who can perform a wellness check for you. Expect to know answers to questions like:

  • Do you smell anything odd in a specific room, namely mold or rot anyplace? Are there any particular concerns about a leak or moldy spot on the roof?
  • When was the last time the roof was serviced, and do you have documentation to reflect that?
  • What kind of material is it made of?
  • Do you know what kind of warranty you have on the roof?

It is a huge expense to replace a roof entirely, so don’t wait until the absolute last minute to do it. Like anything else, regular maintenance and inspections will help you catch any warning signs before it becomes a bigger problem than you can handle.

Consider Outsourcing

If the word “outsource” fills your with dread, calm down a little. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to lay off your entire staff and focus on offshore calling (PLEASE don’t do that, in fact!), but it does mean that you have more options than you thought before.

One great example of outsourcing is after-hours calling. If you don’t run a 24-hour answering service, you might think about hiring a third-party company that does. This way, clients can still get the help that they need and you aren’t running your staff ragged.

Third-party outsourcing needn’t necessarily mean “offshore,” though. Language barriers make it frustrating for both parties in these situations, and since offshore agents are required to follow a script, they don’t always offer the help that clients need. In cases like these, consider using a voice hosting service. This is an automated service that uses a digital voice recording to guide the caller through menu options; for example, “Press one for groceries, two for pharmacy,” etc. You can also have voice-activated controls, like “Speak to a representative” to quickly reach the right party or extension.

Some companies even outsource customer service departments, like human resources. This allows your business to pay a flat fee to the service instead of hiring a new set of employees so that you end up saving money by outsourcing. It might seem like a betrayal to your employees, but come on. You’re the business owner here, and you need to do what’s right for the company.

Winterize the Landscape

Curb appeal really does play a direct role in what your clients and customers think. Just because the flowers have died for the winter, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take pride in your landscaping as well.

Commercial lawn maintenance is a fantastic way to keep your landscaping looking fresh and clean no matter what time of the year it is. These professionals do more than mow the grass; they also clip hedges, provide you with green stabilization techniques, rake leaves, and dispose of whatever yard waste you have as well. If you are serious about keeping consumers engaged and coming through your doors, then the services will pay for themselves in no time.

Look also at your sidewalks and whatever other pavement is nearby. Cracked pavement screams “neglect,” especially if you have moss and weeds growing through those cracks. Tiny ecosystem though it might be, it looks unsightly. Ask your landscaping crew if they take care of power washing services to get rid of the grossness between the cracks. If not, it’s easy to find someone to take care of it for you. Once you’ve gotten rid of the excess, patch and seal the cracks. Your business insurance might actually help you out with this one, so it’s worth contacting your agent to see what can be done.

Replace Broken or Outdated Building Equipment

Granddad always said that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Good advice, but even if something isn’t technically “broke,” that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need replacing. Old technology and equipment that is no longer running efficiently has a place in your business.

Replacement garage doors. If your business is one with garage doors, note how well these doors work for you. Are they automatic, or are you forced to get out of your car every time you want to open them? Or perhaps they used to be automatic, but are no longer working. If you don’t need replacement garage doors, perhaps you can find a specialist to make garage door repairs for you in the meantime.

Computers and technology. Wheezing, ungodly slow computers do nothing to increase efficiency in the workplace. You can only replace the hard drive and RAM so many times before the computer completely dies on you. Once your machines start to encounter crashes, lockups, and freezes, there is a 100% chance that it will happen again — it’s only a matter of time. If you’re worried about the status of your computers and other tech, ask your IT person to come take a look. Expect to be offered many suggestions about what to upgrade, what software you need, antivirus scans, etc. Unless your budget allows it, only replace what you can at the moment. Faster computers mean faster service for your clients.

Cameras and security. Wintertime is literally the darkest time of the year, making for an increase in crime and other shenanigans. Does your current security system fit the bill? Ensure that all of your cameras and alarms are in good working order, replacing whatever batteries you need to as you go. It’s worth calling your security company for a technician to come out and check on it if you’re concerned. The safety of your staff and customers should be your top priority, so don’t skip this step!

Beef Up Security

We’ve already discussed the long nights and early darkness, but make sure that you’re taking your employees’ safety into consideration too. Daylight savings time is more than an inconvenience for most of the United States; it also messes up your internal clock. If staff and clients are there past dark, think about simple ways that you can increase your business’s security:

  • Install heavy-duty LED lighting outside your doors and in your parking lots. A well-lit area prevents crime and helps people to feel safer.
  • Hang a bell on your entrance door, or have a bell system installed every time someone opens the door. You might have always thought this was a charming thing that gas stations do, but it’s a security measure: Staff are always alerted when someone has entered the building.
  • Consider security guards. This is another example of outsourcing for a good reason; knowing that there’s a person there to protect the employees and patrons can help people to feel more at ease and less nervous when darkness falls, especially if your business isn’t situated in the best part of town.

One or all of these suggestions can have a positive effect on your business. Ask your staff’s opinions on what measures would make them feel safer and go from there. If you’re not the one who is there in the evenings, it might be hard to know exactly what the security cracks are. Your employees can provide better feedback than you can by simply guessing on your own.

For some people, wintertime is baking cookies and singing carols. For others, namely small business owners, wintertime means long nights and lots of prep work. Rather than wait until winter is actually here, make repairs and preparations to your office all throughout the year. If you wait until the last minute, you will be paying a hefty sum for a lot of work all at the same time.

Get your small business’s office all ready to go for the winter. It takes time, energy, and effort, but when you have happy and content clients and staff in a well-insulated and safe building, you know you made the right choice in the long run.