There’s no denying that small businesses make up a significant proportion of any country’s GDP. They are essential to a nation’s economy, yet are often the underdogs in the business world.
Unfortunately, many small businesses don’t have the financial resources to inhabit luxurious, state-of-the-art offices. With such limited means, most have to “make do” with what they’ve got to keep operating costs down as much as possible.
What’s more, some of those up-and-coming stars of enterprise don’t have the money to spend paying other firms to update or revise their office spaces' look and feel. You’re likely reading this article today because you want to change things but don’t have the money.
Are you handy with a hammer and are willing to do some DIY jobs in your office? If so, the good news is you can carry out many upgrades in your workspace without spending lots of your company’s capital.
Before you do anything, it’s common sense to ensure that you (and whoever helps you) take the right safety precautions before carrying out any upgrades and alterations. With that in mind, here’s what you should equip yourself and other DIYers with:
You need eye protection, whether you’re using power tools like drills and miter saws or hand tools like saws and hammers. Thankfully, you don’t need to wear large, uncomfortable safety glasses.
Did you know there are hundreds of styles of safety glasses and even prescription safety glasses that you can buy? What’s more, they’re very affordable.
Another essential piece of PPE (personal protective equipment) that you and other DIYers in your office need are safety gloves. There are many different types available on the market, so you should buy the ones most appropriate to the work you’re going to carry out.
For example, cut-resistant safety gloves protect the wearer from injuries if they use tools like knives and saws. And insulated rubber gloves offer protection against electric shocks.
You’re likely going to carry out some tasks where the tools you use will generate dust or other airborne particles. Naturally, you don’t want to inhale such particles as they could make you or other workers in your office sick.
To that end, you should invest in some safety masks to offer the right protection. Safety masks come in different types, but it makes sense to buy ones that provide the best protection. Those are known as N99 masks and filter up to 99% of airborne particles.
Inline ground-fault circuit interrupters
If you need to use power tools that draw lots of power, it makes sense to use inline ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). They’re designed to detect current imbalances and shut off power to the tool that you’re using.
Being inline devices, you can plug them into any standard power socket. Plus, they don’t cost much and are handy to keep whenever you need to use your power tools in the office.
Now that you know which safety equipment you need, it’s time to look at the various affordable DIY office upgrades you can do:
1. LED Lighting
LED lighting technology has grown in popularity during the past five years. It’s now reached a point where the cost to upgrade any form of lighting to LED is within everyone’s means. But why should you improve the lighting in your office to LED technology?
For a start, LEDs offer a much crisper light than conventional energy-saving and fluorescent bulbs. They also consume little electricity, something which any business owner will undoubtedly welcome.
You can also get LED lighting in various color outputs. For example, if you wish to mimic natural daylight, you can purchase LEDs that output a bright, white light. Cool lighting can help increase productivity and reduce fatigue.
2. Cable Management
One of the biggest bugbears of any office is having a slew of cables spread out across the floor, underneath and behind desks. While it would be nice to have a wireless office, you still need to use cables for power and network/Internet access.
There are many ways that you can tackle cable management issues. One example is to fit a false floor in your office, thus elevating your ground level slightly. But, it means you can keep most cables and cords hidden away out of sight.
Another option is to install conduits or trunking along your baseboards and on your walls. They are cheap to buy and super-easy to install, with some even using adhesive backing to get affixed to your walls.
For example, if you have cables that cross the room or doorways, they can pose severe health and safety risk. With such problems, it makes sense to either extend those cables and route them along walls and baseboards, or use rubber floor cable covers.
3. WiFi Extenders
Even if you have a small office space, there are likely some wireless Internet dead zones. Thankfully, you can solve those issues by using WiFi extenders. As the name suggests, they extend wireless Internet access across your office.
The WiFi extender products available vary depending on price, specification, and requirements. One of the cheapest and easiest ways to extend your WiFi Internet is with powerline adapters that plug into available power sockets.
If you’re looking for a more commercial-grade solution, products like the Cisco Aironet series of WiFi access points might work out better for your needs.
4. Air Conditioning
Let’s face it: air conditioning is fast becoming an office necessity like electricity and lighting. The problem with trying to work in a hot and humid office is productivity and efficiency levels plummet as ambient temperatures rise.
You want to make sure that your team (and yourself) are working at an ideal temperature and that you’re all as productive as possible. Air conditioning is the obvious solution for your needs, but the biggest downside is the installation cost.
After reading that, you might be wondering why air conditioning is getting suggested as an affordable DIY solution to upgrade your office? Here’s the thing: you can do most of the installation work yourself and save your business a fortune.
Believe it or not, the physical installation of split-air systems isn’t as difficult as you might have expected. Most installations typically happen as follows:
- A hole gets drilled in an exterior wall to route pipes and power cabling between your office’s interior and exterior;
- The exterior unit features the condenser and compressor, and can easily get installed at ground level;
- The interior unit is lightweight and contains the fan assembly and air filter, and gets fitted near the ceiling.
The split air conditioning units themselves cost around $600 for a basic setup. All you need is a qualified air conditioning engineer to connect the pipework for you and check/fill the gas levels. Doing things that way will save hundreds of dollars on the installation cost.
5. Employee Ergonomics
Some small businesses wrongly assume that they have to “call in the experts” to improve the ergonomics of their working environments. That’s not the case at all, and you can upgrade your workspace ergonomics cheaply.
For example, computer screens should be at eye level - especially for workers that use them for several hours a day. You can easily build monitor risers out of wood and with some basic hand tools. And you can build similar solutions for footrests.
You can also invest in some affordable office furniture from retailers like IKEA to help employees manage their working environments. Some of the things you can look into include adjustable office chairs, and their Kallax shelving units and bookcases.
If some employees find the sunlight causes too much glare on their computer screens, you can install blinds on your office windows. Another option is to fit some window tints to block out some of the light that floods your office.
6. Chalkboard Wall
One final way to cheaply upgrade your office is by making use of a large section of wall that doesn’t otherwise get used for anything. Instead of wasting money on a large whiteboard that takes up space and is cumbersome to move around, create a chalkboard wall instead.
You can purchase a special type of paint that creates the right finish needed for writing on the wall using chalk. The paint itself is cheap to buy and easy to apply and comes in either a tin or an aerosol can.
If you’re wondering why you would need a chalkboard wall in your office instead of a whiteboard on wheels, here are a couple of examples of how such an addition can work for your office:
- Meeting Room. If you have a room dedicated to meetings, conference calls, and brainstorming, a chalkboard wall makes it easy to write notes and draw diagrams;