Get Lean, Get Clean, Get Organized – 5S Your Office

Tatiana Czuchnowsky

Beginners Guide To 5S The Office for Efficiency And Productivity Applying the principles of 5S at work is a wonderful way to incorporate lean methodologies …

Beginners Guide To 5S The Office for Efficiency And Productivity

5SApplying the principles of 5S at work is a wonderful way to incorporate lean methodologies and increase efficiency in the day to day functioning of your office. What is 5S? In a nutshell, it’s a systemic approach to improve productivity and quality in all types of business. Developed in Japan, it stands for the Japanese words seiri (sort), seiton (set in order), seiso (shine), seiketsu (standardize), and shitsuke (sustain), or simply put – 5S. Once these principles are integrated at the office and the commitment is made to maintain them, concentrating on the tasks at hand becomes easier. The goal of 5S is to eliminate waste – wasting time and wasting materials – and to increase efficiency and productivity. Below are a few simple ideas and tips to easily 5S your office/workspace.

Sort: Your first step is to separate all items in your personal space and the office as a whole into groups, everything from paper clips, files, photos, to binders, etc.  For example, you may have office supplies, manuals, and equipment as your groups. Then begin tagging – placing tags on items to designate their status into things you use all the time, things you use sometimes, and things you rarely touch.  Place a red tag on the last category as an indication to remove it from the work area, you don’t need to have it on hand for your daily business operations. Re-examine your “sometimes” pile to determine if some of those things can be given a red tag as well.

Straighten: This is the fun step – it’s time to create your new office space. Organize the office and your personal space so that everything has a spot and there is a nice, systematic flow. Pens are in one place, binders in another, sticky notes, stapler, etc., each has its own place on desks, shelves, cupboards or in drawers.  A handy tip, especially for common areas – use tape to create an outline of where each item goes and label it. Identify on the exterior of the filing cabinet, what materials are stored inside.  This way, anyone who enters your office or a common work area knows where to find or put back just about anything. As the old saying goes, “A place for everything and everything in its place.”

Shine: This is the cleaning stage. Take the time to give your office or work station a deep clean. Get rid of all the dust and dirt, you’ll feel great while doing it and when you see the fruits of your labour. This is also the time to identify weekly or bimonthly tasks to maintain the shine of your work area/office/public spaces.

Standardize: This fourth step is very important. In the standardizing phase, methods for maintaining 5S are identified and documented. It’s about creating an environment where things operate with more efficiency and productivity. At your place of work, it means developing a consistently organized office – for you and your staff.

Sustain: You need to develop a company-wide system to maintain the order you’ve created. It’s a great opportunity for employees to work together in maintaining 5S improvements. Periodic audits are an easy way to keep everyone on track. This simple 5S audit checklist from Summit Business Solutions Inc., is a great place to begin and provides ideas to create your own relevant forms/checklist. In your personal space, spend 5 minutes before you leave the office at the end of the day to straighten up and make sure everything is returned to its proper place. It will soon become automatic, a new and positive habit.

Now that you know how to begin, have fun on your 5S journey and enjoy the resulting increased productivity and efficiency in your day to day work! For more information, check out this easy to read ebook, Spaces That Work.


Has 5S made a difference to your day to day office function? Feel free to leave a comment below or shout out to us on Facebook or Twitter. Of course, you could always write your own blog post on the subject and share it with us… We’d love to read it!

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Tatiana Czuchnowsky was an associate at CornerStone Dynamics Inc. In all her blogs efficiency was the name of the game.

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