My workplace is offering incentives to employees who can save money. What can I suggest?
September 7, 2011 4:39 PM   Subscribe

My workplace has announced they will soon be offerings monetary rewards for employees who can think up ways to save money on operating costs. I want to cash in. Ideas?

More info: it's a school, and so far, they have tried replacing the photocopier with a lesser, cheaper model; sending notices to people via email instead of printing them out and purchasing a digital monitor to display photos of events rather than printing/laminating/posting them.

So...any bright ideas? Fwiw the photo monitor was my idea, but it was suggested last year before this new incentive program :) I would love to get a little bonus and would welcome any suggestions people have.
posted by JoannaC to Grab Bag (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
E-readers instead of textbooks. It's expensive up front, cheaper down the line.
posted by Lobster Garden at 4:43 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Er - I know flippant answers are frowned upon, but if you put in an early bid of "scrap the employee-sourced budget cut scheme" you might be in the money if noone else has a good idea?
posted by cromagnon at 4:44 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Keep the building cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer.

Replace Exchange with Google Apps (next time you're buying.)
posted by michaelh at 4:47 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

- Use older computers running linux (CentOS, FreeBSD) rather than Macs or Windows boxes.
- If your school uses office in teaching or administration, use Openoffice/LibreOffice rather than MS Office.
- Look into open-source textbooks, such as those at the California Resource Learning Network.
posted by benzenedream at 4:58 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Install this product in your school's HVAC systems.
posted by litnerd at 4:59 PM on September 7, 2011

Keep computers plugged into a powerstrip and have teachers turn off the powerstrips at the end of the day! Computers use a TON of vampire energy even if they are completely shut down if they are in a live outlet. If every class has 5 computers, times 20 classrooms, that is 100 computers. If it costs $10 per year in energy to keep a computer plugged in, that saves $1000 a year!
posted by shortyJBot at 5:04 PM on September 7, 2011 [4 favorites]

You could also suggest "classroom rummage" days, where every two months or so teachers clean out their rooms of extra materials or things they never use/need. Another teacher or staff member might need them for his or her students, and it might prevent them from buying something similar. Stuff could be placed in the teacher's lounge and you could have guidelines that things be in good condition, working, etc. I think staff sometimes feel guilty that they don't use something the county or school payed money for in the past, but this might help them get rid of it in a useful way.
posted by shortyJBot at 5:07 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Save on energy costs:
Does each teacher have a mini fridge/coffee maker/microwave in their own room? Perhaps admin can purchase nicer, more energy efficient appliances for the faculty room to save on the smaller energy vampires.
Do they each have their own printer? Network computers so several teachers share a printer. They'll be less likely printing up personal stuff (saving money on ink) and again there will be fewer energy vampires.

Have all office forms made into PDFs and post them for access on a teacher only part of the school's website.
posted by NoraCharles at 5:08 PM on September 7, 2011

Not a specific idea, but a general suggestion: You need to look at the intersection of "things that we have to do" and "things that can change without startup costs."

So, sending notices to parents via email is great because you have to give them updates, but starting to use email has no cost.

Flip side to that will be ideas that are "Switch from technology X to technology Y," because there's almost always going to be costs involved.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:20 PM on September 7, 2011

Reduce the salary of administrative personnel who are not teachers, maintenance employees, or secretaries.

Install solar panels with a break-even point of less than 10 years and a useful lifespan of greater than 10 years.
posted by jsturgill at 5:22 PM on September 7, 2011

What are the drivers of your operating costs. Most NY State public schools have about 85% of their budget tied up in personnel costs such as salary, pension, healthcare, transportation and debt service. Most of the remaining 15% goes to energy costs, facilities upkeep and supplies. You will get your biggest savings in the long-run reducing energy costs, but it will probably take an initial outlay of funds to achieve such as replacing windows with more efficient ones, updating boilers, changing lights, etc. If you are talking about smaller type savings, I would look at your mailing costs to the community if a public school and mailing for recruitment and publicity reasons if a private school. As pointed out above, licensing fees for software can be avoided with many google products and other freeware such as open office (or whatever they call it now). The other area to look at are more quality of life type issues such as if the school supplies coffee, sugar, creamer, etc. Cutting out the freebies will save money but make for a not as happy work force. If you have a soda and candy vending machine, you could raise the cost above where it is currently or if you are not making the profit on it now and it is being serviced by an outside vendor, take that task in house.

If you are a public school, you may also have state and federal mandates that serve no local good but are costly such as filing test scores, administering standardized tests, etc.

For bigger ticket items, look at extending the replacement schedule for computers, foregoing certain maintenance on the building, and shifting costs to students for options activities such as teams, field trips, etc. Also, try to keep the school closed as much as possible. Schedule meetings during the day, try to keep weekend activities to outside on the fields and charge for outside groups to use the facility.

If you could find additional ways to generate revenue rather than cut costs that should be worth a bonus too. Rent the facilities out.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:30 PM on September 7, 2011

Does your school have a lot of lawn? Convert to native prairie! Enlist the kids, plant the seeds, trim with native plants! This cuts down on grass mowing and trimming.

Similarly, plant a garden! Enlist the kids, compost a bunch of the stuff around the school, use it in the spring!
posted by everythings_interrelated at 5:35 PM on September 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Whatever you decide, if you want the money I think you're going to want to do some sort of cost-benefit analysis. It doesn't need to be really in-depth, just enough to show that the savings outweigh whatever you're trading off for the cost reductions. Factor in the cost of the award if you want to be a huge smartass.

Some things that we've done at work (not a school, but a non-profit) have included eliminating the loyalty rewards program on the company credit card that's offered (sort of a no-brainer), renegotiating health plans, and moving all of our travel over to e-ticketing rather than receiving paper tickets. I realize these may not really be applicable, but maybe they will spur other thoughts.

On the line of the lawn, you could contract with a local farmer to bring his livestock over and eat the grass rather than mowing.
posted by backseatpilot at 5:55 PM on September 7, 2011

Coupon exchange--most families don't actually use all those coupons in the Sunday paper. If kids bring them in, the school can see what's useful and what's not--if teachers are buying supplies or snacks for various reasons, might as well save with a couple dozen coupons.
Does the school recycle, and if so, is the school cashing in on the glass and plastic or letting someone else reap the rewards.
Does the library get subscriptions to magazines? Might be a way to get these cheaper. You can get subscriptions with frequent flier miles or reward cards. Are parents signed up for various reward programs that benefit schools, like Target?
posted by Ideefixe at 5:59 PM on September 7, 2011

True story: my former employer cut costs by switching from their already low-grade toilet paper to an even lower grade of toilet paper.
posted by rhymeswithcheery at 5:59 PM on September 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

Suggest that all employees -- salaried and hourly, union and non-union -- should be able to take 2-hour or 4-hour blocks of time off (a couple of times a year). This lets people see the dentist/doctor/etc. without having to take a whole day off, which dramatically saves on sub costs. It's also typically good for employee morale.

You don't necessarily want people taking ALL their personal days in 2-hour chunks, but if they can break down one day, that's very helpful. And paying for partial-day subs is MUCH cheaper.

(Otherwise, employees paying more of their health care costs is my district's biggest savings initiative.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:15 PM on September 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Turn the lights off when you close down the building. I don't know why the campus I work on has certain buildings that are brightly lit ALL NIGHT LONG, still, in California :P
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:50 PM on September 7, 2011

Probably a bit large scale, but... if you live in a cold area, extending winter vacation by a week and tacking a week on the end of the school year can save a ton on heating costs. Presumably, the reverse can work in areas that need air conditioning in the summer.
posted by underflow at 10:41 PM on September 7, 2011

It's not clear where you are. If you are in the UK then there are currently quite a few companies who are willing to install solar panels on your school for free and who will then allow you to use the electricity produced while they take the subsidy available from central government. They can do this because the subsidy is high for installations under 50kW. IIRC solarcentury do this, I think Eon do it and I know someone on a smaller company who actually have a school specific programme where they will provide teaching material to go with an installation. This is one of those things that sound like a scam but it is very doable and could save your school a bucket load of cash on energy bills for years to come.
posted by biffa at 3:37 AM on September 8, 2011

Maybe consider waterless urinals. We did this at our downtown public library and estimate that we save 30,000 gallons of water a year.

Also, to add to what biffa said, there are similar programs in the U.S. which our library took advantage of. We now have solar panels on 2 of our locations and--after a certain number of years where the energy company leases the panels--we get the energy output.

Both of these have an upfront cost but long-term savings.
posted by johnofjack at 7:37 AM on September 8, 2011

Set the default on all your printers to double-sided, or even (my preference) two-up, double-sided. Like buying e-readers, the upfront hardware costs for a duplexer can be compensated for by the paper savings.

Also, odinsdream is right: have them go over the phone bills and tighten up the plan.

My kids's elementary school offers sponsorship of library books for a small amount. The book is already bought, but then your name gets added to a message on the flyleaf. *shrug* Not a lot of money, but part of a larger campaign of montizing tricks that aren't too painful.

I would bet that your greatest costs are personnel-related, so really these suggestions will be about reducing the "Other: 10%" portion of your budget -- i.e., rearranging deck chairs. :7(
posted by wenestvedt at 9:16 AM on September 8, 2011

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