Whether we notice it or not, where we work can positively or negatively affect our productivity. A cluttered, dark and cramped environment is likely going to bring down your productivity while a bright, open space may increase your ability to focus. And with real estate prices rising rapidly in downtown metropolises, employers are forced to find ways to creatively maximize the space they're given.

Shrinking office spaces are becoming much more commonplace in the working world. Real estate projections estimate the average for all companies for square feet per worker will be as low under 151 square feet in 2017. And in cities like Chicago, a 9% increase in office rents downtown are forcing businesses to downsize their space and to start thinking about space efficiency. It explains the rise of popular co-working spaces like WeWork popping up in cities across the United States, and why many offices are exploring telecommuting options for their employees.

While it may take more established organizations and older employees some getting used to, there are plenty of ways to maximize the space so it feels much bigger than it actually is. Here are five ways to utilize your office space in a more efficient manner.

1. Purge Everything for a Fresh Start

Depending on how much stuff you already have in your office, this may be slightly more difficult to do but clearing out everything is a great way to evaluate just how big your office is.

The idea here is to have an office that is free of any clutter and keeping just the bare minimum amount of furniture possible to keep your employees satisfied. Get rid of unnecessary things like that foosball table nobody uses or replace your circular desks with longer tables that can fit more people. Reduce your storage needs and start thinking about vertical storage spaces to utilize as much space as possible.

While it might be a little crazy at the start, taking the time to taking the time to assess the amount of space you have from the beginning can help you organize your office to be as efficient as possible.

2. Don't Forget About Light

Sometimes all it takes is a brighter room to make employees feel better about where they work. If your office isn't all too big, make sure you're not skimping on the light fixtures.

Dark colors and lighting might feel more designer but they can also make rooms appear smaller. When choosing your furniture pieces, ditch the heavy, traditional desks for something more lightweight and pale colored to reflect light.

Changes in lighting can dramatically affect the appearance of a small office, and also affect your employees' productivity. Imagine trying to work in a dimly-lit room that has little or no access to natural light. Chances are, you'll feel more drowsy and more inclined to take a nap than to send off another email.

3. Provide More Opportunities to Telecommute

Small office? No problem - by allowing your employees to work remotely from home, you free up space in your physical office for employees who need the office space for things like meetings and conferences.

While it might not solve all of your business problems, telecommuting is a great way for employees to secure the privacy they prefer when they work.

If telecommuting is a viable option for your office, be sure you have a strong enough Internet connection to keep documents on the cloud for employees to access from anywhere.

4. Share Your Building Space

If rent is a concern, consider sharing an office space with another small business. With so many incubators and coworking spaces available, small businesses have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to finding a low-cost work space.

It's a trend that Internet companies like Everywhere Wireless are picking up on, and these enterprises are shifting their focus to target entire buildings that house multiple offices instead of one business at a time.

"The demand for our dedicated Internet services has skyrocketed this year, especially with all the new co-working concepts popping up throughout Chicago," remarked Keegan Bonebrake, Everywhere Wireless's EVP of Strategy and Real Estate. " We drop the co-working space owner/operator a single Internet pipe and their IT team configures it internally for all the businesses. It's a win-win for everyone."

5. Create Zones in the Workplace

In a small office, it can be difficult to maintain a certain amount of privacy but dividing your space into zones can help organize both your work and your employees. Consider creating "zones", one for group work and one for individual work.

In the first zone, think about putting furniture like couches or longer tables to accommodate groups of three or more who may be needing a space to collaborate on projects.

For an individual zone, this might be where employees look to work quietly on their computers and only need a small amount of deskspace to put their laptops on. In establishing these two very different zones, you set a clear distinction for the two types of work that are being performed in the office and create workspaces that benefit both types of workers.

What are your tips to maximize office space?