Even the federal government is getting in on the hybrid office trend. There are many good reasons to continue the combination of in-office work and remote work: high productivity, happy employees, and lower facilities overhead.
But there’s a security downside. It’s easy to lose track of the whereabouts of assets. Workers move documents, office equipment, even furnishings between home and office. Without a comprehensive check-out check-in system, business assets can fall through the cracks.
And missing assets are costly. Currently, the average office chair is $400. The average laptop computer is $1600. A single missing document is valued at an average of $120, and the cost could be far higher if the data contained in that document cannot be replicated. The cost of lost assets can easily outweigh the cost savings of a hybrid workplace.
This is where RFID can make a difference. You may think of RFID as a tool to manage your product inventory or secure your building’s entrances. In fact, the technology can be extended into other areas of asset management:
- Office furnishings – Doorway-mounted RFID readers monitor the movements of furniture in and out of a room, or out of the building if you’re supplying furniture for your employees’ home offices.
- Office equipment – The same doorway readers track RFID-tagged laptops, tablets, and cell phones. Paired with RFID personnel tags, you’ll know which employee has which electronic equipment.
- Documents – Sensitive documents can be printed on paper with embedded RFID, and file folders can be RFID-tagged. Like furnishings and equipment, the documents are monitored as they are moved around the office, and tracked if they are taken out of the office.
Can you manually track the ins and outs of assets between home and office, the way it’s always been done? Of course. But a paper and pencil sign-out system is astonishingly error-prone.
RFID is accurate. It doesn’t count on people remembering to sign out a file folder or a computer. It doesn’t mistakenly transpose a chair’s asset management ID number. You can rely on the asset data an RFID system delivers.
The hybrid office trend is here to stay. Manage your office assets with RFID and ensure your operation is getting all the benefits of the hybrid workplace.
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Culture is important in any organization, but none more so than the culture of an association. By its very nature, an association is people-oriented, and the field of association management attracts “people persons” who thrive in the company of others.
The necessity for remote work during the pandemic was especially hard for association staffers. Within a short time these people-persons felt isolated and unproductive, even as many of the industries they served were reporting greater than normal productivity from their WFH teams.
The hybrid workplace was already beginning to be established prior to the pandemic. But when offices sent employees home, the hybrid office really came into its own. Existing technology, from imaged documents to Zoom meetings, made it possible for remote workers to access people and information resources. When non-digital resources or in-person meetings were necessary, the office was still available.
For associations, the hybrid workplace solves a number of problems:
- By preserving a certain amount of in-person time, the association’s vision and team cohesion is reinforced. On-boarding and mentoring can function easily, and serendipitous “water cooler moments” continue to provide creativity boosts. The organization’s culture can continue to thrive.
- By reducing the head count present in the office at any given time, the organization can reduce its office space, and its real estate and overhead costs – something any association’s finance director can appreciate.
- By adding or enhancing various technologies, the association can support its staff with better data. Document imaging, in particular, creates a searchable database that provides better data understanding, goal-setting, and action plans. Moreover, it makes the data accessible from office or home.
This last point is particularly important for associations. As Mark Athetakis writes in Associations Now, information silos stifle collaboration. Collaboration is at the heart of associations – collaboration between associations and members as well as within then associations themselves. A database of imaged documents breaks down the information silos, making collaborative data available across departments.
Hybrid offices can be the best of all worlds for associations, supporting and preserving their culture through the use of data technology. When technology supports the free flow of information, associations can create actionable goals for the benefit of their members.
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We’ve all been told about the benefits of RFID – accurate data, collected and delivered at electronic speed, for real-time decision-making. But does it really make a difference in our day-to-day work lives?
Let’s take a look at two imaginary individuals leading parallel lives. RFID Ray and Non-RFID Ned are operations managers at companies that manufacture, let’s say, turbo-charged self-navigating riding mowers.
- They both get up at 6:30 a.m. and get ready for work. Ray can’t find his keys, but an RFID app on his cell phone quickly locates them. He leaves home in time to miss the worst of the morning traffic.
- Ned, too, has misplaced his keys. He loses 10 minutes looking for them, then he loses another 15 minutes in heavy traffic.
- Ray arrives in the office a few minutes early. He enjoys a cup of coffee and catches up with a colleague, then he opens the RFID-controlled materials inventory on his computer. He sees that the supply of a critical part (we’ll call it a widget) is dangerously low; bad weather has delayed a supplier’s delivery. Ray places a call to another supplier, whose RFID inventory system says he has a 5-day supply in stock. Ray says, “I’ll take them all.”
- When Ned finally arrives at the office 25 minutes late, there’s no time for coffee and team-building chitchat. Like Ray, Ned checks his materials inventory report. It’s a paper document showing a manual count of parts. It took two precious work days to do the inventory nearly a month ago. The report shows that he has plenty of widgets to continue operations for another week. Suddenly the line supervisor rushes in to Ned’s office. “Boss, we’re nearly out of widgets, and the bad weather had delayed the shipment we expected. We’ll have to shut the line down tomorrow if we don’t get more.” Ned gets on the phone to the other nearby supplier, who gives Ned the bad news that Ray bought the last widgets an hour ago.
- Back at Ray’s office, the accountant asks Ray if he has the hard copy of a customer’s purchasing contract. It’s not on Ray’s desk. He checks the RFID document-tracking system, and it shows the contract is on the CFO’s desk. The accountant heads to the CFO’s office and locates the missing document.
- Ned, meanwhile, cannot find the purchasing document the accountant needs. He has no idea where it has gone or who took it off his desk. He stops trying to find a widget supplier and starts looking for the document. After 20 minutes, he locates it in the CFO’s office, then he gets back to widget-hunting.
- When Ray comes back from lunch, he gets a call from a parts manufacturer. The manufacturer’s RFID tracking system shows that a crate of defective jackson rods was sent to Ray. Ray checks his own RFID system and sees that some of the defective parts have just entered the assembly line. He contacts the line supervisor to tell him where the defective parts are on the line; the supervisor removes them. Ray then sends a message to his warehouse: Query the RFID system for the location of the crate of defective parts, and prepare it for return to the manufacturer. Total time required – 5 minutes.
- Ned has no time for lunch. He’s still searching for widgets. Late in the day, his QC manager tells him that some of the finished riding mowers failed QC due to defective jackson rods. Ned shuts down the line while the crew pulls the defective parts. The warehouse manager walks up and down the shelving aisles looking for the crate of defective parts. “I know it was here somewhere,” he says. Ned complains bitterly to the jackson rod manufacturer. Total time required – 4 hours.
- Ray leaves work right on time, his RFID badge recording his exit from the building. He works out at the gym, has a quick bite, and goes to his daughter’s school play. She’s the star of his life.
- Ned gives up the search for widgets and reluctantly lets his boss know the line won’t be operating tomorrow. Ned’s crew is still pulling the defective jackson rods off the line. The crew is being paid overtime, so they don’t mind too much, except the ones whose children are in the school play. Ned, exhausted, tries to sign out on the security log book. His pen runs out of ink. When he gets to his car, he can’t find his keys.
- Just about the same time, Ray is applauding his daughter with a standing ovation.
The story is hypothetical, but the RFID technology is quite real: There is an RFID application for almost every aspect of your work life, and many for your personal life. Whether it’s the time needed to make a well-informed` decision, time to locate something essential, or time to focus on family and self, the most valuable thing RFID gives you is time.
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