Seventy percent of employers anticipate downsizing their office space, according to a KPMG survey of CEOs. Pandemic-enforced work-from-home (WFH) has evolved into widespread adoption of the hybrid work style, a flexible combination of time in the office and time working remotely. Some businesses are going near-100% remote, reducing their footprint to a single small office. Many others are shifting to hub-and-spokes offices for their hybrid operations, letting employees put in their office hours in smaller “spokes” offices close to home, and reserving a downsized downtown “hub” office for central administration, IT, and major meetings.
The shift to smaller spaces inspires fear and loathing in facilities managers and operations administrators everywhere. The design phase alone is a daunting challenge; every department has to weigh in with their different, and sometimes conflicting, needs and wants. And then there’s the relocation logistics – what to move, when and how to move it, and where to put it all when it arrives at its new home.
It’s the stuff of nightmares.
It’s also a great opportunity to review office operations and make positive, profitable changes.
- Convert your documents to digital format via imaging
- Save the cost of moving all that paper, not to mention all the filing cabinets to house it. Retain only the necessary paper documents, and shred the rest.
- Support your “spokes” offices and WFH workers with an accessible, searchable database of imaged documents. Keep them on-task instead of spending time searching through folders in filing cabinets.
- Boost your community goodwill (and your bragging rights) by reducing paper consumption and increasing your sustainability rating.
- Convert to an RFID asset management system
- Save the cost of replacing lost furnishings. Tag furnishings to create a locational database, tracking items from office to office, and from room to room.
- Keep track of electronic devices that move from business office to home office and back again.
- Save the time and labor costs of a manual inventory that requires visual identification of assets. Output an accurate report of the business’s assets automatically.
Incorporate these upgrades into your office relocation plan, and you’ll begin reaping the benefits before your move as well as after. The right technology will banish those downsizing nightmares and set you up for hybrid workplace success.
Photo © Elnur / AdobeStock
Large or small, any business decision requires good data. The Internet of Things (IoT) pools data from numerous “smart” sources and delivers actionable data across your enterprise – operations managers, facilities managers, HR, marketing. Real-time data adds agility and flexibility to your operations.
And the more data, the better. RFID has proven its value as an asset management system, tracking inventory, furnishings, process components, even paper documents. Building on that information technology, smart devices are providing a wealth of data to the IoT.
So how can office furnishings generate digital data for better management decisions? Take the example of smart lockers in a hybrid office. Flex-schedule staffers without assigned workspaces use day-use lockers to store their personal items while they are in the office. Additionally, they can securely retrieve packages (documents or electronic devices for off-site work, for instance) at any time, without scheduling a face-to-face hand-off.
Data from these networked smart lockers produces two kinds of management insights: (1) a snapshot of current usage, and (2) a detailed picture of historical usage over time. Paired with touchless technology that lets users open lockers with an RFID personnel badge or a mobile phone app, managers can learn:
- How many lockers are in use on a given day
- Which group of lockers is overused or underused
- Which locker an individual used, and for how long
- When, or whether, a package was picked up
With this abundance of data, managers can make decisions about:
- Occupancy density
- Space utilization
- Personnel flow
For example, if lockers are fully utilized on a particular day of the week, predictive software in the facility’s IoT alerts management to okay a climate control adjustment for that day. If a laptop is placed in a locker for a staffer, an automated notification is alerts the staffer to pick up a package, and a second notification tells a manager when the laptop is picked up. If a particular bank of lockers is underutilized, a space-utilization alert tells the facility manager to consider a more user-friendly location.
And when management decisions need up-the-line approvals, hard data from accurate sources gives credibility to any request. Make the most of smart technology, and make data-driven decisions. Your bottom line will thank you.
Photo © wladimir1804/ AdobeStock
Like many familiar aspects of business life, the form and function of offices are undergoing rapid change to fit the new reality. Today’s challenges have been an opportunity for reflection and reinvention, in business as well as in our personal lives. As our business operations adapt to the new normal, office designs are shifting to accommodate new workstyles.
Hybrid offices are one example of a pre-Covid trend accelerated by the pandemic. WFH has been far more productive than expected, but teams still feel the need for face-to-face collaboration for certain tasks. Consulting firm Gensler describes the hybrid workplace as promoting collaboration through activity-based design, using advanced technology and unassigned seating within a hospitality-driven atmosphere. Teams work remotely, coming together in a hybrid office as required.
A few major organizations have been test-driving the hybrid office in a hub-and-spokes design. A centrally hub office in the city center provides room for larger group activities, while smaller outlying offices give support to WFH staff living nearby. Hybrid offices reduce office space in the expensive city center, while preserving a visible presence.
Repurposing office buildings’ lobbies is another new-normal trend. In a hub-and-spokes office, the spokes facilities can be integrated into the surrounding community, creating connections among WFH staffers, clients, and the neighborhood. Buildings’ public spaces offer a branding opportunity for tenants to underscore their community involvement, as well as a meeting destination for workers and visitors.
To ensure that these new workplaces function well, designers and office managers are applying the latest in digital technology.
WFH staff need access to project materials whether they’re at home, at a spoke office, or at the central hub. In the hybrid office, paper documents may be stored at the hub, with limited access. But imaged documents are accessible to remote workers no matter where they are. The paper originals remain safely stored in the hub office.
Touchless technology is another asset for the reshaped office. RFID-based apps enable safe touchless entry to secure areas. Touchless lockers provide personal storage for WFH workers traveling to spoke or hub offices. Designers can even use touchless lockers as a physical divider to guide foot traffic and maintain safe social distancing.
Gensler predicts that the new style of office building will be far less insular and self-contained, and far more responsible to its community through creating public spaces, support businesses, and a live-work-play environment. Technology that supports human capital will be the key to successful office design in the new reality.
Photo © Mangostar / AdobeStock
Until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine, social distancing is the new workplace normal – either you’ll have fewer people in the office, or your office space will have to be increased to achieve a less dense workplace.
Now that businesses are looking at ways to open up again, maintaining social distancing in the workplace is a top priority. Densely populated open plan layouts were the norm before COVID-19 struck. But open plan workstations of 60-70 square feet per person are far too small to maintain 6-ft distancing. Bringing everyone back into an old-style open plan office is simply not workable.
De-densifying the office is vital. Clustered workspaces have to be spread out. Separation structures have to be put in place. In-office traffic routes have to be re-arranged to preserve distancing.
All of this adds up to a larger office footprint. But even if additional space is available, increased real estate costs are something every organization wants to avoid in the current economic climate.
Telework is the answer: With fewer staffers in the office, it’s easy to decrease density without increasing the office footprint.
Telework has become a way of life for many of us during the past months, and we’ve learned some valuable management lessons. One is disaster planning; our companies’ emergency plans have been tested in this crisis, and we’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. Another lesson is telework capacity; many businesses or departments may have done some limited telecommuting prior to the pandemic, but were not prepared for a full-scale switch to 100% remote working.
As many of us discovered, access to documents was an ongoing obstacle to getting work done remotely. Paper documents are easy to share in an office, but hard to share remotely. Document conversion is essential to productive telework. Imaged documents are accessible to everyone who needs them, regardless of location. And they have the advantages of findability and searchability: Documents can be found in seconds, far faster than searching in file cabinets, and key words or phrases can be searched for and located with digital speed.
The new workplace normal doesn’t have to mean new real estate costs. Take the lessons we’ve learned from these challenging months, and translate them into action – support telework with document conversion, and de-densify your offices without expanding your footprint.
Photo ©Fizkes / AdobeStock
Research firm Gartner estimates that as much as 3% of a company’s revenue is spent on business paper. Copy paper, note paper, invoices, letters, file folders…it all adds up, and it’s easy to quantify. But that’s just the hard costs. What is rarely calculated are the hidden costs all that paper generates.
A few statistics from a PriceWaterhouseCoopers study:
- 8 hours– the amount of time an employee spends managing paper documents each week
- $122– the cost of finding a single lost document
- 750– the number of lost paper documents per year, per mid-size business
There’s a dollar figure attached to this kind of lost productivity. Even though the math may not show up on a spreadsheet, lost documents alone can be calculated to cost the average mid-size business $91,500 per year.
And that’s before calculating the cost of office space to store all those documents. Paper is undeniably bulky. Just 250 standard file cabinets take up 2,500 square feet. That adds up to a significant sum, too: $135,000 per year, on average.
Knowing those costs could make you think twice about using – and retaining – all that paper. But do you have a choice?
Imaging is the alternative. Converting paper documents to digital documents saves businesses the cost of all that storage space for physical documents. The contents of those 250 file cabinets, after conversion, will fit onto a single hard drive. With imaged documents safely stored on a drive, lost documents are a thing of the past, as is the cost of finding those lost documents.
Even better, businesses can take advantage of the cost savings of a remote workforce. Digital documents, unlike paper documents, can be shared readily with members of a distributed team. And remote teams require less office space, adding to the cost savings.
Of course paper still provides a valuable function even in the digital era. People have a positive response to information presented on paper, and they absorb and retain that information longer. Sales and marketing materials, for example, have a greater impact if they’re presented on paper.
But for many other areas of business operations, imaged documents present a significant value in the form of reduced real estate costs and improved productivity. Take a look at how your enterprise uses paper, uncover the hidden costs, and make a profitable move to imaging.
Photo ©Puwasit Inyavileart / AdobeStock
Organizational apps have proliferated right along with apps of every other kind. If your business has started converting paper documents to digital documents, you can use a digital asset management (DAM) collaboration app to give your remote teams anywhere-anytime access to the documents they need. But if you still rely on paper documents alone, your remote workers are going to struggle to stay productive.
Remote work has grown over 91% in the past 10 years. Some companies have even gone entirely virtual. The staff of business-finance services company Guidant Financial, for example, works wherever they have a good internet connection. Guidant assists small-business owners with financing options, including retirement account franchise purchases, ROBS, and SBA loans. Business financing generates large volumes of loan and compliance documents for the SBA, the SEC, and the IRS.
Guidant uses a custom portal and app to electronically manage documents, including those which originate on paper.With all their clients’ documents accessible to Guidant’s finance teams, in servers that act as secure virtual “file cabinets,” Guidant’s staff can collaborate to complete and file all the documents their clients need for compliance or loan applications.
Employee satisfaction and retention are big benefits of Guidant’s virtual operations. An even bigger benefit is the company’s ultra-low real estate budget.With few documents to store, and most staffers working remotely, Guidant’s office space is far smaller than the average financial-services company.
Companies like Guidant commission custom software, but for many businesses, an off-the-shelf app provides all the digital asset management functionality their organizations need. Tadesite.com reviews 10 of the top rated off-the-shelf DAM apps with cataloging and search capabilities; some even have a search-within-document feature that is especially useful for collaborative teams.
But to get the best from your remote teams, you have to provide them with digital documents. And that requires converting your paper documents to digital format via a comprehensive imaging program. Imaging is a good bit more complex than simply scanning to a PDF. Properly executed, imaging creates “smart documents” that a DAM app can store, organize, and deliver to your remote workers with electronic speed. Paper documents are easily damaged, lost, or destroyed, but imaging adds a layer of security that controls accessibility and monitors usage.
Talk to an imaging expert and get your business ready for the latest productivity apps.
Photo © bongkarn/ AdobeStock