The hybrid workplace isn’t even a question any more. Hybrid is here to stay, supported by digital transformations like document digitization, and by well-documented productivity increases. But among those who study corporate cultures, big concerns remain, in particular the “proximity bias.”
Whether you call it face time, hallway moments, or watercooler time, informal in-person interactions were the traditional way managers kept tabs on employees’ engagement. Visible workers were considered productive workers. But in hybrid operations, in-person visibility is diminished and managers often struggle to evaluate and lead their teams without access to the usual in-person cues.
Many companies made strides in DEI policy implementation prior to hybrid operations. However, the proximity bias may be undermining DEI progress. In the absence of customary performance cues, managers unconsciously fall back on old outdated attitudes regarding the value and productivity of particular classes of employee.
Writing in FastCompany.com, leadership expert Amanda Xido discusses ways some businesses are combating the proximity bias. Some have standardized in-office days and times. Some are rotating who is in the office when, or letting collaborative teams establish in-office schedules. Still others rely on routine in-person check-ins between managers and employees. Any of these strategies helps to short-circuit the proximity bias.
Data can help reveal additional DEI shortcomings in the hybrid workplace. Xido points to analyses of communications and decision-making – for example, are men sending most of the Slack communications, even though women are the majority of employees? A McKinsey study showed a measurable preference for inclusivity in the hybrid workplace, in work-life support, team building, and mutual respect.
Moreover, the McKinsey study showed a clear competitive advantage for an inclusive culture in attracting and retaining top talent: a 47% increase in the likelihood of an employee staying with a hybrid organization if it is inclusive. Listening to employees – conducting surveys, requesting feedback – provides useful data to help build DEI initiatives.
The change to hybrid is a giant step in the evolution of the way we work. The logistics of transitioning from the traditional to the hybrid office is a lot to manage. However, if the leadership team keeps DEI central in its organizational re-formation, the results will always be good for the organization’s productivity, its profitability, and the customers it serves.
Photo © BGStock72 / AdobeStock
The more times a document is touched, the greater the loss of productivity.
In our personal lives, paper is usually a passive form of information media. Paper documents such as wills, deeds, and birth certificates are carefully filed and only rarely accessed. Productivity isn’t really a consideration.
But in business, paper documents operate differently. Paper is a highly active medium in any paper-reliant organization, going in and out of file cabinets, across desks, through many hands.
Paper-based processes kill productivity in three ways:
- Movement – Inputting information by hand (a form, for example), and walking a document from one place to another (an approval process , for example), all happen at human speed. And if the recipient isn’t present to immediately handle the document, or the document travels via the USPS or another carrier, the process becomes even slower.
- Loss – DeLoitte & Touche have calculated that the average U.S. manager spends 3 hours per week looking for lost documents. That’s roughly 150 hours per year, per person, in lost productivity.
- Security – It is estimated that 70% of businesses would fail within 3 weeks in the event of a catastrophic loss of paper records due to fire or flood.
The explosive growth in work-from-home (WFH) adds a fourth productivity challenge. WFH staffers need access to papers locked away in the office. When staffers travel to the office, the commute time translates to lost productivity. And when documents are taken out of the office, there’s an increased security risk. 61% of data breaches in small businesses involve paper. Productivity plummets while damage is assessed and repaired.
The solution to paper’s productivity-killing tendencies is digital:
- Imaging (document conversion) of paper documents creates secure, accessible, searchable digital documents. Instead of moving at human speed from one desk to another, imaged documents move at near-instantaneous internet speeds. Imaged documents never get lost under a bookshelf or left in the copier. Usage authorization is managed and monitored for improved security, giving remote workers the access they need to be productive.
- Enterprise content management (ECM) software helps businesses move many of their paper-based processes to a digital format. Documents originate digitally, and remain in that medium throughout all operational processes. Errors are reduced, and, like imaged documents, these digital-origin documents move quickly and safely through the pipeline.
Even when businesses convert to ECM, however, paper is still generated. Signatures may be added, hand-written revisions can be made, notes may be added. An imaging program works alongside an ECM system to preserve a record of those document outputs, in digital format. Can your business gain efficiency and productivity by going digital? If you have paper-based processes, the answer is Yes.
Photo © StockPhotoPro / AdobeStock
Office data tracker Kastle Systems reports that U.S. offices are now half full of employees – 50.4 percent, to be precise – compared to pre-pandemic occupancy. Many experts predict that this is as good as it’s going to get, in employers’ return-to-the-office goals. Stanford University economist Nicholas Bloom, who studies the evolution of flexible work, says, “Office numbers have flat-lined.”
The pandemic taught us that many jobs can be performed remotely, or with only part-time in-office hours. The Great Resignation showed that employees really, really like remote work, and want a high degree of flexibility in their in-office schedules. Even jobs that aren’t traditionally considered as off-site positions are now being modified, with many heads-down tasks being handled outside the office.
Interestingly, some of the push for returning to the office is coming from young workers newly entering the workforce. They feel a lack of the mentorship and team connection that comes with full-time remote work. Like many more-seasoned employees, these novices like a hybrid schedule that lets teams determine when they all need to be in the office, giving them both face time and flexibility.
Some large employers continue to push for a return to full-time in-office, but they are definitely in the minority. The majority of U.S. offices are adapting their workflows and personnel management to hybrid.
Now new technology is springing up to manage the communication, scheduling, and information management needs of the new workstyle. However, if you’re organizing hybrid workflows in your office right now, there’s no need to wait for new tech to come online when there are already robust tried-and-true solutions.
- Document Conversion: Information on paper documents is nearly impossible to share when team members are in more than one place. While they may be assembled in the office one or two days a week, they may need to refer to those documents when they’re out of the office. Document conversion transforms paper-based information into secure, searchable, remotely accessible digital information.
- RFID: As employees come and go between office and home, so do an organization’s assets – laptops or research materials, for example. RFID tags and doorway readers keep track of these assets as hybrid staffers take them in and out of the building.
- Smart Lockers: No one shows up at the office empty-handed. With so many hybrid workplaces using hot-desking rather than assigned workspaces, people need secure storage for their personal items. Smart lockers can be remotely reserved and managed, creating a solution for staffers’ stuff as well as providing an aesthetically pleasing design feature.
Hybrid is here to stay, with all the management challenges that come with a new way of doing business. Talk to a storage technology consultant and take full advantage of the supportive tech already available. No matter how many people are in your office on any given day, these solutions will help your operations transition into the new hybrid reality.
Photo © Victor Zastol’skiy /AdobeStock
Remote work is in demand, and employers who require workers to be on-site are losing out to organizations whose workstyle supports remote jobs. But not all jobs can be done remotely. Construction workers, healthcare providers, food service workers, warehouse and manufacturing crews – these are just some of the many jobs that are site-dependent. As routinely reported in the news, employers in these sectors are having difficulty hiring and retaining qualified staff, because remote work is so desirable.
One of the biggest attractions of remote work is flexibility. To compete with remote-work employers, on-site employers are taking a hard look at the temporal and locational boundaries of various job classifications and adding flexibility wherever possible.
In healthcare, for example, the big trend is flexible shifts. Workers can choose to work 90 hours over 8 days, or 40 hours over three days, with many variations. With flexible temporal boundaries, workers can easily balance on-site responsibilities with home and personal responsibilities.
Other organizations are deconstructing jobs into on-site tasks and tasks that can be easily done off-site. Librarians, for instance, have to be on-site to manage books and lending activities, but their administrative tasks like scheduling or catalog management can be done remotely.
This sounds a lot like hybrid work, doesn’t it? It might be termed Next-Gen Hybrid – reshaping seemingly rigid on-site jobs into more flexible work formats. To make Next-Gen Hybrid jobs function well, however, the right technology needs to be in place for smooth transitions between on-site and remote.
Asset management technology for physical assets and informational assets is vital. It’s all too easy to lose e-devices and paper documents in transit between an on-site workplace and a remote workplace, but these two asset management systems reduce the risk dramatically:
- RFID – Many organizations are already using RFID for inventory management. It’s simple to extend RFID’s tracking capability to e-devices leaving and returning to the workplace. And with employees coming and going on irregular schedules, RFID-enabled smart lockers give workers a place to keep their on-site stuff. Bonus: Administrators can manage locker access and usage remotely – another off-site task.
- Document digitization – Just because some tasks are moving off-site, while other tasks remain on-site, doesn’t mean that off-site tasks don’t need access to information. If that needed information exists only on paper, remote tasks are locked out. Document digitization – moving paper-based information into a digital database – makes information accessible on-site and off-site.
It’s going to take creativity to re-imagine how traditional on-site work can be made more flexible, and therefore more attractive to prospective employees. But with the right technology in the workplace, organizations can add a healthy dose of flexibility into their workflow, and level the recruitment playing field.
Photo © Pixel-Shot / AdobeStock
Data is one of the most valuable assets of any organization. Enriched data, like enriched cereal, is even more valuable. Data enrichment takes a single data point – a unique product ID, for instance – and attaches additional information to that one data point. The single enriched data point can then provide better business insights for your entire organization.
One of the most advanced ways to enrich data is through combining different information sources. By having access to data from multiple sources, organizations can have a more comprehensive view of their customers, products, and operations.
When RFID data and data from digitized documents are combined, the resulting insights will have a positive impact on any business. The data stored in these databases is structured, meaning it is organized in a consistent format that makes it easier to access and analyze.
Enriched data from RFID and document databases is valuable throughout the organization. A few examples:
- Marketing – Product aging data from the RFID inventory intersects with digitized product brochures to create a quick end-of-season sale, reducing the cost of expired inventory.
- Quality Control – The digital document database matches suppliers’ warranties to an RFID-generated list of defective manufacturing supplies, providing fast data-supported refund requests to your vendors.
- Facilities Management – A digitized maintenance schedule is linked to specific items tracked in an RFID database, saving time in locating maintenance-due assets, and saving the cost of replacing improperly-maintained assets.
Enriched data provides organizations with improved operational efficiency. By having access to more accurate and complete data, businesses can make better decisions, prioritize tasks, and improve their operational efficiency. This improved efficiency can lead to cost savings, productivity gains, and smoother operations.
Perhaps your business is already using RFID for inventory management. Maybe you have already converted your paper documents into a digital database. If so, take a look at the benefits of cross-referencing the two databases. Organizations that invest in combining these data sources and leveraging the enriched data for decision-making can gain a competitive advantage and secure a strong future for their business.
Photo © NicoElNino / AdobeStock
Experience informs all stakeholders about the outcome of their decisions. In the case of storage technology, those stakeholders include design consultants, manufacturers, and end users in fields from manufacturing and mining, to museums and medicine.
When prospective users are considering upleveling their storage technology, theories are all well and good, but the proof of the pudding is in the real world. Nothing beats a case study to demonstrate real-world experience. With that in mind, here is a selection of storage tech case studies that decision-makers can relate to:
- Government Agency Document Storage – Lack of storage space made organization and timely retrieval of documents an extreme challenge, deflecting the agency from its primary mission. A better storage system offered an answer.
- Electrical Utility Asset Management – Keeping adequate quantities of operational tools and supplies on hand was difficult, and left the utility unprepared for standard maintenance or emergencies. An inventory technology solution proved to be the management key.
- Museum Archives Storage – A continuing stream of artifacts and archival materials was straining this museum’s storage capacity. The solution took its storage in a new direction, doubling the museum’s warehouse capacity without expanding its footprint.
- Professional Association Document Archiving and Preservation – With many of its research documents in a fragile condition, this association had difficulty giving document access to its members. Twenty-first century technology created access for all, without endangering these one-of-a-kind books.
These are just a few of the many case studies of various storage technology solutions collected on the NOS site. If you’re considering a change in your storage systems, we encourage you to take a look at the possibilities and envision your organization’s future.
Photo © BullRun / AdobeStock