Paper is still the gold standard for many types of documents. Major personal events – marriages, wills, deeds, birth certificates – are still memorialized on paper. Such documents are typically filed away, and rarely accessed again. They’re a passive form of media.
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.
The more times a document is touched, the greater the loss of productivity.
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 © Elnur / AdobeStock
Like the business sectors they serve, associations are facing sudden unexpected challenges. Association revenues are down as conferences are canceled, advertisers pull back, and associations’ members deal with their own budgetary stresses. Many associations have had to do a quick pivot to work-from-home (WFH), roughly akin to building the ship while sailing it. Association executives have scrambled to re-arrange workflows, while reconfiguring budgets to accommodate the new processes.
There’s a surprising silver lining, however: For associations that have some flexibility in their real estate leases, the new WFH workstyle means the need for large offices – and their high-priced rent – can be eliminated. Writing in CEO Update, Kathryn Walson reports on the decision of Denver-based Obesity Management Association to move out of their large offices and move into full-time WFH. With a few co-working offices reserved for in-person work, OMA expects to save $52,000 in the first year.
WFH necessitates remote access to work materials – everything from organization documents to marketing brochures and member information. Paper documents, especially those containing confidential information, should be converted to digital format via imaging. This process makes the documents accessible remotely to WFH staffers, without the security risk of removing the original papers from the office. And if an association outsources some operational functions – accounting, for example – the vendor’s access is easy to monitor and control.
It’s true that not every association can switch over to completely virtual offices. Many need to maintain a physical presence for team collaboration and meetings with vendors and member groups; after all, visibility is a key part of an association’s work. Nevertheless, a combination of WFH and physical offices gives associations a way to reduce their real estate footprint and their real estate costs.
Now is a good time for CEO’s to analyze their association’s space needs, financial condition, and lease agreements. Opportunities for reducing office space may be readily available: an expiring lease, a termination option, a sublet offer. With digital support for WFH, associations can discover valuable budget benefits.
Photo © WavebreakMediaMicro / AdobeStock
Safety is on everyone’s mind these days. The same forces which have disrupted daily life is also disrupting the way facilities are designed, utilized, and maintained. Fast Company is forecasting that the hottest new job in commercial real estate and facilities management is the director of environmental health– a medical expert, preferably with expertise in infectious diseases.
The director of environmental health will be tasked with assessing the health risks posed by current operational systems and policies, and making recommendations for facility-wide changes that reduce health risks. However, individual landlords and tenants are going to be responsible to some degree for including health and safety elements within their own spaces.
Every office uses space differently. High-touch surfaces, traffic patterns, and distancing policies will have be designed to fit each tenant’s needs. Touchless technologyis already available for doors, electronic devices, and personal storage lockers. Touchless lockers with attractive design-friendly finishes can also be used as a separation structure to guide internal traffic, maintain social distance, and reduce contagion.
Also useful in social distancing are RFID wearables that alert staffers when they are too close to each other. RFID(radio frequency identification) is a mature, proven technology for asset management, from inventory control to document tracking to process management. It’s a simple matter to add RFID proximity wearables.
Angelo Bianco of Crocker Partners, a commercial real estate owner with 11 million square feet of office space, predicts that many commercial office space organizations will hire environmental health directors. A focus on enhanced health and safety systems could be a strong marketing advantage in the highly competitive commercial real estate industry. Additionally, having a medical expert on staff is a risk management strategy; owners and operators of commercial properties are protected from claims of health-related negligence.
Tenants, too, can derive some risk management benefits by installing hardware and furnishings specifically designed for workplace well-being. Although many businesses have learned that work-from-home is a productive and cost-effective workstyle, a hybrid of WFH and office is emerging as the new normal. As offices are repopulated, either part-time or full-time, health-oriented designs and policies are going to be the new future of facilities management.
Photo © Studio Romantic / AdobeStock
WFH (work-from-home) was an unwelcome mandate for many businesses until they began to see the reduction in operating costs. Global Workplace Analytics estimates savings of $11,000 per year, per employee, just for part-time work-from-home. Full-time WFH represents even greater savings. It’s no surprise that Facebook, Twitter, Morgan Stanley, and other major companies are opting to keep WFH in place permanently.
But are these businesses going overboard with the WFH perks? Many are providing computers, tablets, telephones, and broadband service to their work-from-home staffers. Some are providing office furniture. Google, for example, gives its WFH employees $1,000 for home-office setups. Others even offer meal deliveries for lunch meetings that used to take place in person but are now on Zoom. The employer-hosted Zoom “happy hour” is widespread.
It all sounds like an overly generous perks package. When you look a little closer, however, those so-called perks are almost no different than the standard productivity tools which businesses would provide in an office setting. In fact, some organizations are sending complete workstations from their offices to employees’ homes. This could be an asset-management nightmare if not for RFID tags which track each electronic device, each chair, and each desk that leaves the office. These businesses can then reduce their office size, and the overhead that goes with it, without disposing of excess furnishings.
Most important, organizations successfully making the change to WFH are ensuring that their employees have remote access to paper documents stored in the business’s offices. Retrieving the paper documents would create an unacceptable security risk. Instead, these businesses have imaged their paper documents, creating a secure digital database of informational assets.
Imaging converts paper documents into secure, searchable digital documents. Remote workers access the digital documents from their home offices via employer-provided high-speed data connections, on their employer-provided laptop, seated in their employer-provided chairs at their employer-provided desk.
It’s a win for everyone: WFH staffers have the tools to get the job done, and businesses continue to be productive while enjoying the benefit of lower operating costs.
Studies have already shown increased productivity rates achieved by WFH. Forbes cites several reports of 35-40% productivity improvement, with an output increase of 4.4%. Engagement and retention are also improved – another cost savings. WFH may have started out as an imposition, but with the right productivity tools, its benefits are here to stay.
Photo ©InsideCreativeHouse / AdobeStock
This is the fourth in a series exploring Dr. Kristen Lee’s (Northwestern University) nine lessons in personal and collective fortitude. Seen through the lens of a business operation, each lesson has application in the current national health and economic challenges, and for successful endeavors in the future.
Kindness is a characteristic that isn’t often applied to businesses. It’s thought of as a strictly human trait, but businesses are made up of individuals – individuals who, as part of a business, can be collectively kind. How can a business build a “kindness mindset” that spreads kind behavior both within its own walls and outside in the larger community?
Like other attributes, kindness is expressed in action – taking action to improve a sub-optimal situation, like the classic Boy Scout good deed of helping an elderly lady across the street. In a business setting, the kindness mindset can be applied in four broad categories.
- Leadership: Recognize and reward kind acts by staffers. Demonstrate kindness in speech and attitude by avoiding belittling, negative behaviors. Support employees’ career goals with additional training and education.
- Operations: Look for ways to improve staffers’ work-life balance, especially in WFH; do they have adequate e-resources like imaged documents and electronics? Safety is a form of kindness too: Utilize ergonomic vertical lifts, track-mounted file storage, and other safety equipment to reduce work-related accidents.
- Clients: Being kind is part of relationship-building. If a client has a temporary setback, set aside short-term profits and brainstorm with your own suppliers for solutions that fit your client’s finances.
- Community. Establish opportunities such as career tours and internships for disadvantaged populations. Volunteer time as well as money; showing up and taking part is a visible commitment to your community.
Kindness is not weakness. It is a form of strength. At its essence, kindness is an acknowledgement that everyone in a community has value and deserves the resources needed to reach their optimal worth.
Even more important, kindness is contagious. It’s a truism that you get back whatever you put out, whether it’s positive or negative. When your business acts in kind ways, that behavior will come back to the business in unexpected and beneficial ways. Make kindness a prominent part of your brand.
Photo ©dizdain / AdobeStock
This is the third in a series exploring Dr. Kristen Lee’s (Northwestern University) nine lessons in personal and collective fortitude. Seen through the lens of a business operation, each lesson has application in the current national health and economic challenges, and for successful endeavors in the future.
Resilience is innate to us all. We have built-in mechanisms to endure and recover from physical challenges, and we can strengthen our physical resilience, as any athlete will tell you. We can strengthen our psychological resilience too, by connecting with others and doing something meaningful every day.
The ability to adapt to challenges and novel circumstances is the hallmark of resilience, not just for individuals but for businesses as well. But unlike human resilience, business resilience is not innate.
Most businesses have provisions for sudden disruptions to supply chains and operations, but few have the same resilience built in to the business model itself. Your old business model may not be holding up well to the challenges of today. But you can modify the model to add a measure of resilience that not only helps your business survive, but thrive in the “new normal.”
The business experts at Gartner offer a five-step approach to improving business resilience:
- Define the current business model.Customers, value proposition, capabilities, financial model – what have they been, up to this point? What has changed in the current crisis?
- Identify uncertainties. What uncertainties are likely to affect the business? Define the disruptions.
- Assess the impact. Create a Business Impact Analysis that covers the categories of impact, the time frame and cycles of impact, the relative weights of different types of impact, and the dependency risks.
- Design the changes to the model. An example: Some organizations are changing to fully remote work, supported by imaging (document conversion) to maintain productivity. Focus on what would need to change in your organization’s model to meet Step Three’s impact; no idea is off limits here.
- Execute. The four previous steps inform the decision-making process. Once decisions are made and the new business model is defined, take an agile approach to execution. Ensure that all department leaders, from IT to customer service, have bought in to the new business model, and are integrating it into their operations.
The same is true for business organizations. Change is inevitable, but it is usually slow and gives plenty of notice. In a crisis, however, change doesn’t wait. No business can be entirely shock-proof, but those which add resilience to their business models can meet the challenge: endure, adapt, strengthen, and thrive.
Photo ©pixarno / AdobeStock