Two years into the pandemic aftermath, the hybrid workplace continues to shape the way businesses operate. And businesses, in turn, are shaping their offices to fit the new hybrid workplace. Return to the office (RTO) is surging, but employees are pushing back against full-time RTO. What’s clear is there is value in in-person work, and there’s equal value in remote work, and offices are being re-shaped to accommodate both workstyles.
As reported in FastCompany.com, business-social media company LinkedIn is one of the many businesses adapting their office interiors for hybrid work. Their architects, NBBJ, created a “postures matrix” that guides furniture and layout choices. Design decisions are made based upon the time spent in a particular space, the type of work done there, and the associated ergonomic needs.
The postures matrix showed that the most social places are close to doorways and entries. As people move deeper into the space, work areas become increasingly quieter. Options for heads-down focused work, living room-style conference rooms, and “buzzy” co-working areas provide something for everyone, depending on their needs on any given day.
Like LinkedIn, other businesses may be trying to re-shape their existing offices to make them more hybrid-friendly. Some are concerned that they will need to expand their office footprint, and their budgets are not prepared for additional real estate costs. Luckily, there are design strategies that can support a hybrid redesign without the need for additional space:
- Convert paper documents to digital documents via imaging, and reduce your document storage area. Imaged documents are productivity boosters, whether staffers are in the office or working remotely. And many of the imaged documents do not need to be retained as paper, freeing up room for interior re-design.
- Exchange traditional filing cabinets for a high-density filing system, and save as much as 50% of your storage floor area. While imaging will reduce the need for much document storage, some paper docs need to be retained. Keep them in a high-density filing system and save even more space.
- Add touchless smart lockers that guide in-office traffic while enhancing design aesthetics. Employees without dedicated workspaces need secure storage for personal items in the office. Touchless smart lockers’ customizable finishes make them a design feature, and they can be set up in work areas to provide sound separation and guide traffic. No extra space required.
For many companies, the traditional office is fading away and the hybrid workplace is taking its place. Office interiors will need to be revised to support hybrid work, but these smart moves help keep the costs manageable. Talk to a storage expert to find out how to do a space-saving cost-saving redesign.
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The pandemic revealed that remote work was not only possible, it was productive. And it was appealing to employees. They leveraged the Great Resignation to keep on working remotely, or at least working on a flexible hybrid schedule. Remote and hybrid work had benefits for employers, too, who downsized their offices and reduced overhead. It was a win for everyone.
Now that employers and employees have what they asked for, how is it working out?
The results are mixed. Although 83% of employees want a hybrid workplace, a recent report from JLL Global Research found that hybrid workers don’t feel properly supported in their new workstyle. The open office design is not optimal, particularly for staffers who come to the office expecting to do focused, heads-down work. Some find hot-desking to be problematic. For others, information access is a problem; teams on flexible schedules have difficulty sharing documents and other print resources, especially when those documents are removed to home offices.
Managers and administrators are tinkering with adjustments to office layouts and scheduling apps, but some technologies, digital document technology in particular, are proving their value in companies with hybrid operations.
In one example reported by the Washington Post, a construction company discovered that hybrid work gave them a competitive advantage. The company “had never considered a hybrid or remote model for the 40-plus back-office employees … But when the pandemic hit, the company adapted, jettisoning cumbersome workflows that required staff to pass files around the office, and adopting a streamlined cloud provider.”
That new information flow has allowed the company to expand their operations from a single urban region to a multi-state territory. Moreover, not one employee has been lost to the Great Resignation. The Washington Post doesn’t specify the dollar value of increased sales and reduced hiring and training costs, but the benefits are apparent.
Any unplanned change takes time and testing to work out the kinks, and pandemic-pushed hybrid workstyles are no exception. Your business, like others, may be trying out a variety of imaginative solutions – mandated in-office days, more enclosed offices, or one of the many workstation-scheduling apps. But document digitization needs no trial period to prove its worth. Ask a business owner who has moved from paper to digital operations, then talk to a digitization professional. With digital document technology, you will solve one of the hybrid-operations conundrums – information access – and set your business up for future success.
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If you work in logistics, you know all about the piles of paperwork that accumulate with any shipment. And with all that paper come the inevitable slowdowns when a document is missing or damaged, and has to be re-created. Supply chain slowdowns are a hot topic, and paperwork is part of the problem.
According to an analysis by IBM and shipping giant Maersk, nearly 200 documents were generated for a single shipment of flowers from Kenya to the Netherlands. Each document – bills of lading, Statements of Fact, and an array of certificates – represents a potential bottleneck in the smooth flow of shipments. In an industry where timeliness matters (and really, are there any industries in which time isn’t of the essence?), paper documents are a threat to business.
Digitized documents are now beginning to reduce the mountain of paper that accompanies shipments. One test of logistics digitalization, including digitized documents, reduced the usual 2-week border clearance to one day – an extraordinary improvement.
The logistics sector isn’t the only one seizing the opportunity for more efficient paper management. Government agencies, healthcare, public safety, and the legal system are all benefiting from document imaging, or digitization – converting paper documents to digital ones. Digitization creates “smart documents:” a database of secure, searchable digital documents accessible from anywhere.
Digitization speeds up operations in two ways:
- The correct digital version of any paperwork can be located and retrieved with electronic speed. No more long delays spent digging through files or archives.
- A document’s digital version is securely stored. It doesn’t disappear under a desk, or get damaged by insects, or become illegible due to a spilled cup of coffee.
Digitization has other benefits besides operational speed and efficiency. It reduces the need for storage space, as it eliminates the needs for numerous filing cabinets. It is accessible from anywhere, whether an employee is on another floor in a building, or working from home. It cuts down on physical paper usage and the associated business and environmental costs.
But if time is critical to your business, document digitization is guaranteed to save time in retrieving documents, and in preserving documents safely for future use. With digitization, your ship will certainly come in.
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While the rest of us have been obsessing about what hybrid workplaces are doing to corporate culture, one D.C.-headquartered office has been quietly getting on with the transition. And in the process, they’ve created a hybrid-office proof of concept: With good planning, good design, and employee input, corporate culture is even stronger and more positive than before.
Journalist Rasheeda Childress recently reported on a national association’s shift to a hybrid workspace. The association was looking at new office space when the pandemic hit, and like everyone, they flipped to remote work. In conversations with employees, leadership realized that that a permanent shift in office life was in the works.
Based on employee input, the association established an updated set of criteria for their new offices, with flexible scheduling in mind. Now the association’s new space includes reservable “hoteling” offices as well as dedicated offices, with an overall space reduction of more than 15%. To address corporate culture, they established new employee designations designed to remove manager bias regarding staff productivity. Employees were classified as “resident workers,” in the office at least 3 days per week, or “teleworkers,” in the office at least 1 day per week.
The association’s director has discovered that connectedness is the secret to the organization’s successful transition to hybrid. He reports that his staff interactions have radically increased; he and his staff have to “wander around” to find the person they need to speak with, and in the course of the search, have serendipitous conversations with a dozen other people. Staff events, like a weekly free lunch, ensure employees have frequent interactions with people outside their team bubbles.
At NOS, we’ve been promoting the value of connectedness for some time. Digitization is part of the connected-culture picture. Document conversion gives teams access to documents wherever they are. Teams stay connected whether they’re in-office or working from home. Everyone is included, and everyone’s work is optimized.
Productivity and effectiveness rely on connection, and document accessibility supports connection. If your employees are telling you they want the flexibility of a hybrid workplace, consider this association’s path: Listen to employees’ ideas, work with designers to create flexible physical space, and provide technology and opportunities that promote connectedness. Your corporate culture will change for the better.
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For some time, we’ve been talking about the extra office space which businesses find they have after digitizing their paper documents. Digitization reduces document storage needs dramatically, at a rate of 9 square feet for each filing cabinet eliminated. That can add up pretty quickly to some real space savings that goes straight to your bottom line.
But what if your business can’t just hand back the excess space? Maybe your lease isn’t ending for some time. Maybe your building’s interior configuration doesn’t allow for easy reassignment to another tenant. What will you do with the extra space that you’re already paying for?
And if you add hybrid-workplace space savings into the equation, you may find you have even more unused space. Digitization supports hybrid operations by making digital documents securely accessible to off-site staff. A sizeable number of hybrid offices are empty on Fridays or Mondays; everyone is working from home, with access to digital document files. Again, what happens to all that unused space?
Here’s a proposal: Offer it to a community nonprofit. Chronically underfunded local and regional nonprofits need meeting places for volunteer training and activities. Their boards need a conference room. Their clients need a safe place to meet with volunteers.
If you’re working on a hybrid schedule, it’s easy to know when your conference room is available to a nonprofit. Even if you’re full-time in-office, the space your filing cabinets used to occupy can be put to good use as a volunteer meeting area after business hours or on weekends.
It’s a win for everyone. The nonprofit’s volunteers have a safe and professional meeting place. Your staff is likely to follow your lead in supporting community organizations. Your brand is reinforced by public participation in community life. And your budget potentially gets a nice boost in the form of a tax deduction. It’s one of those rare opportunities with no downside for anyone.
And in case you’re worried about having outsiders in your workplace, remember that digitizing your documents adds a level of security that you can’t get with paper documents. It protects them from prying eyes, and from falling into the wrong hands.
So bring those nonprofits into your extra office space, and make the world a better place!
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Digitalization and digitization are spelled nearly identically, and they sound nearly alike. They must mean pretty much the same thing, right? Not quite. Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, there’s a significant difference, and it’s one that will help you make the most of your business’s digital transformation.
Digitalization is the utilization of digital technology to reshape business processes. When a business builds a digital database of customers, or installs an RFID system to manage its physical assets, or uses robotics in a manufacturing process, it is engaged in Digitalization.
By contrast, digitization is the act of transforming an object – a document or a photo, for example – from analog (physical) format to digital format. Digitization is a component of an organization’s overall Digitalization. Just as you’d say that not all cars are Fords, but all Fords are cars, you can say that all digitization is part of Digitalization.
And of all the process transformations that Digitalization makes, digitization is one of the top two or three most valuable. Here’s why:
- Digitization enables remote work. The explosive growth of hybrid offices and 100% remote work has been possible because workers have remote access to information contained in digital documents. Everyone can log in and get what they need to get the job done, wherever they are. Productivity is preserved and employees are happy. It’s a win for everyone.
- Digitization improves security. Paper documents are impermanent. Fires, floods, and insects destroy them. They’re easy to damage, easy to lose, and easy to pilfer. Digitized documents, however, are access-controlled and backed up on multiple digital drives. Your business saves all the costs associated with lost documents.
- Digitization saves storage space. File cabinets take up a lot of real estate – 9 square feet per standard cabinet, to be precise. How many does your business have? You can eliminate the cost of all that real estate, or reassign the space for more productive activities. Either way, your bottom line is the beneficiary.
Digitalization is about transforming business processes. Digitization is about transforming the information needed for processes. Now that you know the difference, talk to a digitization expert and add document digitization to your organization’s Digitalization plan.
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