Many of our solutions are Made in America and readily available on GSA Contract.
A Reason to Return: Office Amenities Help Bring Employees Back

A Reason to Return: Office Amenities Help Bring Employees Back

Workplace amenities used to be associated with tech start-ups – meals, game rooms, and bring-your-dog-to-work were some of the popular perks that kept tech workers in the office. Why go home when everything you want is there? Today’s newer office buildings are taking a page from the tech world, offering an array of amenities like gyms, concierge services, and lounges.

It’s all part of tenants’ commitment to hybrid offices, a staffing retain-and-return game plan for many companies. Survey after survey shows the same results: Employees do not want to go back to full-time in-office operations. And employers are discovering that the hybrid workstyle has benefits that they don’t want to give up, including greater productivity, lower real estate costs, and happy employees.

Employees are willing to trade space for the hybrid workstyle. More than half of law firm employees recently surveyed said they would trade assigned seating/offices for greater flexibility. That’s good news for employers, who can reduce their office footprint when they don’t have to find space for all their staff each and every day.

The amenities offered by first-class office buildings aren’t free, of course, and a prudent practice manager or facilities manager will try to balance that extra cost by reducing the amount of space in a new lease. The same law firm survey showed the average square feet per attorney has decreased from 760 s.f. to 625 s.f., and other industry sectors are making similar reductions.

But reducing personnel space can only go so far. For many professional practices, paper documents take up an outsize proportion of the office footprint. High density storage systems help reduce the space needed for document storage. Digitization goes even further.

Just one filing cabinet takes up 9 square feet, at an average real estate cost of $540 per year (and that’s before factoring in the higher price of amenity-rich buildings). Document conversion eliminates the need for that space, and the cost associated with it.

Digitization lets you have your cake (or gym or lounge) and eat it too. When employers can offer appealing amenities to encourage staff to return to the office, without increasing their real estate costs, it’s a win for everyone.

 

Photo © Iriana Shiyan / AdobeStock

Return-to-the-Office: Appreciating the Invisible Hand of Operations

Return-to-the-Office: Appreciating the Invisible Hand of Operations

Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” is defined as the unseen forces that propel an economy and benefit the larger community. Smith’s invisible hand was self-interested, but there’s a more altruistic invisible hand at work in the business world: The unnoticed heroes of operations.

Just like Adam Smith’s invisible hand, most of us were barely aware of operational systems and the people who manage them. “If you don’t notice us, we’re doing our job properly,” said the manager of a luxury hotel chain. And it’s true – we only notice when something doesn’t work.

In the pandemic before-times, we had many unconscious expectations. We expected the lights and the HVAC to be on. There would be coffee in the break room. Our workspaces would have furniture. Key cards for doors and lockers would function. We’d have ready access to the data we need for our team to work efficiently and effectively.

We rarely thought about how all that operational support came to be. But the pivot to remote work, and now the return-to-the-office wave, has made us far more aware of the functioning of operations behind the scenes. Unsung heroes stepped up with resources to support remote work, and they continue to support it for hybrid offices:

  • Electronic devices and systems
  • Communications and scheduling apps
  • Databases of digitized documents
  • Facilities “smart building” maintenance systems

As we return to the office, full-time or hybrid, let’s take a moment to thank the facilities managers, the practice managers, the IT/IS managers, the HR managers, the office managers who sweated to keep the wheels turning while the rest of us took zoom meetings in our sweats. Hats off to the heroes.

Photo © ASDF / AdobeStock

Return-To-The-Office Etiquette: Can’t Do These Things Any More

Return-To-The-Office Etiquette: Can’t Do These Things Any More

Some of the rules of office etiquette might have been relaxed while we were all working remotely. Now that we’re returning to the office, we’re discovering that we can no longer do some things in the workplace the way we had done in virtual meetings:

  1. Nosy, overbearing, judge-y colleagues can no longer be banished with a click of the Leave Meeting button.
  2. There is no pleasant background screen to cover up the IRL piles of outdated directories, empty candy wrappers, and collection of used coffee cups in someone’s workspace.
  3. There is no Mute button to silence the co-worker who breaks into your workflow with a monologue about his breakfast cereal.
  4. Pajama bottoms do not meet the “business casual” standard at most workplaces.

There are upsides, however. Hundreds of subtle face-to-face social cues were missing from virtual meetings, things like the duration of gaze or the quiet sigh that told us how people really felt. It was hard to tell if your superior was giving you an encouraging smile or laughing at your idea. Now that we’re starting to spend in-person time with colleagues, all that missing information is coming into play to help us communicate and collaborate better.

However, very few people want to return to full-time in-office work. Sorting out the rules of the hybrid workplace requires a good deal of creativity, patience, and empathy – a new kind of etiquette. Melissa Afton of Potential Project recommends that leaders talk AND listen to employees, often and at length, about the return-to-work plan – a kind of managerial etiquette. Two-way communication and flexibility allow everyone to arrive at clarity, so everyone feels good about returning to the office.

Just as important is ensuring that everyone has the tools needed to function politely (and productively) in the hybrid office:

  • An organization-wide scheduling tool isn’t just for productivity; it supports good etiquette by informing people, in a timely manner, about events at which their presence is requested.
  • Document digitization gives information access to all team members whether they’re in-office or at home. A digital document database avoids the problem of one team member taking paper documents home, when the entire team needs to work on them – a huge breach of hybrid-office etiquette. No one wants to come in to the office for a meeting, only to find that essential paperwork isn’t available.

It is said that etiquette exists to make others comfortable. Working with other people, whether they are nosy, messy, or questionably dressed, requires a willingness to do our best to create enough comfort for work to happen. Good communication and the right tools will go a long way to establishing the new hybrid-workplace etiquette.

Photo © Pixel-Shot / AdobeStock

Hackable: How Return-to-the-Office Makes Paper a Security Issue

Hackable: How Return-to-the-Office Makes Paper a Security Issue

We usually think of electronic files as the only medium to be targeted by hackers. Paper seems invulnerable to hacks. If the bad actors don’t have the paper documents, they don’t have the data. But is that really true?

Cyber attacks have been common occurrences. Many times, however, such hacks were preventable: Passwords were not protected, download and upload protocols were not observed, file-sharing rules weren’t enforced.

You may think paper-based data isn’t hackable. But if we define “hacking” as the theft of information, no matter the medium, paper documents have been hacked repeatedly, for many, many years. (Pentagon Papers, anyone?)

Now that employees are returning to the workplace, paper documents are once again reappearing on desks, in copiers, and in file folders. Those supposedly safe documents can be hacked in a number of ways. A few examples:

  • A confidential document left in a copier tray
  • A sensitive document tossed in the trash
  • A password written on a sticky note and pasted to a computer
  • A private report left in a conference room after a presentation

In each case, the information can easily make its way into the hands of people who shouldn’t have this sensitive data.

One way to make paper documents less hackable is to digitize them. Digitization converts a paper document’s information into electronic format, bringing it into the cyber world where new technology can keep it more secure. Digitization gives bad actors one less way to access information.

Document conversion simplifies data security because there is only one primary medium to secure. Security advocates recommend bringing paper documents into the purview of Chief Information Officers, who have traditionally focused on securing only electronic data. Digitizing paper documents makes them more manageable for CIO’s. With the reduction of paper-based information, there is only one door for criminals to get at sensitive information. And CIO’s can enforce strict data hygiene to protect that single door, and keep information safe.

Return-to-the-office, whether full time or hybrid, gives businesses an opportunity to reassess their information security. Now is the time to institute a digitization program and eliminate a significant security vulnerability.

Photo © Andrey Popov / AdobeStock

Life Sciences Are All-In with the Hybrid Workplace. Are You Ready?

Life Sciences Are All-In with the Hybrid Workplace. Are You Ready?

The Massachusetts Biotechnology Council (MassBio) recently surveyed a large sample of its life sciences member companies to find out about their return-to-work plans. As the study’s authors point out, life sciences is a significant employer; when choices are made about the workplace, they have far-reaching implications for the greater community.

Transportation, housing, and family life are all affected by workplace location, as we witnessed during the rushed transition to remote work in 2020. Now that offices are reopening for in-person work, most employees are resisting a return to the full-time in-office workstyle of the “Before” times.

MassBio’s survey found that an astonishing 97% of its life sciences members are implementing a hybrid model for the long term. This embrace of the hybrid workplace is a response to employee preference, yielding benefits in employee retention, productivity, and lower overhead. It’s a win for the community too, as commutes are reduced, housing needs stabilize, and a positive work/life balance is preserved.

But how are these businesses shaping their hybrid workplace models? According to MassBio, life sciences managers say the number of days working on-site will depend very much on the individual’s role. But a McKinsey study counsels managers to consider more than just the number of days per week on-site. Managers should also ask:

  • How will meetings work best?
  • How will you balance mentorship and experience between in-office workers and at-home workers?
  • What are the in-person collaboration needs of a team working on the same project?
  • How will you demonstrate the equal value of in-office and hybrid workers?

As pointed out by the McKinsey study, the hybrid model is evolving rapidly. It will take a number of years to mature, and it will be different for each organization.

But one thing that will remain the same for every life sciences business: the need for technology that supports the hybrid model. In every life sciences endeavor, the free flow of data is essential. Paper-based data is challenging to share; a database of digitized documents lets collaborators access information quickly and securely. Imaging, or digitization, eliminates the risk of paper documents being lost between office and home, or falling into the wrong hands.

As your enterprise makes the shift to a hybrid workplace, ask yourself the questions above, and add another question: Is your document technology ready for the change?

 

Photo © teknomolika / AdobeStock

Time Sensitive? Put the Pressure on Tech, Not Staff

Time Sensitive? Put the Pressure on Tech, Not Staff

The strange thing about our twenty-first century digital life: All our technology was supposed to give us more time – more leisure time, more family time, more creative time. Instead we’re exhausted, feeling pressured to deliver everything instantaneously.

We might call this the Amazon effect – the expectation of instant delivery. “Waiting is weakness,” says author Juliet Funt, reporting on the prevailing attitude in the workplace. In a discussion of what she calls “hallucinated urgency,” the never-ending need for speed causes us to race from one emergency to the next, constantly interrupted, never focusing deeply, and never doing our best work. It’s a feedback loop that guarantees burnout and failure.

Unless you work in an emergency room, this sense of constant urgency is an illusion, according to Funt. Technology can in fact give you more time if you use it to support the three assets everyone brings to the workplace: time, energy, and priorities. Some people swear by Google Calendar to keep daily “rinse and repeat” tasks from taking up mental space. Those who know the dangers of multi-tasking (reduced productivity and quality of work) use Zapier Chrome Extension to collect inbound information for later review.

Whatever organizational software you choose, experts recommend apps that minimize interruptions and contextual shifts. And managers should take a hard look at what tasks are truly urgent. An in-app completion-time/date will help everyone prioritize, as well as making your expectations more specific than “ASAP.”

However, there are times when information is needed urgently. Tech will deliver here, too. A prime technology for fast information delivery is digitization: converting paper documents to digital format. If your documents are digitized and someone has a time-sensitive need for information, staff can execute requests with electronic speed, without diverting much energy or rearranging priorities. Digitized documents are:

  • Searchable on keywords
  • Space-saving, reducing physical filing space
  • Secure, unlike paper which is susceptible to loss or damage
  • Accessible to remote staffers as well as in-house personnel

Recent studies show that productivity is higher in WFH and hybrid office settings, compared to traditional offices. However, some managers worry that productivity increases are the result of employees working extra hours. Like hallucinated urgency, overwork is a recipe for burnout. With proper training on organizational apps, supported by a database of digitized documents, you can use tech to manage time, set boundaries, and promote a healthy work/life balance. Make tech work for you, rather than letting it be the boss of you.

Photo © alphaspirit / AdobeStock