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Room for Everything: The Shape of Hybrid Office Interiors

Room for Everything: The Shape of Hybrid Office Interiors

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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Getting Ahead of the Life Sciences Compliance Curve

Getting Ahead of the Life Sciences Compliance Curve

Life sciences regulatory compliance doesn’t end at the walls of the research lab, the clinic, or the pharmacy. Every aspect of life science operations, from sales and marketing to education, training, and lab operations, is subject to regulations, and new or revised regulations are being issued on a near-daily basis. With pages and pages of documentation to read through, business leaders and compliance officers simply don’t have the time to onboard all the new information, much less enforce the rules.

Lately, however, AI technology has been assisting life sciences businesses to assimilate new and revised regulations without having to spend valuable time reading volumes of regulatory documentation. New AI apps extract critical information from the documentation and deliver it in a kind of “readers digest” form. Compliance officers can then apply these actionable insights to their operations.

But that still leaves a pile of internally-generated documents for a compliance officer to comb through, searching for non-compliant language. Sales and marketing literature, training manuals, and educational materials are all vulnerable to compliance issues. Parsing the content in these printed materials is just as time-consuming and error-prone as reading the regulatory documents.

Digital technology comes to the rescue here, too, in the form of document conversion. Digitizing the printed materials creates a searchable database. When a new regulation is issued, the AI app outputs a condensed pertinent version. Then the keywords of the condensed regulation can be matched against the keywords of the digital document database. Outdated or conflicting documents can be flagged automatically, and new compliant documents can be generated quickly.

And in the event of an audit, speedy retrieval of documents shortens the audit and gives auditors confidence in the overall management of records. Digitized documents are delivered with electronic speed, far faster than staffers can locate paper documents in filing cabinets or archived storage.

The average cost for non-compliance is over $14 million. No life sciences business, large or small, wants to pay such enormous costs. Incorporate AI and document digitization into your compliance protocol, and keep that money where it belongs: in your profits.

 

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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

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.

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Document Imaging Tames Office-Work Chaos

Document Imaging Tames Office-Work Chaos

“When would you like to come in to work?” In the pre-pandemic Before-Times, no one ever expected to hear that from their boss. Now in the new normal of hybrid offices, employees are getting exactly that question from HR managers, supervisors, and team leaders.

“What makes hybrid work kind of interesting is that it’s the only kind of work we don’t know how to do,” says Ethan Bernstein, associate professor of management at Harvard Business School. We’ve known for more than a century how to schedule in-office work, and we’ve quickly mastered WFH. But hybrid work has no rules. Everyone wants it, but it feels very chaotic to manage.

Part of the chaos can be resolved with scheduling. Too many choices can be overwhelming, as every parent knows. If staff have 100% flexibility – in-office or WFH – the office has to be ready for anything. It could be 100% full or 100% empty on any given day. A mandated schedule with some built-in flexibility is better than limitless choices.

A flexible but structured schedule lets real estate and facilities management departments predict space utilization. Right-sizing the office space saves real estate costs, and time-of-day utilization schedules save utility usage and costs.

Additionally, a flexible-but-mandated schedule gives employees a way to structure their time for a healthy work/life balance. Managers have begun polling staffers to ask when they’d like to come in to the office, building their schedules on the results. This would have seemed impossible a few years ago.

Document imaging tames another part of the hybrid-office chaos. If a staff member takes a document home for a few days, that document is no longer available to other team members. Sure, they can make copies (additional cost), or they can send photos of the documents to their co-workers (security risk). Or they can try to re-work the schedule so they’re all in the office at the same time, just to have access to the same document (frustrating and time-consuming, at best).

A database of imaged documents takes the documents’ physical location out of the scheduling equation. It gives access to WFH and in-office employees alike, at any time of day. It also keeps the information on the documents secure. With people coming and going on irregular schedules, it’s all too easy for documents to be lost or to fall into the hands of those who should not have access.

Chaos can be the birthplace of breakthrough creativity. The hybrid workplace itself is an example, growing from the upheaval of the pandemic. However, in the words of Karen Martin, “Chaos is the enemy of any organization that strives to be outstanding.” A work schedule that starts with employees’ preferences, and a digital document database that allows staffers access without regard to location or time of day, will keep chaos at bay.

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Going Digital? That’s Only Part of the Picture

Going Digital? That’s Only Part of the Picture

The great digital revolution gave businesses the ability to function during pandemic lockdowns. Revolution Part 2 is upon us now. Employees and employers alike discovered the benefits of remote work. Now that the hybrid office is here to stay, the secondary revolution is cultural as well as technological. How can traditional office culture accommodate the changes necessary for a successful hybrid operation?

Beliefs vs. reality – The traditional management style was one of synchronous work: everyone in the office at the same time on the same days. It was assumed that if workers were not closely monitored, in person, they would slack off.

The pandemic-dictated shift to remote work proved that off-site asynchronous workers were actually more productive than they had been under the synchronous regime. But now that offices are reopening, some managers cling to the old notion that in-person supervision is essential to productivity.

Formulating a new set of management beliefs requires a “trust walk” message from the C-suite. When top management signals that the flexible, asynchronous workstyle is the new normal — and they back it up with tangible support and rewards for making the shift – then team leaders can take that step of faith to trust their own team members in turn.

Supportive actions – It’s clear the hybrid workplace offers greater productivity, greater employee satisfaction, and lower overhead costs. To get the benefits, though, certain supports must be activated.

  • Collaborative technology such as asynchronous apps (Slack, Outlook, etc.) keep teams organized and goal-focused without forcing individual tasks into a synchronous schedule. Well-connected virtual meeting spaces also support hybrid productivity, as long as each meeting is truly useful (a challenge that existed in the traditional office too).
  • Technology for document accessibility is also essential. When paper documents are imaged (digitized), they become accessible to team members in and out of the office. Moreover, the data contained in the paper documents is made far more secure when it is stored digitally with access controls in place.
  • Inclusion can be difficult in the hybrid office, but managers can draw from the social function of the traditional office. Richard R. Smith, Ph.D., of the Johns Hopkins Carey School of Business, suggests, “Arrange and encourage social interactions on the days that people are in the office—and potentially encourage common in-person office days.”

Change is almost always uncomfortable, but the rewards are worth the effort. Commit to the office of the future, put the supports in place, and see the benefits flow to the bottom line.

 

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