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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

Three Ways to Shape a Safe Office Without Expanding Your Space

Three Ways to Shape a Safe Office Without Expanding Your Space

The ways we were accustomed to work were blown up by Covid-19 and the ensuing economic disruption. The 9-to-5 forty-hour work week now is the self-scheduled WFH get-the-job-done week. Surprisingly, productivity and employee satisfaction have risen dramatically in response.

However, corporate culture may be suffering. Businesses in which mentorship and hands-on training are particularly affected. From construction trades to consulting and sales organization, corporate culture relies on in-person interactions. Executives are announcing return to the office policies effective in the near future.

Still, concerns about surging Covid variants are making staffers reluctant to spend much, if any, time in the office. Facilities managers are asking if there’s a way to protect employees in the office setting without adding costly space to accommodate health protocols.

Here are three ways to help keep in-office teams safe without expanding the office footprint:

  1. 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 social distancing and proximity barriers.
  2. 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.
  3. Add touchless smart lockers that guide in-office traffic while enhancing design aesthetics. Employees need secure storage for personal items in the office, and smart lockers provide touchless operation. Their customizable finishes make them a design feature, and they can be set up in work areas to provide separation and guide traffic without requiring additional space.

Security experts Kastle Systems report fewer than 28% of employees in the office in the first week of January 2022, in 10 major U.S. markets. Morning Consult’s survey shows 55% of employees being unwilling to return to the office if they felt unsafe. With the above ways to provide worker safety, your business can encourage a return to work without the added overhead of increased real estate costs.

 

Photo © Seventyfour / AdobeStock

Sec. 179: The Gold at the End of the Tax Deduction Rainbow

Sec. 179: The Gold at the End of the Tax Deduction Rainbow

It’s the business tax incentive pot of gold that keeps on giving. Section 179 of the IRS tax code pays your business to invest in itself. In 2021 the deduction limit is higher than ever: $1,050,000. The full purchase price of equipment bought and put in service by December 31 can be deducted under Sec. 179. Moreover, businesses can take advantage of a 100% depreciation bonus on both new and used equipment, if costs exceed $1,050,000 but are less than $2,620,000.

This generous deduction covers a broad range of equipment, including:

  • Computers, hardware peripherals, and software, including RFID systems
  • Machinery
  • Office furnishings, including file storage systems and lockers
  • Office equipment
  • Tangible personal property used in business
  • Property attached to your building that is not part of your building, such as a warehouse rack system

And there’s more good news. If you lease or finance the equipment, the full price is deductible immediately. You may stretch payments over several years, but you get the deduction in Year 1.

Take a look at this example:

Sec 179 example

Source: Section179.org

There are a few restrictions under Sec. 179. Real estate does not qualify, nor does equipment acquired by gift or from a relative. And the equipment, whether new or used, must be new to you.

Most important: The equipment must be put in service, not just purchased, by December 31.

If you have been considering an equipment purchase, now is the time to act. Vendors with a quick-ship program (like NOS) can deliver and set up new equipment in time for you to put your new purchase into use ahead of the deadline. Grab the Sec. 179 gold and enjoy the tax deduction as well as the benefits of the new equipment. 

Photo © Syda Productions / AdobeStock

Pediatric Office Washington DC | Digital Imaging – High Density

Pediatric Office Washington DC | Digital Imaging – High Density

New Offices, Less Storage – Condensing Files with Document Imaging and High Density Storage

For 25 years, a top-rated Washington, DC, pediatric office had served its patients 365 days a year. The practice generated numerous multi-page paper forms and reports for each patient. Patient files were retained in a 300-s.f. storage area, but when the practice moved to new offices, the storage area was reduced to just 160 s.f. Twenty-five years of medical records simply would not fit into the smaller space, and the practice administrators were facing the prospect of storing files offsite – inconvenient, error-prone, and insecure.

The Challenge
Every pediatric patient record had to be maintained and accessible for at least 25 years, whether a child was a local long-term patient or a transitory patient from one of the nearby embassies. The new storage space – nearly 50% smaller than previously – dictated that many patient records would need to be converted to digital format. Others would need to be retained as paper. Determining which documents to image, and which documents to keep as paper, was quite a dilemma. And once the decisions were made, personnel would have to be pulled from their normal tasks to execute the imaging.

The Solution
Working with the doctors, nurses, and administrative staff, the NOS team established parameters to decide which records to image, and which to maintain as paper. The needs analysis found that certain parts of each patient’s file – vaccine records, for example – should be digitally imaged, regardless of the age of the file. The digital records could then be quickly retrieved, reviewed, and shared electronically. Other parameters, such as the age of the file or the type of treatment, determined whether or not a file was to be imaged.

The remaining paper files needed to be readily available to staff. In the old office, the files were kept in top-tab folders in 45 traditional file cabinets. Professional Services Solutions, the NOS documents team, transferred the paper documents to color-coded side tab folders and organized them in a new high density storage system. The space-saving high density system easily fit all the necessary paper files, with room to grow into the future. It even allowed extra space for office supplies. Even better: the files are safe and secure, in compliance with HIPAA regulations.

Now the entire medical staff enjoys fast, easy retrieval of all patient records, whether they’re digital or paper. Instead of struggling with inadequate storage space and hard-to-find patient data, they can focus on delivering award-winning health care to their patients.

 

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Government Agency Washington DC  | High Density

Government Agency Washington DC | High Density

An Opportunity for Better Document Organization

Like many official documents, laws are printed on paper. One government agency plays a key role in the administration of laws, and this agency maintains paper copies of all the many laws it enforces. Quick retrieval of documents is an essential function of this agency, but insufficient storage space made document organization and retrieval difficult.

The Challenge

Paper is a bulky medium, and the agency’s storage space was chronically overcrowded. A relocation to new offices offered an opportunity to improve the agency’s document storage. But without a well-designed functional storage system, the extra space would be quickly overrun as new laws generated new documents.

The Solution

The new facilities allocated three spaces for storage: one for boxed items, one for documents in filing boxes, and one for law books in a library format with research stations.  The NOS team was brought in early in the design phase, working with the agency’s architects to analyze storage needs and spaces.

For each of the three spaces, high density storage proved to be the best solution. The high density storage systems eliminated fixed aisles, doubling the available storage capacity. With a wide assortment of adjustable shelves and bins, the high density system accommodated every shape and size of the agency’s stored items: paper documents, file boxes, and books.

Safe, space-saving storage was part of the solution, but NOS also found a way to assist researchers in efficient document retrieval. On the end panel of each shelving carriage, a shelf was added for a keyboard and monitor to give researchers access to their central database. Document search and retrieval became quick and easy.

The new high density storage system has prepared the agency for today and tomorrow. It can now fulfill its mission with improved speed and efficiency, and it’s ready to manage the flow of new legal documents in the future.

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Lesson Two: The Business Fitness Plateau

Lesson Two: The Business Fitness Plateau

This is the second 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 health and economic challenges, and for successful endeavors in the future.

For years, fitness experts have been telling us that stressing our muscles makes them stronger. When we hit a fitness plateau, we’re told to challenge ourselves. Run a little farther, lift a little more weight, change our routine. That change is inevitably painful, but our bodies adapt. And after the discomfort, they are improved – faster, stronger, more resilient.

The same principle applies to the “fitness” of a business. A successful enterprise often falls into routine habits of doing business, just like a fitness plateau. Innovation and creativity are set aside in favor of “business as usual.”

Today’s economic challenges can seem like a too-heavy lift, unless we think of them as an opportunity for improvement. We have a chance to break out of the routine, dust off our creativity, and invent new strategies for business success. Consider some of the new ways you might do business:

  1. Make telecommuting a permanent part of your operations. Support teleworkers with electronics and remotely-accessed imaged documents. You’ll reduce the number of workers in the office and keep that ideal 6-foot separation.
  2. Re-shape your facility’s interior to accommodate social distancing.Condense your documents and supplies into a high-density storage system that reduces storage space and provides more area for personal space.
  3. Establish additional services or products to bolt on to your current ones. For example, add delivery to manufacturing, as many restaurants have. Or add installation to design, as some interior-fixtures companies are planning.

This period in our history may feel like an enforced “time-out.” But like switching up our fitness routines, today we have an opportunity to apply our innovative instincts, do something different, make a change, and grow stronger. Break out your business imagination!

 

Photo ©matteozin  / AdobeStock