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How Hybrid Offices Contribute to Your ESG Goals

How Hybrid Offices Contribute to Your ESG Goals

ESG – Environmental, Social, and Governance – stands for the three components of a business’s sustainability performance. Three out of four consumers change their purchase preferences based on ESG factors, according to a CapGemini report. How well does ESG integrate into the new hybrid workplace?

There’s good news: Hybrid offices are a natural choice for boosting your organization’s ESG.

Energy usage

  • Zoned space utilization systems automatically group hot desks and office reservations into energy-saving zones
  • Smart building systems reduce lighting and HVAC consumption during unoccupied hours

Fun fact: One degree change in indoor temperature means thousands fewer kilowatt hours, and thousands of dollars in savings over the course of one year.

 

Reduced emissions

  • Fewer trips to the office equals fewer commuting miles per week.
  • Smart buildings’ reduced energy use results in less emission-producing energy generation.

Reduced waste

  • More meals at home means less lunch take-out waste
  • Offices produce less paper waste if document conversion (digitization) is in place.

This last topic, digitization, deserves additional discussion. Almost all businesses generate paper documents. Those records are important to business operations, and they should be retained as long as necessary.

But paper documents tend to beget more paper – distribution copies, unnecessary printouts, backup copies, etc. The cost to manufacture, transport, and print of all that paper adds up. And an estimated 45% of that paper ends up in the trash at the end of each work day.

Moreover, all that paper takes up an inordinate amount of room, an average of 9 square feet per file cabinet. Hybrid offices typically need less office space than traditional full-time offices, but they still need storage space.

After converting paper documents to digital ones, much of the document storage area can be put to better use. For example, management consultants recommend creating lounge spaces for those invaluable “water cooler moments.” By reducing your storage space, you support hybrid-office creativity and culture without additional real estate costs.

And of course a database of digitized documents allows hybrid staffers to access necessary documents wherever they are working – in the office, at home, or in a co-working space.

Digitization is the perfect complement to your other ESG efforts.  Create a “virtual filing room” and boost your sustainability rating.

 

Photo © Iriana Shiyan / 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

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

Healthcare Facilities Managers and the Statute of Repose

Healthcare Facilities Managers and the Statute of Repose

HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, has come to mean one thing to the average consumer: healthcare privacy. Medical information is kept strictly private, far from the prying eyes of journalists, employers, and neighborhood gossips. Many healthcare providers have come close to eliminating paper documents in their practices. Even if they use paper forms, the forms are imaged into an electronic healthcare record (EHR) with advanced crypto-security.

Healthcare facilities managers are concerned with HIPAA only insofar as they need to ensure sufficient storage space for paper documents, and adequate operational resources for the organization’s IT needs. But facilities managers, like healthcare professionals, generate a sizeable number of paper documents even when a building’s design originated on computers. And those documents have risk management implications just like patients’ documents.

Unlike patient documents, FM documents are generally very public. Drawings, permits, project schedules, punch lists – all are public, and subject to a legal doctrine called the Statute of Repose. The statute of repose is similar to the statute of limitations; it sets a limit on the amount of time a design client can hold a design/construction professional liable for errors. If there are any complaints or legal actions, all the supporting documents will be needed.

As a facilities manager (i.e., the client), you’ll want to retain all construction-related documents for at least the duration of the statute of repose, if not for several years beyond, as required by risk management policies. That’s a lot of paper, and it takes up a lot of storage space for a number of years. Plus, the paper documents have all the usual vulnerabilities of paper: fire, floods, pests, and pilferage, as well as loss or misfiling.

Imaging a healthcare facility’s documents offers the same advantages that come with imaged patient documents: compact storage, security, and information accessibility including authorized search and sharing. If there is a need to refer to any of these documents, they can be retrieved with electronic speed, much faster than a laborious hunt through numerous flat files.

Healthcare facilities managers are focused on the needs of their healthcare organization and the patients it serves. But when they include their own document conversion needs along with those of the other departments, they will gain efficiency and effectiveness that makes them even better at their work. And they are managing risks during the period of the statute of repose.

Labs: No Two Alike, Except for These Three Things

Labs: No Two Alike, Except for These Three Things

“There is no one-size-fits-all,” says Gensler Research, regarding lab design and adaptive reuse. Like people, each lab has its own unique purpose and form. A lab, unlike typical office space, may have to take into account ventilation, vibration, volatile chemicals, greater-than-usual utilities requirements, or dangers to workers and the general public, to name just a few of their special challenges.

But no matter what type of lab yours may be, from analytics and QC to biohazard or R&D, these three operational elements help any lab fulfill its mission.

Storage cabinets and casework – Cluttered labs are unsafe labs. Whatever the science specialty, whatever the experimental design, every lab needs to protect items from contamination, damage, loss, or degradation:

  • Equipment
  • Chemicals
  • Documents
  • Electronics
  • Test and experimental supplies
  • Researchers’ personal items

Your current lab storage may be perfect for your processes today. But once a research phase comes to an end, the layout and type of storage may not fit the next phase. Labs outfitted with modular casework can reconfigure their storage to suit the new functions, rather than scrapping the existing storage – a benefit to the budget and the environment.

Data management – The essence of scientific investigation is the collection and management of data. Paper documents may be the only option in some labs, especially if electronics interfere with experimental processes. But data on paper takes time to access and analyze, and paper itself is a fragile medium. Document imaging converts paper-based data to electronic data for fast, easy use. Moreover, it preserves the data in a secure form, controlling accessibility and preventing the loss of invaluable information.

Equipment and materials management – Labs’ budgets can skyrocket when expensive equipment is lost. Time-dependent research can be wasted when materials can’t be located in inventory. And hand-written inventories are notoriously error-prone, not to mention an expensive use of researchers’ time. RFID asset management systems take the burden off researchers by automatically tracking quantities and whereabouts of these vital components. Equipment is easy to find, and there’s never a shortage of essential elements.

All three of these design and operations technologies contribute to safe and efficient lab functionality. Just as important, they have a positive effect on your lab’s bottom line, saving time and money. It’s not theoretical; it’s proven. Talk to a storage and organization consultant and review the options.

 

Photo © mast3r / AdobeStock

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.

Photo © Sergey Nivens / AdobeStock