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The Hybrid Office: Electronics Lockers Keep Data and Devices Secure

The Hybrid Office: Electronics Lockers Keep Data and Devices Secure

Your business has invested heavily in information: not just the information that comes out of R&D, but in the equipment to create, use, and store that information. When all that valuable data was kept in one system, under one roof, data security was relatively easy, and hardware and software was easy to maintain. But now, with the advent of the hybrid workplace, data and data equipment is constantly on the move, traveling off-site to home offices and returning periodically to share with teams. That off-site usage increases the risk of data loss.

Adding to the security challenge is the use of employees’ personal devices in work settings. In settings where sensitive information is in use – classified documents or patient records, for example  – there is a growing trend to ban smart phones from areas where confidentiality could be compromised. It’s understandable that the information needs to be protected, but it’s hard for any of us to feel comfortable letting go of our phones.

Smart technology comes to the rescue here. Electronics lockers provide safe storage for devices, whether they’re personal or company-owned. If an IT manager has loaded data files on a company laptop for a staffer’s off-site use, the laptop can be securely stored in a locker and picked up by the authorized staffer at any time, even after hours. If camera-phones are banned from an area – a pharmaceutical research lab, for example – employees have peace of mind knowing that their phones are safe and accessible upon exit.

Electronics lockers also solve the problem of maintaining company laptops and phones used by remote staffers. Hybrid schedules don’t always mesh with IT maintenance hours, but secure electronics lockers give off-site staffers a safe place to return devices for maintenance no matter the hour or day of the week.

Some lockers provide charging points so employees always retrieve a fully charged device. Device-usage tracking is supported by some lockers, assisting with an organization’s asset management. And if aesthetics is a consideration, lockers can be customized with brand-complimentary exteriors.

The hybrid workplace is very much a work in progress. Organizations are working to build new corporate cultures and new operational protocols that will ultimately make the new workstyle a more productive and profitable way to do business. Like document digitization and RFID asset management, electronics lockers are part of the hybrid workplace change equation.

 

Photo © fizkes / AdobeStock

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.

 

Photo © NABCREATIVITY / AdobeStock

Technology Innovation: Can RFID Support Weapons Safety?

Technology Innovation: Can RFID Support Weapons Safety?

RFID technology excels at safety and security applications. First responders around the country use RFID-based personnel and equipment tracking systems. Secure facilities as varied as life-sciences research buildings and movie editing rooms use RFID-controlled locks to manage access. For public safety and military armories, firearms security is a top priority, with RFID badges controlling access to storage rooms and weapons lockers.

Now firearms manufacturers are bringing another RFID application to market. After years of research and testing, several U.S. and European gunmakers have incorporated RFID chips into handguns to reduce unauthorized usage.

One survey found that fewer than 2% of guns used in crimes were purchased from retail sources; some were given to criminals by “straw buyers,” but most were obtained illegally. The new RFID-enabled handguns require the user to unlock the gun with a matching RFID device – a wristband or a fob – before firing the gun. Some manufacturers go so far as to include a fingerprint match as well as an RFID match before the gun will unlock. Users can leave the weapon unlocked as long as they keep the RFID matching device within the chip’s short range.

This innovation presents an opportunity for law enforcement and military facilities to maintain even better control of their weapons inventory. Many of these facilities already have RFID inventory systems in place to issue guns to personnel. These systems do an excellent job of quickly and accurately recording the check-out and check-in of weaponry.

However, hundreds of handguns are stolen each year from police vehicles and from military armories, and a number of them wind up in the wrong hands. With the new RFID chip-matching system, those stolen guns are unusable without the RFID unlocking device.

Of course, the safety system is not fool-proof. It breaks down if a criminal possesses both the gun and the RFID unlocking device. To prevent this, RFID unlocking devices must be stored separately in weapons storage facilities, with controlled access to prevent them from being pilfered along with the matching weapons. Police officers are unlikely to leave RFID wearables or key fobs in their vehicles, but public safety departments must institute policies to ensure this.

RFID is a powerful tool in private sector operations, from manufacturing and supply chain to retail and professional practice management. With this gun-locking innovation, it provides an additional layer of security to police and military operations, and an additional layer of safety to the public.

 

Photo © moodboard / 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

How RFID Helps First Responders Manage Disasters

How RFID Helps First Responders Manage Disasters

Weather disasters are becoming more frequent and more severe. Front-line workers are challenged to manage the multitude of elements needed for rescue and recovery.

In disaster situations, routine procedures are disrupted. Decision data is often scanty and uncertain, leading to errors and waste of materials and time.  RFID technology can make a difference, providing the answers to what and where questions:

  • Equipment – Medical equipment like gurneys and oxygen tanks; transport vehicles like ambulances and firetrucks; heavy equipment like bulldozers; communication devices like radios and tablets – in an emergency, decision makers need to know the whereabouts of all their equipment assets. RFID doorway readers keep tabs on them all.
  • Supplies and Medications – EMT’s and ER personnel must maintain a supply of bandages, dressings, scissors, clamps, and multiple types of medications. Using a hand-held RFID reader, a quick scan of an ambulance or a treatment room confirms that RFID-tagged supplies are topped up.
  • Tools and Weapons – The aftermath of a weather disaster calls for tools for search and rescue, and firearms to assist law enforcementin opportunistic-crime prevention. From chainsaws and shovels to pistols and tazers, RFID helps first responders maintain their inventory in readiness for emergencies, safely and securely.
  • Personnel – RFID’s locational function lets disaster managers know where each of their team members is in the field, even when visibility is minimal. For victims, first responders can issue RFID tags or bracelets with identification, health, and injury information. Those tags can be scanned by ER workers to speed triage and avoid medical errors; in some cases, patients’ electronic medical records can be automatically updated.

At its core, RFID technology integrates object information (“what”) and location information (“where”).  Each one of these RFID applications speeds up the collection and distribution of what and where information. And fast access to information is essential to good decision making in high-pressure situations like floods, wildfires, or tornadoes.

RFID will interface with other public-safety communication systems, improving vital interoperability and information flow. But its speedy and accurate delivery of information isn’t just for disaster situations. RFID is a mature, proven data technology with benefits for everyday business operations in the private sector. But if RFID can assist public safety and healthcare providers in weather disasters, you can count on it to help your organization in disaster recovery as well. Weather happens. Be ready for it!

 

Photo © Lukassek / AdobeStock

The Just-Right Redesign: Hybrid Office Adaptations

The Just-Right Redesign: Hybrid Office Adaptations

Yes, the hybrid office is here to stay, and with it comes an opportunity to do a beneficial redesign of the workplace. The soulless twentieth century “cube farms” were dehumanizing, but so were the noisy, crowded open-plan offices that replaced the cubicles. Now designers have a chance to create the perfect balance between too claustrophobic and too unstructured. With some thoughtful innovations, the hybrid office can be the happy medium, like Baby Bear’s oatmeal.

Successful hybrid offices counteract the oversharing open office by providing defined work areas for individual heads-down tasks, and for collaborative team projects. But defined, enclosed areas don’t have to make a space feel crowded. Architectural glass walls and partitions retain an open feel while mitigating the noise interference of open office plans. Additionally, they maintain separation to reduce the potential for infections.

Lockers, too, provide attractive space-defining structures that complement other design choices. Like work spaces, lockers can be reserved for use when teams are in the office, and released for others to use later. Touchless locking mechanisms enhance health protocols, too.

A hybrid redesign is about more than the physical space, of course. Emotional welfare is a significant component of the new workplace. People crave sociability, and working in an office is fundamentally a social activity. When staffers are not in the office, they become anxious about their place in the social order. Providing support for the WFH component of a hybrid office demonstrates management’s trust in employees who aren’t routinely present.

And that support is often in the form of technology. Businesses are providing electronic devices – computers, wifi, cell phones – to employees for their WFH days. Just as important are the digital data resources. Paper-intensive work is now being converted to digital formats. Document conversion, or imaging, gives staff access to information no matter where they are physically located. An additional benefit: With fewer documents to store, storage space can be converted to work spaces, without expanding the office footprint.

The Great Resignation of 2021 has spurred much soul-searching at the C-level. The conclusion of many managers: Make the office a place where people want to spend time, make WFH a valued part of the hybrid workplace, and show support by providing productivity tools. A redesign to achieve these goals is a win for workers and financial stakeholders alike.

Photo © Dariusz Jarzabek / AdobeStock