Here’s yet another important reason for converting your paper documents to digital imaged documents: the global pandemic. Whether you have switched to a hybrid office, or your business is classified as essential, your staff is touching paper documents every day. Those documents can be a transmission point, not just for the coronavirus, but for a host of other infectious agents as well.
The National Institutes of Health, UCLA, and Princeton University tested the longevity of covid-19 on various surfaces. They found that, in general, the smoother the surface, the longer the virus could live. Cardboard, rough and uncoated, was less likely to transmit the virus. Other forms of paper – smooth, coated printer paper of the type used in many business operations – provide a somewhat friendlier surface for the virus. The science is far from conclusive, and research is ongoing, but any reduction in risk is beneficial to everyone.
Order forms– touched by the sales rep, the customer, the sales manager, the order filler, the file clerk
Patient forms– touched by the desk personnel, the patient, the nurse, the physician, the lab, the accounting clerk, the file clerk
Sales brochures– touched by the marketing coordinator, the sales rep, the customer, and (in the case of displayed brochures) the general public
It’s easy to see how viruses and bacteria can get passed around on paper, despite having all the recommended contagion measures in place. But when a document is imaged, it’s removed from the touch chain, and from the chain of potential contagion.
And in addition to breaking the contagion chain, you get all the other benefits of imaging, too. Imaged documents are readily accessible via electronic devices, speeding the flow of information. They are secure from loss, accidental damage, and unauthorized access. And they take up a fraction of the space of paper documents, reducing your storage footprint and your real estate costs.
We have advocated touchless technology for quite a while, not just for health reasons but for cost efficiency and for connectedness to the IoT. Imaging your paper documents is part of the wave of touchless tech that does more than just improve your business operations. It’s a risk management tool, keeping your staff and your community safer during and after the pandemic.
Like many familiar aspects of business life, the form and function of offices are undergoing rapid change to fit the new reality. Today’s challenges have been an opportunity for reflection and reinvention, in business as well as in our personal lives. As our business operations adapt to the new normal, office designs are shifting to accommodate new workstyles.
Hybrid offices are one example of a pre-Covid trend accelerated by the pandemic. WFH has been far more productive than expected, but teams still feel the need for face-to-face collaboration for certain tasks. Consulting firm Gensler describes the hybrid workplace as promoting collaboration through activity-based design, using advanced technology and unassigned seating within a hospitality-driven atmosphere. Teams work remotely, coming together in a hybrid office as required.
A few major organizations have been test-driving the hybrid office in a hub-and-spokes design. A centrally hub office in the city center provides room for larger group activities, while smaller outlying offices give support to WFH staff living nearby. Hybrid offices reduce office space in the expensive city center, while preserving a visible presence.
Repurposing office buildings’ lobbies is another new-normal trend. In a hub-and-spokes office, the spokes facilities can be integrated into the surrounding community, creating connections among WFH staffers, clients, and the neighborhood. Buildings’ public spaces offer a branding opportunity for tenants to underscore their community involvement, as well as a meeting destination for workers and visitors.
To ensure that these new workplaces function well, designers and office managers are applying the latest in digital technology.
WFH staff need access to project materials whether they’re at home, at a spoke office, or at the central hub. In the hybrid office, paper documents may be stored at the hub, with limited access. But imaged documents are accessible to remote workers no matter where they are. The paper originals remain safely stored in the hub office.
Touchless technology is another asset for the reshaped office. RFID-based apps enable safe touchless entry to secure areas. Touchless lockers provide personal storage for WFH workers traveling to spoke or hub offices. Designers can even use touchless lockers as a physical divider to guide foot traffic and maintain safe social distancing.
Gensler predicts that the new style of office building will be far less insular and self-contained, and far more responsible to its community through creating public spaces, support businesses, and a live-work-play environment. Technology that supports human capital will be the key to successful office design in the new reality.
WFH (work-from-home) was an unwelcome mandate for many businesses until they began to see the reduction in operating costs. Global Workplace Analytics estimates savings of $11,000 per year, per employee, just for part-time work-from-home. Full-time WFH represents even greater savings. It’s no surprise that Facebook, Twitter, Morgan Stanley, and other major companies are opting to keep WFH in place permanently.
But are these businesses going overboard with the WFH perks? Many are providing computers, tablets, telephones, and broadband service to their work-from-home staffers. Some are providing office furniture. Google, for example, gives its WFH employees $1,000 for home-office setups. Others even offer meal deliveries for lunch meetings that used to take place in person but are now on Zoom. The employer-hosted Zoom “happy hour” is widespread.
It all sounds like an overly generous perks package. When you look a little closer, however, those so-called perks are almost no different than the standard productivity tools which businesses would provide in an office setting. In fact, some organizations are sending complete workstations from their offices to employees’ homes. This could be an asset-management nightmare if not for RFID tags which track each electronic device, each chair, and each desk that leaves the office. These businesses can then reduce their office size, and the overhead that goes with it, without disposing of excess furnishings.
Most important, organizations successfully making the change to WFH are ensuring that their employees have remote access to paper documents stored in the business’s offices. Retrieving the paper documents would create an unacceptable security risk. Instead, these businesses have imaged their paper documents, creating a secure digital database of informational assets.
Imaging converts paper documents into secure, searchable digital documents. Remote workers access the digital documents from their home offices via employer-provided high-speed data connections, on their employer-provided laptop, seated in their employer-provided chairs at their employer-provided desk.
It’s a win for everyone: WFH staffers have the tools to get the job done, and businesses continue to be productive while enjoying the benefit of lower operating costs.
Studies have already shown increased productivity rates achieved by WFH. Forbes cites several reports of 35-40% productivity improvement, with an output increase of 4.4%. Engagement and retention are also improved – another cost savings. WFH may have started out as an imposition, but with the right productivity tools, its benefits are here to stay.
Now that businesses are cautiously reopening, RFID is being deployed in the form of wearables that help employees maintain social distancing and stay safe in reopened workplaces.
In the U.S. and Europe, RFID suppliers are creating bracelets and smart watches with embedded RFID chips that alert users when they are too close to one another. Ford Motor Company, for example, has been testing an RFID wearable in the factories where it produces ventilators and respirators. Workers wear an RFID-enabled smart watch that vibrates and issues a color-coded warning whenever they move too near.
The watches also send social-distancing data to supervisors so they can modify workflows for better distancing. Further, the data provides supervisors with workplace contact tracing. If an employee becomes infected, other employees who have been in contact with that person can be identified for testing.
A spokesman for Italian RFID tech company Engineering points out that RFID’s proximity and contract tracing technology lets businesses isolate only the infected workers and their contacts, rather than all the employees. If only a small percentage of employees have to be pulled off the line, production can continue with little or no interruption.
Employees at many companies are teleworking to reduce their risk of infection. But even when telework is enabled by document imaging and digital asset management, it isn’t practical for every type of enterprise. Manufacturing, scientific research, logistics – these all require workers to be in the same place at the same time. The “new normal” is going to call for new ways of doing business and new applications of existing technology.
RFID is a mature, robust technology, a proven risk reduction tool for asset management and security. This same technology can be applied to a different kind of business risk: an infected workplace. RFID is easy to adapt for the socially-distanced workplace. As RFID is protecting your staff, it’s also protecting your business from additional production slowdowns. RFID is part of the solution for a safer workplace during reopening, and into the future.
Speed is the name of the game when it comes to inventory and asset management, and RFID delivers the data faster than any other technology.
RFID is everywhere. Those plastic tags you’ve seen in retail stores; the small square metallic stickers on packaged goods; even your pet’s ID chip – those are all RFID tags. They store information about the item they’re attached to, and they deliver that information to an RFID reader’s screen.
Don’t bar codes manage information the same way? Not exactly. The key difference is in the way an RFID tag communicates with the reader. Bar code readers must “see” each bar code to collect the data. There has to be a clear sight line between the bar code and the reader. RFID readers, in contrast, don’t “see” the tag. They “hear” it, via radio waves sent by the tag. RF = radio frequency, ID = identification.
RFID readers can “hear” the signals from all the RFID tags in an area, all at the same time. Bar code readers, because they rely on “seeing,” can record only one bar code at a time. This video shows a bar code reader and an RFID reader in a head-to-head race.
Spoiler alert: The bar code reader is not going to be invited to the Kentucky Derby.
RFID technology has an application for every business sector.
Every business has a need for speed, because time is money. The less time it takes to collect information about assets, the more time you have to spend on your organization’s primary mission. RFID streamlines your workflow, improves inventory accountability, and monitors assets. Turbocharge your business with RFID.
Until there’s a COVID-19 vaccine, social distancing is the new workplace normal – either you’ll have fewer people in the office, or your office space will have to be increased to achieve a less dense workplace.
Now that businesses are looking at ways to open up again, maintaining social distancing in the workplace is a top priority. Densely populated open plan layouts were the norm before COVID-19 struck. But open plan workstations of 60-70 square feet per person are far too small to maintain 6-ft distancing. Bringing everyone back into an old-style open plan office is simply not workable.
De-densifying the office is vital. Clustered workspaces have to be spread out. Separation structures have to be put in place. In-office traffic routes have to be re-arranged to preserve distancing.
All of this adds up to a larger office footprint. But even if additional space is available, increased real estate costs are something every organization wants to avoid in the current economic climate.
Telework is the answer: With fewer staffers in the office, it’s easy to decrease density without increasing the office footprint.
Telework has become a way of life for many of us during the past months, and we’ve learned some valuable management lessons. One is disaster planning; our companies’ emergency plans have been tested in this crisis, and we’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. Another lesson is telework capacity; many businesses or departments may have done some limited telecommuting prior to the pandemic, but were not prepared for a full-scale switch to 100% remote working.
As many of us discovered, access to documents was an ongoing obstacle to getting work done remotely. Paper documents are easy to share in an office, but hard to share remotely. Document conversion is essential to productive telework. Imaged documents are accessible to everyone who needs them, regardless of location. And they have the advantages of findability and searchability: Documents can be found in seconds, far faster than searching in file cabinets, and key words or phrases can be searched for and located with digital speed.
The new workplace normal doesn’t have to mean new real estate costs. Take the lessons we’ve learned from these challenging months, and translate them into action – support telework with document conversion, and de-densify your offices without expanding your footprint.