Coworking space is a hot topic in commercial real estate. Companies like WeWork and Regus continue to lease more and more office space for the temporary use of their subscribing members. Even the GSA is looking at coworking space as a way to meet some of its space needs. However, coworking spaces can create process challenges for distributed teams and their managers. Imaging is the solution.
Statistics compiled by real estate service company JLL show the proliferation of coworking space, particularly in the past two years. The benefits of coworking office space are well-documented: few or no build-out costs, no long-term lease, tax benefits, and simplified telework. From a facilities management standpoint, coworking office space is an ideal solution to the need for temporary space.
For the occupants, too, the quality of coworking space has improved considerably since the early days when complaints about privacy and noise were common. Many coworking space providers are now reconfiguring their spaces to offer privacy pods and noise abatement.
One problem most coworking spaces can’t solve is document storage and information accessibility. Coworking offices are in the business of offering working space, not paper-document storage space. Document-dependent organizations struggle with their work processes if their teams are distributed in several widespread co-working spaces, without access to the paper documents they need.
Fortunately, there’s a solution for that: Imaging. Converting paper documents to digital documents makes those documents shareable. Distributed teams can have full access to all the information they need. Further, the converted documents are even easier to use than paper documents, since the conversion process makes them searchable – a key word or phrase can be delivered with electronic speed.
Converted documents offer a level of security and safety that paper documents can’t match, especially in a coworking environment where outsiders might have unauthorized access to confidential papers. With a database of imaged documents, managers can ensure information integrity by setting access permissions and tracking document usage.
Judging from the results of JLL’s study, coworking is going to be a significant part of many organizations’ real estate choices. If your enterprise is considering adding coworking spaces to your real estate mix, now is the time to put an imaging plan into action and add speed, security, and information accessibility to the other benefits of coworking.
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Google, Bing, and all the other online search engines have raised the bar for information accessibility. We have come to expect, in mere seconds, the answers to queries that used to take many man-hours of research and compilation. Such easy access to data is a great time-saver for any business operation, and as we all know, time is money. But if your business operations rely on paper documents, you may feel there’s a lot of staff time spent hunting down data stored on paper, whether it’s a single document in a file folder, or a single sentence buried within that document. If you think it’s reducing your profitability to operate this way, you’re right.
Findability is the key to speeding up your document searches, and the best way to improve findability is to convert your paper documents to digital documents.
Imaging, also known as document conversion, is much more than creating a simple PDF. Digital e-documents are searchable and sortable. They are essentially “smart” documents, and because they are stored on a server, your data’s findability rate is as fast as a search engine. Instead of having to go look for data in a file cabinet, the data comes to you. It’s like having your own internal Google for your documents. And while Google’s documents are public, your imaged documents are accessible only to your authorized users.
Information is an asset. Likewise, your team’s time is an asset. When you improve document findability, you maximize the value of your informational assets. Your team is able to get vital information quickly, and everyone remains focused on your organization’s primary mission, with all the assets – information and time – working together to increase throughput. And as economists tell us, increased throughput will lead to increased profitability.
Findability could be your success tool to improving productivity and profitability. A document organization specialist will help point you to the right system for your enterprise.
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Document conversion already has a number of well-proven benefits, including:
- Reduced filing space requirements
- Fast, accurate information retrieval
- Secure information access
- Compliance with accessibility regulations
The value of these benefits is easy to quantify, and makes a strong financial case in favor of transforming your operation’s paper documents to searchable, accessible digital documents.
There’s another benefit, however. It’s less obvious, but it translates into cost savings just as surely as those other benefits listed above. It’s the value of employee health and job satisfaction created by telework. A recent study showed some rather alarming statistics associated with long commutes:
- 33% more likely to suffer from depression
- 37% more likely to suffer financial anxieties
- 12% more likely to have work-related stress
- 46% more likely to be sleep-deprived
- 21% more likely to be obese
The bottom line: A long commute cuts deeply into employees’ job satisfaction and productivity. In the Washington, D.C., area, the average public transportation commute time is 86 minutes.
But there’s a solution, and it involves document conversion.
Current trends show that a combination of telework and flexible office hours is optimal for employee satisfaction, loyalty, longevity, and productivity. This is where document conversion comes into the picture. A document may have originated on paper, but once it is converted to a digital format, it can be accessed from anywhere. Work can continue whether an employee is in the office or at home. Moreover, security protocols control who is allowed to read documents and edit them, ensuring the safety of sensitive information – a higher degree of security than paper documents which can easily be lost or misfiled, or fall into the wrong hands.
It doesn’t take an in-depth study to tell managers that employee satisfaction translates into profits. Hiring and training alone are costly, averaging $4189 to hire and $1886 to train just one new employee. But with the greater employee satisfaction which telework creates, these are costs that businesses can avoid. Add these HR savings to the value of reduced storage space, increased productivity, and improved security, and the conclusion is obvious: Document conversion is good for your employees and good for your bottom line.
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Retailers with captive consumers – notably airports and hospitals – used to enjoy a mini-monopoly. The offerings of the shops were limited and the prices were exorbitant. In the late 1990’s, however, airports began to capitalize on their corridors, installing elaborate retail malls and food courts. In some cities, airports even looked to become dining destinations. But hospitals were slow to change. The hospital gift shop continued to disappoint the hopes of shoppers with time on their hands, money in their pockets, and no other retail options.
Now, though, hospital gift shops and pharmacies are starting to realize their larger retail opportunities. Expanding their offerings and bolting on additional services like salons and spas gives hospitals new revenue opportunities. Part of this change is driven by competition among healthcare providers, whose marketing teams actively seek ways to stand out in the marketplace. Online “hospital gift shops” are also grabbing some of the get-well-soon gift business, pushing the brick-and-mortar gift shops into a newly competitive position.
Amy Eagle, writing in Healthcare Facilities Management Magazine, discusses the innovative high-end hospital retail spaces appearing around the country. From relaxing spas to colorful toy stores (like the one pictured here), these retail designs are intended to “distract, amuse, comfort, and soothe.”
The new retail spaces come with a challenge: Where to store all the additional inventory for the expanded retail? Storage space is always at a premium in hospitals; medical supplies and equipment always get first dibs. Space-efficient storage technology – high density mobile shelving, for example – reduces space requirements by 50%, while eliminating much of the shipping packaging commonly found in retail storages areas – packaging which can attract health-compromising pests. It’s a win for everyone – patients, visitors, and hospitals.
The captive consumer, with only a single choice for goods or services, represents the very antithesis of American freedom of choice. While every retailer would be happy to have 100% of the business, they know that competition, although arduous, improves their own opportunities as well as those of their customers. A well-designed space-efficient inventory storage system makes it possible to expand inventory and meet the competitive challenge.
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Safety is always paramount in any lab. Lab designers have safety in mind whenever they are designing a new lab or retrofitting an existing one. Designers’ storage choices can improve a lab’s safety and productivity, but if storage considerations aren’t included in the early design phases, unsafe conditions can actually be “baked in” to a lab’s design.
Harvard’s School of Health has some recommendations for safe and productive lab designs that can be improved further by innovative benching and storage options.
- Determine the workflow needed. A lab’s end users may not have a clear idea of what they want but they always know what tasks they will be performing in a space. The materials and processes, the number of people working there, and any special requirements like ADA compliance will influence the design. A well-built modular benching system will give users flexibility to arrange the space to suit their needs.
- Ensure adequate room for people and processes. A crowded lab is less productive, and accidents are more likely in areas where aisles and workspaces are tight. If floor space is at a premium, various storage solutions will preserve extra floor space for people and processes.
- The right layout ensures good workflow. The sequence of processes helps determine a productive layout, and material-appropriate storage should be in close proximity to each process in the sequence. Electronic equipment can be stored in cabinets; chemical storage is more complex, and must be designed to match the safety requirements of each substance.
- Safety features aid productivity. When staff isn’t worried about how to handle an emergency, they can focus on their work. And when equipment and materials are properly stored instead of cluttering workbenches and aisles, staff can get to safety quickly if they need to.
- Design for change. When new technologies and processes require a change in workflow, modular casework can be reconfigured and re-purposed to fit the new workflow. Labs avoid the cost of new cabinets and benching, and the new layout can be executed with a minimum of down time, keeping the operation productive and on-budget.
We would add a sixth suggestion to this list: Talk to a design consultant who can recommend storage products or even a turnkey lab design-build company. The design process is complex and time-consuming, and lab managers have enough on their plates already. Bring in an expert, and stay focused on the lab’s primary mission of scientific excellence.
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“Are you looking for a solution, or empathy?” Couples therapists teach their clients to ask this fundamental question whenever stress levels begin spiraling upwards. It’s not a question we often ask in the world of enterprise. Businesses are urged to be solutions-oriented. When a client or prospect has a problem, we immediately offer a solution. For example, we at NOS are in the storage solutions business.
It’s easy to forget that sometimes a client or business associate just needs a friendly colleague to say, “I’m sorry you’re having a bad day. I understand.” As solutions providers, business enterprises should never lose sight of the fact that we are also in the listening business, both inside our organizations and in our external dealings. We’re enthusiastic about our businesses and we love helping people – that’s what makes it so easy to get into the habit of pressing solutions on people rather than really listening to what’s going on with them. Sometimes when we listen, we learn that they aren’t in need of a solution right now; they just need to be heard.
And when we lend an ear, we might just gain some valuable insights about the organization as a whole. Those insights could lead to unanticipated opportunities or early signs of changes that could affect an entire industry. As we look forward to this new year, there will be many moments to offer solutions, or to offer empathy. Polish up those empathetic listening skills and see what new opportunities unexpectedly appear.
Now I’ll stop talking, and listen to what you have to say.
Joe Alvarez, an excellent listener and president of National Office Systems Inc., has over 20 years’ experience helping companies and government agencies to bridge the gap between an organization’s processes and technology when considering storage and asset management systems. Since 1976, National Office Systems (NOS) has been the leading provider of the most affordable and comprehensive storage solutions (high density mobile shelving, automated storage and retrieval, stationary shelving, biometric secure access cabinets) and document management systems. NOS saves money for businesses when they move to a new space, showing them how building smaller spaces and leasing less space provides rapid return on investment for capital equipment projects.