The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our society and has forced everyone to reevaluate basic daily tasks. This unprecedented change in our lives is apparent in the current work environment, where the disease has required business leaders to evaluate all aspects of business interactions, including the use of office space, meeting protocols, safety, productivity, and more.
But the business world, with it's contemporary and ever-increasing adoption of digitization and automation, might have been more prepared for these changes than many had realized. Technology has enabled us to digitize and automate many previously manual tasks, limit our physical interactions as much as possible, and envision a future where we can reopen our work spaces safely, and without productivity loss.
Though the future of work remains somewhat unclear, organizations are evaluating how to adapt to the “new normal” once they decide it's time to reopen office spaces. For instance, how will an organization handle safety protocols? How will remote work and operations factor into office space occupancy and functionality decisions? And what alternative methods of communication and virtual meetings will be needed?
All of these questions stem from one underlying question – how can an organization continue to be effective while maintaining the proper protocols required by this “new normal?” Here are a few examples of how going digital can help:
1. Replicate physical interactions with virtual interactions
While there are certainly situations where an in-person meeting is preferable, many daily activities can be made virtual without loss of productivity. Daily tasks, such as deliveries, lobby and reception services, and office management, can become less physical and more virtual with an added layer of automation.
Some examples of this include electronic lockers, virtual concierge services, and space management technology, which remove the go-between and help create a digital office experience. When a courier needs to make a drop off, an electronic locker makes for easy shipping, receiving, and storage with no direct human contact. And when this person visits the office, a software-enabled kiosk provides a contactless office check-in experience, providing useful information, assisting guests as needed, and virtually managing any interactions. Through this kind of smart office technology, occupancy rates and social distancing can also be managed. A visitor can be informed of how many people are in a particular room, and this can help people choose a suitable working location and avoid having too many people in any one place.
2. Digitize paper processes
Mail and print are physical assets that remain an essential part of business despite the digitization of some paper-based processes, but both are undergoing a digital makeover. Digital mailroom and print solutions have entered the forefront of office process improvement, particularly during the pandemic, as organizations are looking for ways to eliminate the need for physical interactions.
Digital mail solutions offer regular mail services for a remote workforce with automated mail digitization, classification, and routing capabilities. In addition to minimizing the need to possess a physical piece of mail, digital mail systems can offer far superior visibility, reporting, and control into the mail system, tracking mail volumes, recipients, and actionable items. And digital mail and print solutions offer the ability to print from anywhere through a web application. This includes software that creates print-ready documents, cost estimates, delivery options, and live status reporting. Both of these tools existed before the COVID-19 pandemic, but their value is becoming more apparent with each passing day of remote work.
3. Safe, smart reopening procedures
When an office space reopens, having a plan in place to maintain employee health and safety is paramount. While hand sanitizer, social distancing, and office cleanliness will all factor into maintaining a safe working environment, organizations should be looking to take reopening strategies a step further.
To start, consider implementing a virtual (web-based) services portal to enable a safe and productive return to the office. This portal can provide a means for employees to make service requests, help to manage welcome services and temperature checks, coordinate the distribution of PPE equipment and supplies, and track room checks and sanitization services. For remote workers, a virtual services portal can also enable certain curbside services, such as dropping off documents for shredding and picking up or dropping off packages.
Most importantly, the onus is on organizations to be proactive, mindful, and communicative during this pandemic, and moving forward. But as we do move forward, it’s important to understand that we have the tools and technology to maintain productivity, while keeping a safe, healthy work environment. With a sound digitization strategy and a technology-based process overhaul, there’s an opportunity for all of us to become more effective than ever before.