For some folks, the return to the office happened nearly 18 months ago. For some, it was 18 days ago. When you return is largely a function of what your job is, and where you live. But after a few naïve — albeit ambitious — misfires, it appears that the return to the office is finally happening in earnest across the entire U.S.
What is the hybrid office?
The hybrid office is the usage of internet-connected devices, platforms, and applications to enable the same work experience for remote and office-based workers.
Up until recently, where a worker was physically located had a lot to do with how productive they could be. Thus, the office was born. If workers weren’t at the office, they didn’t have access to the information or tools that they rely on to do their job. An accountant wouldn’t have access to any purchase orders to match invoices against. An HR manager wouldn’t be able to access the files they need to get their audits done. And the sales team wouldn’t have access to their CRM. Core processes would grind to a halt.
But this isn’t the case anymore. You see, the office is becoming more of a concept than an actual place. And we can thank computers for that.
All businesses run on information. And for a long time, paper was the way of storing and transmitting business information. But computers provide us with a much better way of storing and transmitting business information. So, instead of storing paper documents in filing cabinets where only people who are in the building can access them, we can store them in a cloud-based repository, so they can be accessed whenever from wherever. All of a sudden, the physical location of some workers doesn’t impact their ability to get the job done. Processes flow unimpeded, whether your staff is at home, in the office, or sipping a macchiato at the local coffee shop.
How do I create my own hybrid office?
The first step to implementing your own hybrid office is to digitize all your existing documents. Paper-based information anchors workers to their desks and silos information, which is the antithesis of the hybrid office. Once you’ve digitized all your existing documents, you also have to implement an on-ramp (and off-ramp) for all future hardcopy documents. After all, just because you’ve implemented digital processes, that doesn’t mean that your customers, vendors, and partners have, too. Some businesses might also be forced to use paper to comply with regulations.
This makes scanners and capture software a very important part of any hybrid office. Be it MFPs or single-function scanners, your in-office and remote workers are going to need hardware that can convert hardcopy documents into digital images (as well as digital images to hardcopy documents), and software that enables workers to share those images far and wide. Many of today’s MFPs and single-function scanners support scanning to cloud solutions.
Make everything accessible
Once you have digitized your business information, you have to make it accessible to your staff. It needs to be stored somewhere that remote and in-person workers can easily retrieve it. You could host all your data and provide workers with remote access via VPN. But VPNs can be slow and clunky — which will no doubt annoy employees and impact their productivity — and they make it difficult for users to print and scan. VPNs also come with added security risks — one missed update or bad configuration can lead to a breach. For most, the best way to provide remote and in-person workers with access to the information they need to get the job done is with a cloud-hosted document management solution. The user experience in the cloud is smooth and consistent, and the security is much more reliable.
Build as tall of a fence as you can
Once you’ve made your data accessible to all, you have to take steps to ensure that only those you want to access that data, can access that data. With today’s document management solutions, doing so is quite simple. DMS enables businesses to define which users can access which folders and files, and limit what they can do with that access. For example, you can configure your DMS to only allow your HR staff to open the HR folder (or particular files within the HR folder), and limit which users have write and delete privileges.
What are some benefits of the hybrid workplace?
When workers can work remotely, businesses have a leg up on the competition for acquiring and retaining talent. Most Americans prefer hybrid work models over in-person ones — so much so that half of Americans would take up to a pay cut if they could work remotely at least part of the time. Workers also reported increased productivity when working from home.
Hybrid offices also enable businesses to hire employees from far beyond their geographic locations, vastly expanding their pool of applicants, increasing the odds that you find your perfect match. This reach and access is only possible in hybrid (or purely remote) environments.
Regardless of where your employees work, the technology that underpins the hybrid office can benefit all. Digitizing documents can help businesses reduce their physical footprint, since they won’t need to rent extra space to store documents in filing cabinets. By leveraging hosted solutions and storage, you don’t need to purchase, maintain, and upgrade IT infrastructure. If you’re a small business with limited IT resources — or no IT department at all — you can take advantage of technology that you didn’t have the time, money, or know-how to use before. It can also help businesses with busy or cash-strapped IT departments to reduce costs and lighten the workload.
And by storing all of our business data in digital form, we can leverage the power of computers to automate processes that humans are bad at, so they can focus on the tasks that only humans are good at. Not only can you expect fewer mistakes (or none at all), but you can also claw back hours of your time normally spent on menial tasks, so it can be used on something much more productive.
Do I need to create my own hybrid office?
Implementing a hybrid office isn’t a prerequisite to having a business in 2022. Businesses have been operating in-person exclusively since the onset of the pandemic, and they are doing just fine.
But choosing to not invest can be harmful in the long term. Workers have taken a liking to remote work, and they might think twice about taking a job with a company that doesn’t allow remote work at all. And let’s not forget, you might not be getting the most out of your employees by requiring they come to the office every day.
Want to learn more about how Centric Business Systems can help your organization transition to a hybrid environment? Contact our experts today. Whether you require upgraded equipment or an in-depth analysis of your workflow, we have the expertise needed to maximize your systems and help you make the most of our technology. Give us a call at 877-902-3301, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill out our contact form to learn more about how we can help your organization run better.