new age office

Are Flexible Workspaces the Future of Business?

Mar31
In today’s new world of work, where people are literally plugged into work and getting information through every step of their day—whether it’s on their phone, tablet, work computer or home computer—evolution is inevitable.

Ricoh USA

With businesses striving for information mobility, work environments are changing. Long gone are the days of secretaries typing away feverishly on their typewriters. No smoking in the office, either. And the stocked liquor cabinets in the executives’ offices? Not so much.

Too Mad Men-esque for you? How about the assigned office, or even the cubicle? These too, seem to be going the way of the dinosaur.

The latest trend is for more adaptable and flexible workspaces without walls, offices, or assigned desks, a term referred to as “hoteling.” In some cases, this has been driven by the need for lower cost real estate. In others, the need for flexibility to move team members around has driven the change, allowing small workgroups to form as needed to drive a project forward. Valve Software is a famous example of a company that has embraced this idea. With this new trend, you could be sitting next to the CEO on Tuesday and Bill from Accounting on Wednesday. And Thursday you could be working remotely from a plane or hotel room.

It’s all driven by the need for flexibility. And in this modern office, technology has the keys to the car. Nowhere is this clearer than when it comes to data access and storage.

The Digital Information Age and The Need for Speed

Absent from the new offices are file cabinets and file rooms, with the goal to be flexible, nimble and more cost efficient. For those companies that are transitioning to paperless, flexible workspaces, there are a few steps to take first.

Where Does the Paper Go?

Prior to a major transition such as this, an organization must carefully evaluate what paper files it wishes to retain and those that it wishes to destroy. A careful culling of files must occur and those that remain must be either converted to digital images or sent to offsite storage, which is often less than ideal.

Stop Feeding the Beast

So, how do workers stop feeding the paper beast and learn how to function in a post-paper office? The most effective way is to convert all paper to digital images at their point of entry – the mailroom. The digital mailroom is here to stay and having the ability to scan and route to workers is vital. Another key area to target: converting paper-based forms to digital.

Accessing the Information

So, now that you’ve gone fully digital, how do workers actually access all that information? Digitization alone isn’t the answer. Content must be tagged with meaningful index data for retrieval, and stored in a centralized, easily-accessed electronic repository, so that workers can recall the content with minimal information or work needed. This gives the organization the flexibility of information mobility – being able to have their people work anywhere.

The Bottom Line: Time Is Money and Being Green Is Good

Due to the growing trend of smaller footprints and more flexible workspaces, hard dollar cost savings are easily recognized. This is for a variety of reasons. When employees have faster access to information, they’re spending less time looking for stuff, leading to improved customer service. And these flexible workspaces have green benefits as well: less paper usage saves money and trees.

The modern office is becoming smarter, highly flexible, adaptable, green, and ultimately, less expensive to operate. With today’s technology driving an ever-evolving office, workers can access the information from any location, whether sitting next to the CEO or working from home during a blizzard.

Where do you think the future of business is headed? We welcome comments below.

About the Author:

Paul Gelinas is the Director of Business Planning and Operations for Ricoh’s Enterprise Services Delivery organization. Paul’s focus is creating document capture, workflow, and content management solutions as well as leading a team of consultants that automate business processes for Ricoh’s clients. He has consulted with clients in several industries including higher education, legal, third-party administrators (TPA), banking, credit unions, automotive retail, distribution, healthcare and government contracting. Paul has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and a Master of Business Administration degree from Saint Leo University.