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We recently launched a LinkedIn poll that asked working professionals what would make returning to the office worthwhile for them. Nearly 450 people responded, and the findings were informative, interesting, and intriguing.
After working in a hybrid or remote environment over the past two years, 35% of respondents indicated that they desire more quiet spaces in the office to help them focus on their work, as opposed to 26% who want more spaces for collaboration. These results highlight the different working styles of employees, which employers should consider as many look to deliver both desirable and productive workplace environments.
As an Information Management professional, what I found most intriguing about the poll is that 22% of respondents indicated that better access to information was the most important factor to enhancing their office experience (the remaining 17% desire a more organized space).
Access to information has always been a challenge for employees, even before the pandemic forced many to work remotely or in a hybrid environment. According to a McKinsey report, employees spend 1.8 hours searching and gathering information every day, which amounts to an average of 9.3 hours per week. Additionally, a 2022 global study conducted by Economist Impact and sponsored by Iron Mountain, revealed that since the pandemic 62% of respondents said improvements are needed in their organization's information-sharing practices. This was the case for paper and equally, if not more so, for digital records, which could be scattered across countless applications and repositories.
There is no doubt that the pandemic accelerated the rate of digital transformation in organizations moving away from paper to document their business transactions digitally. For many, it also included the conversion from paper records to digital by scanning to provide necessary access for employees and customers. Some organizations even prohibited employees from printing documents in their homes, with exceptions made for very few, further forcing them to adopt digital formats.
The poll's emphasis on the need for better access to information, along with a more organized office space, would appear to be the result of a new perspective brought on by a more overtly and consistently digital way of working.
First, clean up existing office spaces, ideally before employees return. There is nothing more demotivating than walking into a space that looks like a time capsule, with little to no change since it was abruptly abandoned. Some colleagues may have moved on, leaving deserted desks or offices. Many file cabinets haven't been opened in two-plus years, and some IT assets and other equipment may now be obsolete. To enable and expedite cleanup, provide:
For shared file cabinets, conduct a thorough review to determine non-records, such as periodicals and convenience copies. Remaining records should be assessed for their retention requirement and securely destroyed if no longer needed. If the records are still active, make the decision to leave in paper format or scan and then destroy the paper. In either case, ensure that the records are adequately identified and classified.
Use technology to provide seamless access to information regardless of the employees location—home, office, or traveling. This can also include the use of tools that auto-classify records to facilitate their location.
The essential ingredient to improving access to information for employees, wherever they're located, is having the proper metadata or indices assigned to records, physical or digital. The bottom line is increased organization—whether physical space or managing the lifecycle of records and data—leads to a more satisfying work environment.
To take the first step towards putting two-plus years of workplace learnings into action, check out Iron Mountain Clean Start.