How companies keep track of their employee's home office equipment - a case study
The recent worldwide pandemic made the home office the new standard overnight. But even after the pandemic, millions of employees around the world still use their home as their office - because it's the preferred choice. In this case study, we look at how employers can keep track of their equipment, now located in home offices.
How and where we work has always been changing, and working from home is definitely not a new invention if we consider e.g. homesteading, In the past, it also wasn't that uncommon for store owners to have the store in a part of their own house.
How we all went from working from home to going to an office
However, with the industrial revolution came the demand to gather workers at one place, the factories. And when office work became a common thing in the 20th century, with public electricity, telecommunication, typewriters and, in the late 20th century, computers - the habit of employees gathering in the same place to work didn't change.
And why should it; Gathering the workforce in the same office space, and working together has lots of benefits, like efficient communication, the social and motivational aspect, and sharing equipment and machinery to mention a few.
Even though lots of work tasks must be performed in a centralized space, like manufacturing, healthcare, warehouses, and stores, more and more work is done in front of a computer screen. And after laptops and high-speed internet connections became affordable and common, getting the actual work done could for many employees be performed just about from anywhere.
However, most employees kept spending hours commuting to and from an office every workday. Working from home was the exception, like when the kids were sick and you had to stay home with them.
...and back to home again
But in 2020, working from home (for the employees that were able to) suddenly became the new normal. When Covid-19 became a global pandemic, most people were required to isolate themselves. All of a sudden, the office meeting rooms were replaced with Zoom or Teams. And for many, the office desk was replaced with the kitchen table.
It was supposed to be a short-lasting, temporary thing. But the pandemic didn't go away that quickly and temporarily became more permanent. Although many were missing going to an office, meeting, and having a coffee with their co-workers, others began realizing the benefits of staying at home every day; Saving hours each day by not having to commute, spending more time with their families, getting the chance to work undistracted on concentration-intensive tasks (although, for some, it's the opposite) to mention a few.
By 2021-2022 however, life (for many) began getting back to the old normal - or at least something close to the old normal. But when companies began asking people to come back to the office again, something had changed. As it turned out, a large portion of the workforce wanted to continue working from home, at least part-time.
This has in some workplaces led to unforeseen conflicts between the employer and their employees. At Apple, employees have been pushing back against returning to the office, while the CEO of Apple has required employees to return, at least for a portion of each week. However, some suggest that forcing employees back to the office is a bad idea.
The new, hybrid office normal
The more flexible workplace situation, where employees switch between working remotely (at home) and at the office, has come to stay, it seems. But with the new normal comes a few new challenges, among others when it comes to how to deal with equipment that will be permanently located at each employee's home.
It's no longer just a laptop and a smartphone that each employee is taking with her home - things that were so limited in amount and complexity that keeping track of who has what could easily fit in a spreadsheet. In many countries, employers are required by law to make sure the working environment is safe and comfortable even at their employee's home offices.
This can mean providing a desk, chair, computer screen, keyboard, or any other equipment that would otherwise be required when working in the office.
Each employer will at a minimum need to keep track of all the inventory that has been set up in each employee's home, but should also be able to track, delegate and solve equipment issues that may arise outside the office.
Best practices for companies to manage employee's home office equipment
In this case study, we will address these challenges and show how Itefy can help companies solve them. Although Itefy is the solution being used in this case study, most equipment management solutions should be able to solve these challenges.
Keep track of the equipment, who is using it, and where it is
First of all, make sure that all equipment like desks, chairs and other home office furniture, in addition to laptops, desktop screens, printers, cell phones and other office equipment that is delivered to the employees are registered into some kind of database. This could be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet, but we would highly recommend using a dedicated equipment management system, which provides a lot of additional benefits.
What data should an equipment database record contain?
All equipment should be labeled with some kind of id code, and this id code should also be part of the equipment database records. In addition, the database should contain the following information:
|Item name||Example: Dell 24" Monitor|
|ID code||In an equipment management system, like Itefy, this is automatically generated, and the ID codes can be exported and fed into a label maker software for making labels like Brother or DYMO.
Not only can you print the ID code, but it can be printed as a QR code, which enables easy scanning with an equipment management mobile app whenever you or your employees need to report an equipment issue, schedule maintenance, register a new equipment location or any other function the equipment management software provides.
|Unique ID||The serial number of electronic devices, license plate number or chassis code of vehicles, or a production number of other equipment.|
|Home location||The home location of the equipment is not the home office address as you might think, but rather where it belongs when it's not in use. A common home location would be some storage room in the company's headquarter.|
|Primary Person Responsible (PPR)
||The PPR is typically the equipment manager at the company that is in charge of equipment purchases, distribution, maintenance, and issue processing.|
This is the bare minimum static information you should provide for each item. In addition, you could also add purchasing information (price, purchasing date, distributor, etc.), brand, model and product specifications, etc.
Before distributing the equipment out to the home offices, you also need to have ready a system for registering dynamic current information, like:
|Usage status||In use or Available|
|Checked out to||The employee that is currently using the equipment.|
|Current location||The address of where the equipment is located.|
|Condition||The current condition of each equipment item, mainly if it's operative or not.|
If you're using a dedicated equipment management software like Itefy, tracking of all this information is built-in. You will also be able to list all items at a certain location and get track records of all these parameters.
If you are handing out equipment that is supposed to be used for just a short period of time, like a projector for a meeting, or photo or camcorder equipment for a photoshoot, you can also set a due date for when you expect the equipment to be returned to its home location. If the equipment is still checked out past due, the equipment management software will automatically notify you and the person using the equipment, helping you follow up and avoid lost equipment.
Reporting equipment issues, delegate resolving the issue, and tracking the repair
From time to time, equipment breaks down; laptop batteries wear out, software needs to be upgraded, printers need cartridge refill, etc. The "old way" in the office is usually that an employee calls the IT department, and someone from the IT department does the fixes in-house.
But when it comes to that each employee works at a home office, things become a little more complicated. First of all, it's very inefficient for a repair person to travel around to each employees' home office to do the one fix. If so, the maintenance should be planned so that the repair person can do several jobs in the same area on the same day. Second, if there is no management system in place with a consistent, up-to-date database with all information, planning for maintenance can be complicated and overly time-consuming.
With an equipment management system in place, you'll have all the necessary information in one place, always up-to-date. When an equipment issue arises at a home office, it may be efficiently solved with an equipment management system like Itefy. Here's an example:
- The computer screen at an employee's home office has started flickering. The employee opens the Itefy app on her smartphone and scans the QR code label on the back of the computer screen. The equipment record page for the computer screen comes up immediately, where the employee finds the troubleshooting information needed to check if the equipment can be fixed without involving other staff.
- After going through the troubleshooting procedures, making sure nothing can be done to fix the flickering, the employee creates a new issue record for the item (the computer screen), describing the problem.
- Once the issue ticket has been created, the condition of the item changes to inoperative. At the same time, the primary person responsible (PPR) for the equipment (in this example, that is usually someone from the IT staff) is notified about the issue. The item PPR logs into the equipment management system (in this case, Itefy), either on the internet device currently at hand (phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer) to read the description of the problem. The employee and the IT staff person communicate directly in the comment section of the issue ticket in Itefy to figure out a solution.
- If the issue is resolved through communication, the issue ticket is closed and the condition status of the item is automatically changed back to "Operative". If not, the IT staff person and the employee create an appointment for the IT person to come to fix or replace the computer screen. The IT staff person creates a new work order reservation for the item, adds any details, and adds the employee to the reservation to keep her in the loop.
- Once the computer screen has been fixed, the issue is closed and an event or maintenance record is created for the item, where all information and expenses relating to the repair are logged.
Schedule periodic maintenance
Some equipment needs periodic maintenance, like computers that need to be updated and security patches to be applied. In an office environment, the IT staff on-site can perform these tasks before or after working hours pretty efficiently, since all the IT equipment is in one place.
Thankfully, more and more tasks like these can now be done remotely. However, the IT staff still has to make sure that the home office employees keep the computer turned on and online.
With an equipment management solution like Itefy, maintenance tasks like these can easily be scheduled as recurring tasks following a pattern. You can for example define that the last Friday after working hours of every month, there will be remotely performed software and security updates. If the employee is unsure of the date and details, he can just open the equipment management app, and go to the calendar for the equipment he's using to see when he was supposed to keep the computer online after work.
Once the maintenance has been performed, the IT staff can simply mark the maintenance reservation as complete. This way, the employee can easily see that the maintenance has been completed, and the computer equipment can be safely shut down.
Track inventory and usage of home office supplies and consumables
The more home offices are being used, the more equipment might be required. The same applies to office supplies, like paper, pens, printer cartridges, etc. In a centralized office, you can keep storage rooms full of office supplies, but with home offices, that might simply not be feasible. On the other hand, making sure that no employees run out of office supplies at their home office, is important to sustain continuous production.
With an inventory management solution like Itefy, you can track usage of office supplies and other office consumables, and be notified when it is running low. Here is how it works:
- Add office supplies for each home office as inventory to Itefy. Example: Add "Printing paper packages" as one item for each home office, activate inventory for those items, set the home location to the home office location, and the primary person responsible (PPR) to the person in charge for distributing new office supplies to that home office.
- Add the initial amount of printing paper packages to the amount that is currently available at that home office, and set a lower threshold for when the PPR should be notified to distribute a stack of new supplies.
- When the employee starts using a new pack of printing paper, the employee simply logs the pick of inventory for that item in Itefy. When the lower threshold is reached, the PPR is being notified and can make sure more packs of printing paper are being distributed to the employee's home office. Once sent, the PPR can log the addition of inventory to the item.
This way, you can keep track of the usage of all consumables, making sure it never goes empty at any of the home offices.
Track when equipment is being moved
From time to time, employees are moving, and along with the employee goes the home office equipment as well. It's vital for the employer, the maintenance staff, and the primary people in charge of the home office equipment to know where the equipment is located.
With an equipment management software like Itefy, the employee itself can register a change of location for all of the home office equipment just by scanning the QR code of each equipment item, then changing the location. This can all be done just within a few minutes.
Also, with all the equipment registered to the home office employee, it's easy to check that all the home office equipment can be accounted for and that it has actually reached its new home-office location.
With the new normal, where home offices are being used almost just as much as centralized offices, the need for being able to keep track of distributed office equipment is even more important than before. Much can be done using a spreadsheet, however, with an equipment and inventory management solution like Itefy you can benefit from features that enable friction-free communication, collaboration, and delegation of maintenance tasks - in addition to always knowing where the company's valuable but now distributed office equipment, is located, and who is using in.