How will delivery processes change as workers return to the workplace?

As workplaces around the country prepare to adapt to the various social distancing and personal safety measures they will have to put in place, many will be wondering what the typical working day will start to look like. Some of the activities we take completely for granted like commuting, meal breaks and even talking to colleagues, will have to be carefully considered from now on as routines change to avoid any unnecessary human contact. 

A common occasion for ad-hoc human interaction during the working day is accepting and then internally distributing deliveries to staff. We can expect to see associated processes and policies begin to adapt to address the need to reduce contact as it relates to handling package and parcel deliveries in the workplace. That being said, the volume and frequency by which mail is entering places of work has been changing for some time, creating a range of inefficiencies that already need addressing.

While electronic forms of communication mean fewer letters are received, the increase in ecommerce over the years has generated more parcels than ever before. In fact, according to a study conducted by Ofcom, total parcel volumes grew ten per cent year-on-year in the UK 2018-19. Of course, the current situation has only increased volumes of online shopping, and people are likely to continue to heavily favour this where possible to further reduce any unnecessary contact in their lives.

Ideally, all parcels are rapidly and efficiently delivered within organisations. That way, business can continue unimpeded by awaited items and staff don’t spend a disproportionate amount of time managing deliveries. The reality can be somewhat different. On top of the human interaction that goes hand in hand with accepting deliveries, parcels can pile up in post rooms and reception areas. Employees can be hard to track down – especially now. Security of items can be an issue. Time is wasted attempting deliveries and items may be mislaid. The list of pinch points goes on.


Personal deliveries of parcels

There are numerous challenges associated with the rise in personal deliveries of parcels to the workplace. This includes specific operational issues for companies. With many employees now having personal shopping delivered to work, a sizeable increase in workplace parcel deliveries has been generated. So much so, that in 2015 it was estimated that around a third of the 11,000 deliveries a month made to One Canada Square in London’s Canary Wharf were personal items – a figure that is only likely to have risen considerably since then.

It is not just the volume of parcels that is creating issues, the timing of deliveries can also be a problem. Mail used to arrive at predictable times, once or twice a day, now deliveries can be at any time, potentially disrupting the work pattern of post room or admin staff, as well as that of the parcels’ end recipients. What’s more, seasonal peaks can have a knock-on impact on workload and resourcing. This can coincide with when post room staff take holiday, leaving a larger workload for fewer people to manage. If the current return to work measures include shift patterns, this situation will only be exacerbated.

In addition to this, the processing and storing of large quantities of incoming parcels can be time-consuming and inconvenient for site staff. It’s a drain on resources for staff – now busier than ever with critical tasks – to spend time locating parcel addressees and to attempt deliveries, sometimes multiple times. Furthermore, until parcels have been delivered, they pose safety and security risks, particularly if they are stored in communal areas where they could go missing or become damaged.


Technology to tackle the challenges

Solutions don’t lie in allocating more floorspace to parcel storage. In most buildings, space is at a premium and must be utilised as efficiently as possible, plus labour-intensive, manual processes for handling parcels are unsustainable in the long-term. They don’t scale as volumes increase, yet businesses find themselves hard-pressed to allocate more staff.

An alternative approach to managing the issues is intelligent parcel locker systems. They are becoming fairly commonplace in retail as a way for online retailers to distribute orders and are growing in popularity in the workplace for a variety of reasons – with the reduced contact aspect now being a key characteristic. We’ll likely start to see lockers being used to help facilitate the internal exchange of various items now too, enabling staff to further observe reduced contact processes throughout the working day.

No one knows exactly how the new working day will shape up over the months ahead but where deliveries are concerned, the disruption, inefficiencies and frustrations involved have seen a shift towards technology to help automate and streamline processes – something we can expect to see as we move towards a ‘new normal’.

Main image by mohamed Hassan