July 5th is unofficially known as National Workaholics Day. It’s intended as a reminder that work addiction can be detrimental to a person’s health and even affect their relationships with family and coworkers. Yes, sometimes it’s difficult to tear yourself away from the work that needs to get done, but what if there were technology solutions that could deconstruct a complicated workflow and recreate it into something better, faster, and more productive? 

Over the course of the pandemic, we watched our frontline workers take on the enormous responsibility of keeping our world going. We took our hats off to first responders, healthcare providers, educators, food, agriculture, and grocery workers, manufacturers, the postal service, and more. We still owe them our gratitude every day for the work they’ve done and continue to do. The inspiration for our choice of technology solutions today, is our essential workers.

We’d like to share some tools that are making tough jobs easier and helping workers complete their day-to-day tasks more effectively and with less burnout. Items like hot swap batteries, RFID enabled tablets, and device interoperability are among the technological tools that are enabling workers to improve their workflows and that are cutting back on the tedium that only makes difficult jobs more stressful.

Work Fatigue Impacts Safety and Productivity

Improvements in workplace technology help reduce employee stress, reduce the tedium of day-to-day tasks, and increase overall happiness and satisfaction on the job. By making the repetitive aspects of a job more enjoyable, employees suffer fewer feelings of physical and mental fatigue that eventually result in burnout. 

Workplace fatigue, in the physical sense, can play a role in employee performance and in the overall safety of the workspace. For example, the use of heavy equipment that isn’t ergonomically designed can result in higher rates of fatigue and even injury. Making changes to this equipment means that the daily employee experience — and the frequency of errors and hospital safety incidents — also receives a considerable change. 

What’s more, physical fatigue affects the mental and emotional state of being. Consequences of fatigued employees include greater misunderstandings and conflicts, more distracted behaviors, losses in productivity, and decreased motivation. Not only do these issues impact an organization’s bottom line, they bleed into employee morale across the workforce. 

Mental fatigue is another piece of the puzzle and appears in the form of boredom from monotonous tasks. Neurologist Dr. Judy Willis claims that, when we are bored, many of our critical thought processes suffer. Things like judgment, goal-directed planning, risk assessment, focus, and control over our emotions can all be directly affected by performing tedious tasks. These are tasks that are repetitive, predictable, and that are too easy to feel meaningful. Examples of this include daily tasks like patient charting in a hospital or inventory management in a grocery store or warehouse. 

For these reasons, it’s reasonable to conclude that offering technology solutions that streamline physically and mentally fatiguing tasks can boost employee safety and productivity.

Technology Solutions That Alleviate Employee Fatigue

Technical advancements have been contributing to our society in countless ways, and despite our seeming obsession with the latest and greatest, there are some technology solutions that have maintained their relevance and their impact over the years.

Hot Swappable Batteries

Hot swappable batteries are essentially a set of powerful, rechargeable batteries. A single device may have two or three of these batteries powering its systems. When one battery gets low, a fresh battery can be swapped in while the device continues to run on the other connected batteries. This allows the device to have continuous run time instead of needing to be taken out of rotation for charging.

Devices with hot swappable batteries are often used in medical settings where equipment downtime can stall workflows and interrupt patient care. The layer of assurance they provide improves the ability of nursing staff and other providers to do their jobs without the frustrating interruptions that can foster overall negative feelings about their workspace.

Medical carts, computers, and tablets can all be powered by this type of technology. Especially in cases where the medical cart is non-powered, a hot swap battery computer can be fixed to the cart and be the source of power for the cart and its peripherals. An added benefit to solutions like this is that they can decrease the weight of a cart by up to 50 pounds! This decreases the amount of clutter providers need to work with, allows for more flexibility in workflows that are no longer restricted by whether or not a cart is charged, and provides a less physically demanding cart alternative.

Another stress-relieving advantage of these batteries is their ability to keep equipment running in spite of a power outage. The concerns about data loss when machines unexpectedly lose power are virtually nonexistent when the power source is independent.

RFID Enabled Computers and Tablets

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) refers to a technology that is quite similar to barcoding. Data from a tag or label is scanned and captured by a reader and that information can then be stored in a database. What differentiates an RFID scanner from a barcode scanner is their ability to read multiple codes at once. This is because they use radio waves instead of a beam of light to read labels. This also means they can scan items from a distance and store larger amounts of data per item. These features expand their use-possibilities which is why various industries make use of RFID enabled technology.

In manufacturing, grocery, and agriculture settings, RFID scanners are used to manage inventory and to keep track of parts as they move through assembly or sorting processes. In an assembly line, for example, they help ensure that the right parts are being installed at each workstation which alleviates worker stress levels and boosts confidence in the workflow. They are also used in large distribution warehouses as they allow workers to easily collect information about the location of goods and minimize fatigue caused by walking through endless aisles of product. 

In addition to scanning products, RFID readers can also scan employee ID badges and expedite the daily clock-in and clock-out procedures. Census, a manufacturer of utility meters, was experiencing long queues at the limited timeclock terminals in their facility. Employees often waited 5 to 10 minutes just to clock in and out every day. After implementing industrial tablets with integrated RFID technology, each tablet became a timeclock terminal in addition to its other purposes. This effectively cut back the wait times that had become ingrained in the daily events of their employees.

Hospitals and other healthcare spaces also use and benefit from RFID technology. In these environments, protecting patient information is a primary concern. With RFID enabled medical tablets, healthcare organizations can ensure that only authorized users are accessing the sensitive information stored on the device. This technology also reduces errors in incorrect data logs on patient records. With the ability to scan a patient’s wristband and immediately connect to their unique medical record, providers can eliminate the stress and the dangerous consequences associated with mistakes in data logging.

Device Interoperability

Technology that plays well with other instruments in the workplace is a major advantage and its level of importance can often be overlooked. Technical issues are the bane of seamless workflows. They cause delays and can be extremely frustrating to users. In medical and industrial settings alike, there is a need for the freedom to connect and operate devices that are expected to work together. 

Medical and industrial grade tablets (unlike commercial grade tablets) are equipped with full sized ports which allow them to be integrated with or embedded into other devices. This means they can connect to various types of legacy equipment and operate peripherals like the aforementioned RFID and barcode scanners. 

In South Carolina, the Carolina Orthopedic and Neurological Associates (CONA) group  sought a new and more cost-effective workflow. Rather than having a fully functioning computer in every room, they opted for a tablet that could be carried from room to room and simply docked to a monitor and keyboard. Doing so would translate the information from the tablet directly to the monitor and essentially create a full computer setup in seconds. Yet, there were no longer the same maintenance costs or security concerns associated with having a true computer setup in each room. The interoperability of the tablet, monitor, and keyboard arrangement meant that doctors could securely access patient information quickly and without the usual hassle.

In a warehouse environment, devices with a variety of available ports make it possible for employees to interface with machinery through HMI panels, to connect machinery to industrial PCs that automate their processes, and to monitor production. These abilities create real-time decision making opportunities that empower employees to catch potential problems before they have a chance to occur. If you’re looking to make an addition to your organization, make sure that the technology you choose is capable of integrating with your existing equipment. The employees who will interact with the devices every day are sure to thank you.

Closing Thoughts

There are thousands of technology solutions that serve to make our lives easier. We have entertainment on-demand, advanced robotics, and personal devices always at the ready. In the workplace, we have witnessed how important such advancements are as well. With tools like hot swappable batteries, RFID readers, barcode scanners, and the ability for devices to operate together, organizations are seeing the fruits of human and machine cooperation.

If you’re interested in building an environment that is healthier for your organization and its employees, contact an expert at Cybernet to see which devices are best suited for your needs.