It’s a sight many will recognise from offices across the City; cardboard boxes piled up around work stations from Amazon and Wiggle, those distinctive black and white ASOS bags either just received or ready to be returned, and overflowing mail trays of unsuitable online purchases. FMJ investigates how online transactions are changing the mailroom
With online retail sales in the UK expected to reach £60 billion in 2016, the phenomenon of online shopping is showing no signs of slowing. According to the latest stats from IMRG, nearly half (49.6 per cent) of these online retail sales are now made on mobile devices as time poor consumers look to make purchases on their commutes, during lunch breaks, or even during working hours. With 55 per cent of households saying they are not home to receive deliveries, these parcels have invariably ended up in our workplaces.
While this is great news for retailers, facilities managers are bearing the brunt of employees shopping addictions, with the office post room becoming their personal mail box.
A recent study by Barclays found that 40 per cent of people regularly use their professional address for personal deliveries, with eight per cent receiving a daily delivery at work. This causes some pretty big headaches for businesses that weren’t built to operate as warehouses, not to mention mailroom teams who certainly weren’t employed to be a personal parcel concierge service for employees online shopping. Overall, this has had some major implications on workplace from a time, space and security perspective – ultimately all driving up costs to the business.
THE PROBLEMS: TIME, SPACE, SECURITY AND ENVIRONMENT
Essentially, this increased traffic to the office post room means businesses are incurring mounting costs associated with growing parcel volumes. One key cost to a business is the man hours it takes to organise and process personal parcels. With many businesses now delivering packages to desks, research from Doddle shows that it takes an average of 20 minutes to handle each parcel, from scanning and processing, to delivery to the employee. For a company with 3,500 employees, 40 per cent of whom are assumed to receive at least one package per month, handling personal deliveries alone would require more than three dedicated mailroom staff.
Selection of commercial space for businesses rarely factors in warehouse storage for personal parcels. Most companies don’t have the physical space to store deliveries and in reality they often take up valuable office space which could be reallocated to revenue driving functions. This lack of space often results in parcels getting lost or misplaced, leaving the business liable for items unrelated to core business functions.
With unidentified deliveries come unidentifiable contents. Receiving numerous personal packages for staff means businesses have to find ways to deal with the heightened security risks. The Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure has advised companies to reduce the risk by making special provisions for post. As such they recommend all incoming post should be directed through the mail room and its security systems or via a specialist offsite facility, both of which increase costs for companies.
However, it’s not just internal pressures that are taking their toll – there are also environmental and congestion concerns stemming from our insatiable shopping habits. To deliver the billion parcels British consumers receive from online orders each year requires in excess of 24,000 vans on the road every day. This many vans on the road produce in excess of 2,846 tonnes of CO2 emissions every day, raising serious environmental concerns.
IS BANNING PERSONAL DELIVERIES THE SOLUTION?
One approach many large employers have implemented is to ban personal deliveries at work altogether. The Times reported in August 2015 that many large organisations including HSBC, Citigroup and JP Morgan have all banned staff from having personal deliveries sent to their offices, while others such as Lloyds and American Express are actively discouraging the practise. Even government departments such as the DVLA and the Department for Transport have refused to accept personal packages.
However, this approach can prove hugely unpopular with the workforce and often provokes an employee backlash by those who see workplace deliveries as a necessity in today’s ‘always on’ society. As employees work longer hours, spend less time at home and have fewer opportunities to collect parcels, many have no other alternative but to send their personal deliveries to work.