How to Double Your Laptop Retrievals from Remote Workers
May 24, 2023
Retrieving laptops and other expensive equipment from remote workers isn’t easy. Most companies are losing a lot of money by not executing this aspect of remote worker operations effectively.
The good news is that there’s a far better way, but it requires a new approach to your employee equipment operations.
How low can your retrieval rate go?
If your organization isn’t doing a great job of collecting remote employee equipment during offboarding, break-fix situations, and technology refreshes, sadly you’ve got a lot of company. Gartner analysts have shared with us that enterprise clients they speak to are getting, at best, 50% of laptops back… and when high-end monitors are in play (they can be as expensive as laptops), the return rate is basically zero. We all recognize this from our own experiences. I personally still have laptops from previous employers, even after following up and asking how to return. I talked with someone recently who said that their laptop stand is the four laptops previous companies never collected.
This phenomenon isn’t entirely due to remote work. Back in 2017, Gartner published a report that claimed that 30% of all enterprise fixed IT assets were “ghosts,” lost, stolen, or otherwise unaccounted for. Most of these were end-user equipment.
This leads us to the next question.
Why is it so hard to get equipment back?
IT teams are typically responsible for retrieving equipment from remote workers. The problem is that IT teams are staffed, programmed, tooled, and incentivized to send equipment, not to get it back. Returning equipment has mostly been on the employee, with very little process to ensure retrieval. In an office setting, this worked okay because you could just leave your stuff on your desk or walk it over to the IT closet. But we all know plenty of situations where equipment never made it back for a variety of reasons.
When remote work enters the equation, logistics and follow-up cycles get way harder. Here are points of friction that reduce laptop retrieval rates:
- Gaps in asset tracking may mean that IT never initiates a retrieval process
- Delays in getting out retrieval kits due to the low priority and incentives for IT staff to act as shipping clerks
- Mistaken end-user addresses
- Lost retrieval kits due to delivery or other problems
- Delays in employees actually packing things up
- The need for employees to make a special trip to a UPS or FedEx store
- Return shipment delivery problems
- Return shipment receiving problems due to equipment being returned to (and stored at) an IT employee’s home
- Lack of easily accessible tracking information
- No process to follow up on employee returns if they’re delayed
- Storage issues if equipment is being returned to a remote IT person’s home
We’re not even addressing the issue of how IT deals with the equipment once it’s back. Even when an exiting employee promptly ships their laptop back, there are still so many steps where things can go wrong, such as:
- Are power adapters or other computer accessories missing? Probably.
- Is the laptop in need of repair? How long will that take to process?
- Does the laptop need cleaning before shipment? Who ensures that will actually happen so the next employee receiving a corporate laptop doesn’t deal with a dirty keyboard?
- How do laptops get graded, placed into physical inventory, tracked, and re-deployed according to their grade?
The cost of remote equipment retrievals
Let’s do some back of napkin math. For every 100 remote employees, if you have a 15% annual staff turnover rate, you’re collecting 15 laptops per year just in offboardings. If the laptops that aren’t retrieved require you to spend $1500 to replace them and you’re only getting 50% back, then per 100 employees you’re losing over $11K per year in laptops. If you’re not collecting high-end monitors, then that cost doubles to over $22K per year per 100 employees. If you’re a 500 employee company, you’re now talking over $100K per year in lost assets.
BTW, from a staff time perspective, this process—especially when done in the manual fashion that is common today—can easily take a couple of hours per return. So per 100 employees, your IT staff is going to spend 200 staff hours per year just on retrievals. Firstbase surveys and customer interviews have revealed that it takes about 500 IT staff hours per year to handle all the end-user computing logistics for a hundred remote employees. The staff time cost is non-trivial.
Oh, and don’t forget that you’ve got to pay for all the shipping costs. Unless you are a giant corporation or a business that has high volume logistics as part of your business model, you’re going to pay a lot to ship out retrieval kits and get laptops back.
Double your retrieval rates with Firstbase
Distributed workforces require a completely new approach to end-user equipment operations that encompasses all of the following:
- Secure facilities
- Efficient and accurate supply chain and logistics
- Digitally transformed process management including employee communications, HRIS integrations, and logistics and inventory tracking
- End-user and administrative support
This is exactly what Firstbase has built. The Firstbase platform is your new, world-class physical operations stack that includes all the facilities, packaging and shipping logistics, device repair/grading/cleaning, automated employee communications, digital administrative workflows, HRIS integrations, and live support teams to catch and deal with all the corner cases that can arise in remote work equipment operations.
The outcome? We drive 95%+ retrieval rates. Customers report via surveys that they are doubling their retrieval rates. Some of our customers report that they’ve been able to reduce their IT end-user computing inventory by 30% or more.
If you want to transform how your employee equipment process works, get a demo today.