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Workplace Trends: The Cashless Workplace

If a co-worker has asked you to contribute $5 toward something at work and you don't have any cash and now you're frustrated that you'll waste your morning break going to the ATM, then know that you're not alone. Your co-workers are just as frustrated as you.

Welcome to the cashless workplace, where employees rarely carry cash anymore because they always use their debit cards (or credit cards). But employers are still kicking it old school when it comes to small-cash monetary collections for the disappearing birthday party, gifts, charitable donations, the NCAA office pool -- the list goes on and on. The person doing the collecting wants cold, hard cash NOW. Oh, crap.

So you dig into your purse or wallet. You had a $5 bill, but that was a few weeks ago and now it's gone. You desperately eye your co-workers. May I borrow a $5 bill and pay you back ASAP? The problem is, they were about to ask you the same question.

Maybe you can write a check instead, but who carries a damn checkbook anymore? Well, except for the older lady in front of you in line at the grocery store who whips out her checkbook and then proceeds to take forever writing a check for her groceries while everyone else in line looks at their feet and groans. When this happens (more and more rarely, thankfully) it's Murphy's Law that it will happen in your line, too.

But back to the workplace and its annoying small cash contributions. A little here, a little there, a big headache for employees of all generations these days. A new MasterCard "World Beyond Cash" survey of more than 1,000 Americans reveals nearly three-fourths of those surveyed are using cash far less than they did ten years ago. And they're getting more and more frustrated in their attempts to use cash in an increasingly online world. As one working woman notes:

Reporter and stylist Lilliana Vazquez has made the shift and embraces being able to "tap and pay." "I'm always running around – New York is a fast paced city and having to stop to get cash out of an ATM or dig for money in my huge handbag slows me down and that’s never a good thing in my business," she said. "I thought being able to swipe my credit card was the ultimate in ease, but now all you have to do is 'tap and go'…talk about convenience."

Yes, never forget about the "huge handbag" trend. It's real, and it's scary.

Employers who read this post and think "this isn't really that big of a deal" might want to consider all the time employees are wasting hunting down another $5-spot during work hours, and how much of their brain space is being diverted toward remembering, "Oh geez, I still have to hit up the ATM today." Needless to say, asking employees for a cash donation when they have no cash is hurting their productivity.

Then again, employees will get to make a pit stop at the coffee shop or some other store on their way back from the ATM, which they might enjoy. They almost have to stop and buy something, because they must break the crisp, $20 ATM bill in order to get the exact amount their co-worker is requesting. So in a way, the cup of coffee they're buying becomes an employer-mandated productivity drain.

Smart employers will set up a Paypal account or a secure, internal company Intranet page where employees can make their random and all-too-often-asked-for $5 contributions online, if they haven't already. It's far past time for it to happen. Trust me, today's cashless employees will thank you.

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