Many of us are working from home these days (kudos to the heroic first responders, healthcare workers, and essential-business employees keeping us safe, secure, and supplied!). It has been a disruptive transition for the many enterprises unprepared for telework. Even businesses that already had telecommuting policies and procedures in place have found their remote-work systems stretched beyond capacity. If you’re new to telework, your staff may be scrambling to stay productive while setting up alternatives to face-to-face collaboration – building the ship while you’re sailing it.
Despite all the disruption and anxiety, there’s a silver lining. On the upside: Businesses with established telecommuting routines are learning where the weak points in their systems are. Now they have an opportunity to fix the shortcomings of outdated VPNs and low-capacity internal apps.
A second positive consequence: Businesses that were previously reluctant to adopt telecommuting are now discovering that their organizations may actually benefit from remote work. One study in the Harvard Business Review found that telecommuting employees start work earlier, take fewer breaks (no “cake in the break room”), and work more diligently, as much as an extra day per week.
To make telecommuting work, however, the right infrastructure needs to be in place. As some organizations have discovered, there are plenty of productivity tools they can quickly adopt to support telework. Zoom, for video conferencing, and Slack, for remote collaboration, are two of the most popular.
But what about all the paper documents in file cabinets back at the office, the ones that need to be accessed routinely by teams? Companies in the finance, insurance, legal, and government sectors are especially paper-reliant. Telework is a challenge when the nature of the work requires paper documents.
That’s where document digitization fits in to the productivity picture. Digital versions of paper documents, stored on secure internal servers or cloud servers, can be accessed and shared among remote workers. In combination with other collaboration tools, digitization gives teleworkers the infrastructure to be even more productive than they were in the office.
Telework is upon us, like it or not. With the right tools and systems we can make it work to the benefit of our individual businesses, and the economy as a whole. And when the current crisis ends, telework will have proven itself to be the work style of the future.
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Telework has unquestionable benefits – employee satisfaction, health, and productivity are often cited – but without easy access to business documents, those benefits may not be realized.
Forbes reports telework savings averaging $11,000 per employee per year, including the value of healthy, productive employees and the cost savings of reduced real estate and other facilities expenses.
But teleworkers need access to information in order to work efficiently, and that includes access to data which may currently be available only in paper form. Remote sharing of physical documents is obviously unwieldy. Teleworkers must to come to the documents’ location or the documents must be delivered to the remote workers. And if teleworking team members all need the same documents, the logistics get even more complicated and expensive.
All the teleworking productivity gains are wiped out by the paper document bottleneck.
You might think that a simple PDF of a physical document would be easy to share with any teleworker who needs it. That’s true. But what if there are hundreds or thousands of pages that teleworkers need to access? Further, what if they need to search for specific individual elements within those many documents?
That’s where enterprise-level digitization becomes a vital component of teleworking productivity. Digitization, also termed document conversion, creates “smart” digital documents – secure, searchable, and shareable via cloud computing. When paper documents are converted to a smart digital format, teleworkers’ productivity is preserved. Digital documents remain secure (have paper documents ever been lost or destroyed in your business?). And managers can monitor staffers’ work and support their collaborations remotely.
Some businesses have the time, expertise, and resources in-house to plan and execute a comprehensive digitization program. For many, however, an experienced outside vendor saves them the time and cost of a long learning curve and the personnel to administer an digitization program. If your business is making a move to telework, and time is of the essence, talk to a trusted digitization vendor about the best way to convert your paper documents and avoid the information bottleneck.
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Research firm Gartner estimates that as much as 3% of a company’s revenue is spent on business paper. Copy paper, note paper, invoices, letters, file folders…it all adds up, and it’s easy to quantify. But that’s just the hard costs. What is rarely calculated are the hidden costs all that paper generates.
A few statistics from a PriceWaterhouseCoopers study:
- 8 hours– the amount of time an employee spends managing paper documents each week
- $122– the cost of finding a single lost document
- 750– the number of lost paper documents per year, per mid-size business
There’s a dollar figure attached to this kind of lost productivity. Even though the math may not show up on a spreadsheet, lost documents alone can be calculated to cost the average mid-size business $91,500 per year.
And that’s before calculating the cost of office space to store all those documents. Paper is undeniably bulky. Just 250 standard file cabinets take up 2,500 square feet. That adds up to a significant sum, too: $135,000 per year, on average.
Knowing those costs could make you think twice about using – and retaining – all that paper. But do you have a choice?
Digitization is the alternative. Converting paper documents to digital documents saves businesses the cost of all that storage space for physical documents. The contents of those 250 file cabinets, after conversion, will fit onto a single hard drive. With imaged documents safely stored on a drive, lost documents are a thing of the past, as is the cost of finding those lost documents.
Even better, businesses can take advantage of the cost savings of a remote workforce. Digital documents, unlike paper documents, can be shared readily with members of a distributed team. And remote teams require less office space, adding to the cost savings.
Of course paper still provides a valuable function even in the digital era. People have a positive response to information presented on paper, and they absorb and retain that information longer. Sales and marketing materials, for example, have a greater impact if they’re presented on paper.
But for many other areas of business operations, imaged documents present a significant value in the form of reduced real estate costs and improved productivity. Take a look at how your enterprise uses paper, uncover the hidden costs, and make a profitable move to digitization.
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