How Do Remote Workers Manage Document Flow

April 28, 2021 | Advanced Office

“Necessity is the mother of all invention”.  The proverb is well known, though its originator’s identity may have long been lost to history.  More recently, however, a more apropos twist was added when producer Nell Scovell noted that “if necessity is the mother of invention, urgency is the uncle of change.” 

The need for sharing digital documents led to the development of capable programs well over a decade ago. Many organizations have found a benefit of implementing such tools since, but beyond cloud sharing a PDF or storing files on a shared network drive, most companies have not seen the need to move further in this new direction. Until now.

The end of March 2020 saw millions of workers forced into remote work environments.  IT teams scrambled to connect users, and workers did their best to carve out spaces in their homes and set up camp.  The thought was that there would be a few weeks of struggle, but at most it would not carry-on past summer.  It was quickly realized, however, that this arraignment would not be resolved so swiftly.  In fact, by May 2020 it was widely being referred to as “the new normal”, a phrase that sent chills up the spines of many in leadership positions.  Despite this, very few organizations actually took the opportunity to explore options for improving their remote teams’ abilities to work efficiently.  Some were avoiding costs, others avoiding any excess effort that would complicate things further during a pandemic.  Most were still holding out hope that this would eventually prove to be temporary situation, regardless of how long “temporary” might last.

Now, well over a year later, however, it’s become clearer that this is not a temporary arraignment.  While a recent Office Depot study found that only 16% of employers intended to allow work from home indefinitely, the same study found over 50% of employees preferred to continue working remotely even after the pandemic, with a majority of those even willing to sacrifice vacation days in exchange for this benefit.  That doesn’t mean the employer doesn’t have the final say in these arraignments, but if other employers continue offering remote options it could be a battle for talent the drives the decision in the end. 

Many organizations are even starting to realize a benefit to their own financial positions as a result.  Real estate needs are dramatically lower, as are utility costs for offices with out people.  A company might find it can lower its expenses AND appease its employees by maintaining this status quo and eliminating some of their satellite offices.  It is, in fact, looking like it will solidify itself as the new normal much more permanently.  The only questions remaining pertain to efficiency and how to achieve that over distances in this new world.

This is where workflow solutions and intelligent process automation can come into play.  First let’s focus on the document and workflow.  Historically a document, perhaps a contract, was printed, reviewed and signed before it was passed to another department and eventually filed in a file cabinet for safe keeping.  When an employee of the company needed to review that document at a later date, they went to the file cabinet and pulled it out. This workflow was easy and manageable when everyone is in one building, but impossible when much of your staff is physically elsewhere.  A remote employee had no ability to pull a file while working from home, let alone sign it or put it into a coworker’s inbox.

In this modern age, however, where signing can be done digitally and everything is scanned to an e-mailed at whim, there’s never been the urgency to force a change from this habit of physically passing paper.  But the tools are there.  With relatively easy setup your team can pull up the original document, e-mail it for digital signature, receive it back, forward to another department for review and ultimately store it in a digital file cabinet that any approved member can access at their leisure in the future.  All they would need to do is search based on what they know (customer name, invoice number or any field you deem important) and pull the exact file they want.  They can even update it if necessary and restore with their changes not only reflected on the visible document but tracked in the history of the document as well.  There’s no need for physical files, no need for PDF editors or shared drives or back and forth email attachments.  All of this can be done in a single platform.  That means your employees, scattered as they may be, can still work with the same efficiency – perhaps even improved efficiency – as though they all worked in the same physical space.

So that alleviates the absolute need of a physical shared document, but it’s not quit to the level of intelligent process automation, is it?  The same platform that solved your physical problem can work towards this end as well.  Imagine it’s an HR document, let’s say an employment application.  Using the same tools, your Hiring Director can create an instant file for a candidate based on recognizable fields of a resume received.  They can then create offer paperwork or candidate review docs, even complete application information automatically based on the recognizable fields in that original document they received.  Not only are you embracing the remote work set up, but you’re also improving their efficiency exponentially.  And these are hypothetical workflows for the example departments; these tools are completely customizable for your needs.  All you have to do is recognize the need and our teams will consult with you to build out the workflows you and your various team can benefit from.

The invention was there, and now the urgency has joined it.  If you find your teams struggling with efficiency due to workflow challenges, let our team show you the benefits of document management with a live demonstration today so you can embrace the changes rather than manage them.

 Photo by Yasmina H on Unsplash