Starting the paperless momentum has four primary advantages to an organization; it will improve knowledge and data management, it will increase data efficiencies; it will improve worker productivity and prepare the organization for the remote and mobile workforce environment.
The following are recommendations to reduce paper used by individual employees;
Reduce Desktop Printers: Employees who print electronic data create their own paper pile up. The easier and more convenient it is to print documents, the more likely it is that paper use will increase. One way to reduce paper use is to reduce individual and desktop printers. By making printing less convenient, employees begin to be more mindful before printing their data.
Improve User Skills on Managing Electronic Data: If users understand how to organize, file and manage data electronically well, then they will feel more comfortable keeping data electronically and will have fewer propensities to print it. Provide training and instruction to users on best practices of filing and organizing electronic data.
Improve User Knowledge on PDF Conversion and Use: Users need additional training on using PDF software. In particular how to merge and combine PDF documents, how to convert emails and other MS Office documents to PDF, how to extract/add pages into a PDF and how to make comments/notations. A large portion of paper printing is to re-scan in documents in a certain order, to remove or add pages or to add a copy of an email to an official paper file.
Implement e-signatures: Implement the use of signing documents electronically. Provide clear guidance and training on how to use and process e-signatures.
Automate Paper Processes: There are still paper-based processes (mainly with multiple signatures needed on a document) that could be automated and managed electronically. Identify those processes that require paper printouts and engage a productivity or IT consultant to suggest electronic alternatives.
For most organizations, shared network drives on computer servers are used to store and share business documents. Every day, employees create and manage electronic information to support their work. In fact, it is estimated that 95% of all new information is still stored on network servers. In addition, most organizations permit their employees to store electronic information on a “personal” or “individual” drive that is accessible only to the individual. In addition, there are now project collaboration systems such as SharePoint and Google Sites, which also contain organization data. Managing all of this data and information efficiently and effectively can greatly improve business performance, knowledge management, and productivity.
Employees usually have been given very little guidance and information on saving, filing, deleting, and naming documents onto the shared network drives. As a result, server systems can and have reached capacity limit quickly. It is important to provide staff clear direction on file structure and where electronic records should be saved.
Having an organized shared drive will provide the following benefits for businesses and organizations:
Improve accessibility of data among employees and staff.
Provide a clear understanding of how and where to save files on the shared drive network.
Improve worker efficiency and productivity with quick access of current and historical files and documents.
Reduce duplication of files and provide clear guidelines of version control.
Provide easier access to collaboration with shared files and documents within the organization.
Improve clarity and ease for new employees to access important information quickly.
Lay the foundation for a paperless office by reducing official paper files and increase reliance on electronic file system.
Improve the corporate memory and maintain important history when employees leave the organization.
Become prepared for a transfer to a document or content management system such as Microsoft SharePoint or Documentum.
Along with benefits of improved productivity and reduced commute time, there are challenges in remote, mobile and telework environments. All employees should have clear expectations from their supervisor on schedules working from home and being in the office. Ideally, there should be staff meetings to review these expectations so everyone is clear. Then, have a group or shared calendar that staff can post their leave and telework days.
Below are some questions for managers to facilitate the dialogue with staff;
Should telework or remote work days be fluctuating or should they be relatively set?
If a staff person wishes to switch telework days because of personal reasons, will that be acceptable? And in which circumstances?
Should staff stagger their schedules so that the office is always covered?
If there is an important meeting or training, and some of the staff are teleworking should it be required for them to come to the office for certain functions? If so, what type of functions?
If there are staff who do not want to telework and work from home, will that be acceptable?
How will the staff know who is teleworking or working remotely? (e.g. shared calendars, separate telework schedule or staff meetings)