Paper in the office – something more normal is hard to imagine. Paper is everywhere in circulation. E-mails are printed out, notes are written on slips of paper and any documents, such as invoices or orders, are delivered and archived by post. Meanwhile the worldwide demand is so high that almost every sec-ond industrially felled tree is processed into paper!
Fortunately, however, there is a possible solution in sight: digitalization has now progressed so far that a revolution in daily office life is possible – the paperless office. This slogan refers to a workplace in which communication and work processes, in the sense of e-mail, intranet, word processing and data transfer, are largely computerized.
All beginnings are difficult
In order to be able to successfully handle the huge transition to a paperless office, all those involved should be convinced that an office will work without paper. The necessity of this “new” philosophy must reach the entire company, which means that every single employee must be successively taken along and convinced.
The transition to a paperless office is usually bumpy and cannot be carried out overnight. A big challenge is to break out of the usual behavior patterns, adopt the new processes and integrate them into everyday office life so that a new workflow can be created.
Time is money
In the paperless office, time is saved where otherwise time is lost through the constant filing and archiv-ing of analog documents as well as through the search for this time. Instead of trying to clean up the huge mountains on paper, employees can simply store their documents in the cloud. This is a challenge for the company.
An appropriate document management system is needed to quickly store and find the relevant docu-ments. In addition, the titling must follow a well thought-out structure and be remembered with ease so that the data can be found quickly and easily using the search function. According to the well-known saying “time is money”, costs are also indirectly saved in this way.
Everything from everywhere
The cloud system provides an optimal foundation for a paperless office. Providers are constantly imple-menting innovations in server technologies and remain up to date with their security standards. The data is centralized in digital form and can be accessed via mobile devices in particular. This means that every employee can access the data and documents from anywhere if they have been granted the appropriate rights.
In this way, an optimized workflow is generated. Mobility provides the flexibility that is becoming in-creasingly important for employees today, for example when working in the home office.
Out of the way! Here comes Digital!
Apart from the challenge of keeping an overview of growing paper stacks and bulging files, the analog filing system also takes up a lot of space. But notes or to-do lists can also be created digitally with tools such as OneNote or Microsoft Planner instead of on paper.
All existing and incoming paper documents can be scanned and digitally archived. In addition, there is a welcome side-effect in terms of sustainability: a tremendous amount of paper is saved, thus protecting the environment!
Scanning – but how?
The already mentioned scanning of all paper documents should not be underestimated. If you really want to scan all the documents, you have to plan with a huge expenditure of time. In addition, various specifi-cations of the BMF (Federal Ministry of Finance) and the BSI (Federal Office for Information Security) have to be observed during the so-called substitute scanning. In the course of this scanning, for example, documents are scanned, electronically processed and the paper originals destroyed.
In a paperless office, the digital copies are to be treated in the same way as analogue documents. The data must be archived correctly, the documents must be scanned correctly and must be audit-proof and tamper-proof. A scanner that fulfils the corresponding security certificates and at the same time scans quickly, conveniently and reliably is expensive – but necessary! However, even in a paperless office, not all analog documents can simply be destroyed. For certain documents there are retention periods of up to ten years.
In addition, the problem exists with signatures of an analogue and digital nature. In some cases, the ex-clusive use of electronic signatures is not yet legally secure. Moreover, for technical reasons they cannot yet be assumed in many situations. For example, because the required devices are not available or many employees lack the appropriate IT competence.
As a general rule, not everyone has a digital affinity. Of course, this can also apply to customers. If cus-tomers still use paper, this can make it necessary for the company to print out or scan in cumbersome documents and keep them ready to hand.
Paper away – immediately!
It is clear to see: A paperless office is the future and should become the present as soon as possible. The changeover saves space, time and money and at the same time protects our environment. The conversion to a paperless office should take place successively from analogue to digital during ongoing business op-erations. The companies should pursue the goal of carrying out the changeover immediately and com-pletely in order to avoid longer-lasting synchronization and copying of the documents.
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