For the past several months the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis has forced many employees to work from home where they’ve generated a large volume of new documents, both as data files and as printed paper. Now that many states are lifting stay-at-home orders, employees are starting to return to their offices. Companies have to manage those documents created by their remote employees, as well and creating secure document management for your returning workforce, and processes for those employees that continue to work from home.
Creating a New Digital Workspace
For many workers, the big post-coronavirus change is that they get to return to the office environment. Other employees, however, will adopt permanent work-from-home status. According to the Gartner research firm, about a quarter of employers expect 10% of their employees to continue to work from home post-crisis; another 17% of employers expect 20% of their employees to continue working remotely.
This newly permanent remote workforce creates a raft of new issues for their employers. According to Unify Square, the top five challenges include managing remote teams, dealing with hardware and infrastructure issues, security, app access and training, and video and sound quality during teleconferences.
It comes down to the challenge of having to manage a multiple-location workforce. Some employees will work from the office, others from their homes. All employees will need access to the same data and documents, and that access needs to be both transparent and secure. In essence, an employer needs to create a new digital workspace that is not defined by physical boundaries.
Document Management in the Digital Workspace
Document management becomes a crucial component of the new digital workspace. To share documents of any type between workers in disparate locations, they must exist in digital format. One can store digital data in either centralized or dispersed locations. Team members can share it over the Internet via email, message, web conferencing, and dedicated apps. Employers can make it secure to protect against theft or unauthorized access. Team members can use it wherever they’re located.
For the digital workspace to work, all existing documents need to be digitized. It is challenging if not impossible for employees working from home to access paper documents. While employees can fax some documents to remote locations, not all documents can – and that ancient technology is slow, cumbersome, and non-secure. The better solution is to scan all paper documents to digital format, and then store those data files in a secure location with Internet access for all team members.
This type of document management also applies to other parts of the business process that rely on document processing. Take, for example, contracts or forms that need customer signatures. Instead of physically signing paper documents, customers can use digital signatures to sign electronic documents, and transmit them over the internet to store digitally. (Digitizing these processes also has the benefit of making many processes more efficient and more secure.)
When all documents are digital and accessible remotely, data security becomes an issue. The digital workspace requires secure communications, secure systems, and secure storage. Some companies may require remote workers to use a virtual private network (VPN) to securely access the corporate network and resources. Other companies may utilize cloud-based solutions to facilitate secure remote access. Strong passwords and encryption should protect all digital assets, no matter where stored.
The key is to eliminate as many physical documents and processes as possible – and create a safe, secure, easy-to-use digital workplace for all remote and in-office workers.
Managing Documents from the Last Two Months
As companies reopen their offices to a returning workforce, they face the challenge of what to do with those documents generated over the past two months of remote work. Some of these documents are electronic, such as Microsoft Word or Excel files. Others are paper documents, printed on workers’ home printers.
The electronic documents should not be a problem; they can easily be uploaded to the company’s secure server for longer-term storage. The paper documents, however, represent a true document management challenge.
The solution, of course, is to scan all relevant paper documents into digital files. Individual employees can do this at home – if they own scanners or MFPs and if they have the time to properly do so. A better solution is to have returning employees bring their essential paper documents into the office and let a document management service handle the scanning, digitization, and storage in a secure fashion. Document management professionals have the tools and training to handle this type of bulk data capture– and to route the resulting data files into the appropriate business processes.
Companies should securely shred all remaining paper documents, of course. The document management service can also handle this.
Choose RJ Young for Your Company’s Document Management
RJ Young provides document management services for all types and sizes of businesses. With more than 60 years of experience we can help digitize documents created by your remote workforce and implement new document management processes for the digital workspace.
Contact RJ Young today to discuss document management services for your business.