Tax & admin 20 April 2017

How to eliminate inefficient processes and document drain

Back-office time drains
Two-thirds of workers claim they worked into the evening to compensate for inefficient processes

Writing for Business Advice, Victoria Palmer, head of talent enablement and operations at Adobe, explains how small business owners can streamline daily operations and eradicate the inefficient processes causing a so-called “document drain”.

With Spring now here, it’s time for people to get around to some spring cleaning to help make the rest of the year as productive as possible for themselves. Business owner should also be taking a similar approach and having a “spring clean” of their own.

By implementing new measures and processes, a small business owner can improve productivity and help their employees become more effective workers. In particular, unnecessary administrative tasks are wasting hours that businesses could be using more effectively.

For a business, its employee’s time is a significant commodity – and that time’s impact on day-to-day operations should not be underestimated.

However, a recent survey of 7,000 office employees across Europe from Adobe Document Cloud, has shown that workers are losing almost seven hours a week to poor processes and admin, creating a document drain for businesses.

Losing almost an entire day a week is presenting business owners with a difficult situation. Administrative actions such as printing documents, sending emails and chasing people for signatures are crucial, despite the huge amount of time they take across a day.

Not only this, but employees often underestimate how long these things will take to complete, with one third of office tasks taking longer than expected. Considering this, it’s evident why this document drain is costing businesses so much time.

Compounding these difficulties for employees, is the frustration they face when having to already work increasingly longer and unsociable hours. Workers often must stay at work late, with 64 per cent of employees regularly staying at the office into the evenings, or into the weekend.

Despite the growth in flexible and remote working in recent years, the majority of us remain tied to our desktops.

Further frustrations are clear when considering that nearly half of employees blame slow processes and lost time on inefficient technology. Although consumers demand the latest technologies in their personal lives, businesses have yet to prioritise this for their employees.

These business processes are crucial for the smooth running of day-to-day operations, but it has become clear that they are in need of modernising to save time. Knowing how to change these processes can be tricky, however.

That being said, there are certainly some measures that organisations can be put in place to streamline these processes, and reduce the drain on time.

Minimising the dreaded document drain

Another drain on time for employees is chasing for signatures and signing documents, and so one way that managers can ease this burden is through the introduction of electronic signatures. Though a relatively new workplace innovation, electronic signatures offer workers greater simplicity in how office administration is conducted.

The entire process of printing, preparing, signing and receiving documents is transformed into a few effortless clicks of a mouse – a workplace innovation that 74 per cent of European employees in the Adobe research have claimed is useful for helping them achieve higher productivity and more free time.

Naturally, business owners have been trying for years to simplify administrative tasks to free up their workers’ time.

It has only been with the increase in development of mobile apps designed to improve office workflow, including virtual personal assistants (VPAs), tracking capabilities and voice activation, that employees have begun to be able to break the ties with the office.

These apps are viewed by workers as being critical to the solving the problems that administrative tasks present them with, with almost half of employees across the UK (45 per cent) believing this to be the case.

Not only this, but a third of employees also believed that VPAs will help them in the future. While, apps and assistants are often not cheap to implement, they present businesses with a profitable longer term solution for maximising employee productivity in the workplace.

The reality of the document drain should be a wakeup call for business owners. As digital solutions, such as electronic signatures and apps, continue to grow in number and sophistication, it will become imperative that businesses adopt them to maintain a competitive edge.

Not only offering hundreds of saved hours and easing employee frustrations, these simple changes can help make the workplace a more dynamic environment for workers and customers.

So, use this Spring to clean out your old administrative processes, put a plug in the document drain.

Revealed: The back-office time drains costing one working day a week

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