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October 18, 2017

E-signatures are the key to unchaining businesses from outdated office traditions

The handling of physical documents, in particular, is making workers feel tied to the office as victims of inefficient processes that drain their time and resources.

By James Nunns

Despite the plethora of new technologies designed to make everyday office tasks easier, businesses are failing to update processes that could help their employees be more productive.

A recent study by Adobe Document Cloud found that professionals across Europe are losing 6.8 hours every week to administration. The handling of physical documents, in particular, is making workers feel tied to the office as victims of inefficient processes that drain their time and resources.


Impact of inefficient processes

Which areas in particular are draining employee time? Nearly all working professionals (96%) claim that emailing and printing documents are the biggest culprits of this. It’s easy to sympathise, considering the speed by which email inboxes fill up, or the amount of time we see colleagues standing over the printer. Another crucial area that is eating up employee time is chasing for signatures for physical documents and contracts, with almost two thirds (61%) of European workers highlighting it as a frustration.

This preoccupation with process is not just annoying employees – it’s costing businesses bottom lines dearly. Poor processes mean that almost half of employees (48%) have lost a contract altogether due to glitches in office admin, and one in three (33%) have had to cancel a project for the same reason – a staggering finding, considering it is only simple office processes which are standing in the way. With up to three-quarters of European employees calling out for change in how these mind-numbing tasks are managed, the situation needs to change quickly.


Embracing e-signatures and paperless processes

Businesses are facing a huge problem, but there are several simple solutions that can help improve the situation – one of which being e-signatures. Research by Adobe shows that, despite people having a strong emotional attachment to their signature, as many as 79% of people agree that they use handwritten signatures much less these days. For many people, their signature has become part of their identity, and holds a sense of importance to them when signing everything from housing contracts to office documents. Despite this, the research reveals nearly half (49%) of people would feel more comfortable using digital or e-signatures going forward.

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It is the workplace environment where the benefits of e-signatures come into their own. Over a quarter of workers feel e-signatures could make signing contracts and other official work documents much more efficient. Businesses could do away with a large amount of physical paperwork with the implementation of e-signatures, dramatically improving productivity. In fact, when it comes to the uses of e-signatures in the workplace, a huge 77% of UK workers said that the technology is extremely valuable in helping to achieve higher productivity and the freeing up of time.

Other innovations that can improve workplace processes include mobile apps. Almost half of employees in the UK (45%) said mobile apps are critical to solving document problems, highlighting a huge business opportunity to implement smarter document technology and efficient, digital solutions. Virtual personal assistants (VPAs), tracking capabilities and voice activation are just a few of the apps now available.


Barriers to adoption

The clear benefits of new technologies do not, however, guarantee that a business will adopt them. The research revealed that many businesses in particular still hold some reservations when it comes e-signatures. As with any new technology, there are initially a great number of misconceptions or misunderstandings surrounding them. Concerns around duplication (37%) and security (36%) were the leading reservations expressed.

While a business should always question the accuracy and security of the technologies they adopt, it’s important that this does not end up standing in the way of improving processes that are holding them back. Unlike physical signatures, e-signatures use a variety of common electronic authentication methods to verify signer identity – meaning that they are extremely secure and cannot be easily duplicated.

There are other elements which can stand in the way to adopting e-signatures in the workplace – businesses have to consider budgets, convincing business leaders of their benefits and training staff. While these factors may prove to be an initial challenge for a business, it is important to remember that the technology will ultimately save them money. By improving employee productivity and encouraging paperless processes, e-signatures will reduce costs in the long term.

These findings should be a big motivator for businesses to reimagine their administrative processes through apps, digital documents, and other technologies. By implementing e-signatures, employees will be saved valuable time. Although individuals will always strive to put a personal touch on things such as birthday cards and gifts via handwritten signatures, the workplace is clearly set to benefit from the digital alternatives on offer.

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