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Digitalization at Work: Major Upheavals in the World of Work

  • In view of the self-administered haircuts that can be seen on Zoom calls these days, it will probably turn out that hairdressers have nothing to fear when it comes to their long-term raison d'être. However, the same is not true for many other companies that have been transformed by the approaching future.

    The plague that has swept the world has undoubtedly accelerated the growth of the Internet and catapulted us into the future. In one fell swoop, some companies had to make a leap into 2025 in March 2020. Without warning, just like adolescents who are awakened to a test of courage by their friends at a sleepy time.

For some companies, this was the proverbial wake-up call — to stay in the picture above — and came naturally with a surge of activity, but a large number of companies were confronted unprepared for the future.

In recent weeks, a large number of stores in the offline world have received a very intensive look into the future, when people no longer want or can travel to cement blocks and steel and glass castles as usual on a daily basis to do their shopping. Many small restaurants and mom-and-pop shops will probably never reopen because delivery restaurants will have taken their place. Gym operators may also find that customers who are used to working out at home won't come as frequently anymore.

If you look at companies that were able to successfully prove themselves during the crisis and were able to quickly catch up again despite initial disorientation, there are essentially two further lessons that become apparent.

First: Organizations can move faster than they would normally have thought possible. Second: The use of technology throughout the organization, including administration, sales and legal departments, pays off after just a few days in the seclusion of one's own premises. Because nothing presents an organization with greater difficulties than when process chains, which were otherwise a gear away, suddenly end in nirvana because those responsible simply cannot be reached or documents can no longer be found.

Flexible offices for flexible work

In the next few days after the dust of the crisis begins to settle on the wheels of time, managers of companies that have gone through a period of awakening during the crisis will have to put up with the question of whether teams must necessarily come together in the same office in order to be able to work together effectively, or whether the occasional meeting in the office is not the norm rather than the exception. This question is particularly important for managers who have already been able to spend a productive working day in abandoned office buildings without having to resort to the usual concentration-promoting aids such as Oropax and headphones.

The answering machine should also actually stand up to e-mail

For those who doubt whether video calls can ever replace a face-to-face meeting, the defenders of recorded voice messages have once said that emails could never capture the tone and spirit of a message on the answering machine. The rest is history.

The office creates relationships, but not necessarily more productivity

Managers will also be much more willing to accept that their teams no longer have to show up in an office just to demonstrate that they're working. Many have discovered that the boost in productivity achieved through fewer social disruptions more than makes up for the loss of camaraderie. This doesn't mean the end of offices, but it likely means a future where managers are more willing to let their employees work from home for some time.

Build software for team communication, reduce presence culture

Even after the crisis, companies will find it difficult to immediately give up their presence cultures. Precisely because the current guard of managers only came to their current position under the aegis of a culture of presence, their complete abolition is at least a generation of managers away. Just as humans go through various evolutionary stages, companies also go through different stages of development. This requires a change in existing patterns of behavior at every level, particularly among managers.

Monday morning meeting against the rest of the world

In addition to the constant risk of a new outbreak of a pandemic, new developments occur at regular intervals in the world and on the markets, which are initially ambiguous and then take place at high speed and often simultaneously. Against the huge impact of the constantly rising waves of innovation and development, the previous conventional dikes of team communication, vulgo Monday morning meeting or quarterly performance review on site in the executive office, are now completely unsuitable.

Let's go, we're taking off

New means are needed to deal with the growing challenges. However, proven horns are by no means useless. They just need to be upgraded accordingly. For example, even during a crisis, a telephone system is a proven means of communication. However, if it is statically connected to a location, it can unfortunately only be used to a limited extent. However, if you make the telephones suitable for IP, you can quickly answer phone calls on your own computers with little effort and standard software.

Reply to all was yesterday

However, softphones or IP telephones should also be complemented with potent means of internal communication, because not every small piece of information is suitable for the entire e-mail distribution list, including the Executive Board and Supervisory Board. The telephone is also not a good way to distribute information to a wider group, unless your employees have a lot of time.

Electronically in a neighboring office

It is precisely for these cases that there are communication services such as Slack and Teams, which make it possible to share information and documents with the team. Members can access the information when the time is right, or when the information is actively sought. The Executive Board can therefore also get an idea of what the company is doing at any time without him or she causing an uproar to the entire company with one phone call. In addition, the integrated video software replaces the usual short way to the neighboring office to discuss work face to face in a conventional way, yet modern and independent of location.

Collaborative work, my ass

It all starts with the (collaborative) word.

This is particularly true for knowledge workers, even if they are working from home. Collaborative writing describes projects in which several people create texts in collaboration. In this way, even authors who do not know each other can work together on a text. You would think it's an ideal concept, but it is not yet a good idea in Germany to edit and/or create documents collaboratively and preferably in parallel.

Dokument_final_final_3.docx is just the beginning of the end

Too often, you are still confronted with a never-ending series of emails and Word documents with changes and changes to the changes, all of which must be distributed and, of course, discussed iteratively in conferences lasting several hours. Witnesses of these outgrowths are document names such as Dokument_final_22.docx. Or even Dokument_final_final_3.docx. Only lawyers who use their own document management systems to create even more confusion in the document jungle by imposing their own nomenclature on all document names can beat this madness. At the end of the document hell, there is a comparison of documents with version, date and genre names. It then reads like this: 2342323423_Dokument_final_22_v_232422349_Dokument_final_23.docx.

Parallel word processing is no longer Star Wars

This madness could be avoided with word processing programs that allow several people to edit documents simultaneously or asynchronously. Preferably directly via the browser without additional installation effort and training for new versions. This would also give those responsible the opportunity to view the status of work at any time without the usual surprises and rounds of revisions at the end. Almost all providers of office software now offer good opportunities for cooperation.

Digital signature, the unloved child experiences sudden affection

The digital signature is the unloved child of the offline legal profession.

Until now, the digital signature has received little attention because people preferred to print out paper and then sign it and then scan it and distribute it by e-mail. Traditionalists also see the way to the post office to complete the squaring of the circle.

Apart from paper mills, only a few companies benefit from signing with ink on paper

A lot of work for a process that could be mapped more easily and efficiently using a digital signature. But unfortunately, digital also means actively dealing with new technology and then there is also the annoying topic of data protection, which seems to be constantly stuck to technology topics. For many people, these are too many question marks, despite obvious advantages.

Proven technology in almost new hoses

Even if you currently get a different impression, the digital signature is not an appearance in recent months. Since its legal introduction in 2014, it has been incorporated into national law through the eIDAS Regulation and has the same legal effect as the handwritten signature. The underlying, proven digital signature technology even dates back to the 1980s, when the Internet was used exclusively by the military. Nevertheless, with a few exceptions, it has received little attention in recent years.

Contracts and games for everyone

In the current crisis, digital signatures are finding a new unprecedented upswing. Suddenly, you are confronted with the fact that authorized signatories or managing directors are almost unreachable in the home office, and documents sent by post only mean that you have limited ability to act. In addition, it significantly simplifies the signing process, as a digitally signed document does not have to be stored in printed form, but can be stored centrally and can therefore be viewed by all those who have to live and work with the contracts and the agreements they contain.

Centralized digital document management for decentralized teams

Central is the new decentralized

This would also bring us to the next point of successful companies. Centralized document management for decentralized teams. A central document structure with a functioning rights allocation system guarantees all those employees with appropriate authorization access to documents that are necessary for daily work - even from the seclusion of the home office.

Document storage is good, but it should be accessible to everyone

In case of doubt, decentralized storage also means local storage of documents on computers in the office, which would no longer be accessible there in the event of a new diaspora. At this point, we don't even want to talk about data security when storing documents on local hard drives.

Shared documents mean shared work

Experience shows that in successful organizations, information can be shared with various internal teams without friction in order to keep processes running at all times. A document distributed via email does not meet this requirement, as parallel changes made by different users could overlap and multiple teams do the same work at the same time.

Contract software, to help!

For many people, a central document storage system has become an integral part of their private lives. In everyday working life, you are only just beginning with their introduction. But it's already obvious to many: once you've found your way around the jungle of boxes and drives, the benefits are obvious.

Mammoth tasks are something from the Stone Age

Yet there is a danger here. A document repository is very suitable for storing conventional text documents and presentations. However, if you try to use document storage for contract filing, you quickly reach its limits. Especially when organizations with high contract volumes and various contract templates try to adequately manage and pursue contract deadlines, paragraphs used and legal risks. If you then want to replace old contracts with new side-letters or completely new contracts, you are often faced with a mammoth task that many companies can no longer cope with.

Good end, software good

It is therefore good advice to rely on specialized contract software as early as possible, which prevents such problems from arising in the first place. One provider for this is, among others, top.legal.

top.legal is agreement software for collaboration and management of contracts, which helps companies to agree on contractors more quickly and at the same time provides deep insights into contract data. The AI-supported software offers contract creation and negotiation, a digital signature and saves companies up to 90% of the time they have to spend on contracts.

The smooth, design-oriented user interface makes top.legal very suitable for fast-growing organizations.

It is time for a change

If you're still using Microsoft Word for important business documents, such as contracts and offers, you're probably not going to get the best results. You're making it difficult for your recipients to read them on mobile devices, forcing them to take unnecessary steps to sign them, and missing out on valuable opportunities to include interactive content such as videos, pricing tables, and other elements to get your message across.

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