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Admin (EA’s) Function

Going Paperless – From piles of paper to true mobility

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How many of you are reading this with one or two piles of paper sitting next to you at your desk? Do you find those piles daunting to clear? It’s time to reflect and ask yourself if you really need those pieces of paper.

As an Executive Assistant, it is easy for me to get bogged down in paperwork. I remember when I got my first EA role at Monash University I thought that having piles of paper was just part of the role and I would need to learn to love it. A month or two in I found I was keeping paper just in case it was needed, and it never was. Why did I need to hang on to a print out of something I have filed in my emails? From this moment I started to challenge both my thought process and others when it comes to the use of paper. Below are some questions I ask myself along with some tips to help you move to a paperless office.

Do you have the document saved elsewhere?

If the answer is yes to this, there is no need to print it and store a hardcopy. If your workplace uses an online filing system, use that instead. I use Google Drive to store all of my documents which allows me to easily find them on the go, especially at those times when you are meeting with your Executive and they ask “what did that document say?”.

If the document is a hard copy only and you need to hang onto it. Scan and upload it to your filing system. This allows you to know where every document is saved which will save you time in the long run.

Does the document/contract need an original signature?

The Provost, whom I support, is the signatory for research related contracts which means that he has to sign documents daily. When I commenced in the role I spoke with our General Counsel and proposed a new way of working to eliminate the need for printed contracts. After discussing what will work best for both offices we now have a system in place where they will advise me in an email if an electronic signature is appropriate or whether I need to print the contract for an original signature. This process alone has saved an incredibly large amount of paper and time.

Don’t be afraid to approach other areas in your organisation to find better ways of working. Remember the worst case scenario is that they say no and it remains unchanged.

Is your manager happy with being paperless as well?

I often hear other EA’s say that they cannot move to a paperless office because their Executive likes paper. This couldn’t be further from the truth. My boss is paper-based, he likes being able to write on the agenda and supporting documents, and that’s ok. I still print him a daily folder with his documents. The key difference, his work style doesn’t mean mine has to change. I support him how he likes to be supported and I work my desk/role like I like to and they don’t interfere with one another.

Can your notes be taken electronically?

The final key point is around notebooks and post-it notes. If you are able to take notes electronically then I cannot urge you enough to do so. I use three programs for notetaking, depending on the meeting/task.

  1. Notability – This is an app for iPhone and iPad which allows you to take handwritten notes on your devices. Once your notes are completed you can email these to your manager (or yourself if you want a copy) and even upload them to Google Drive. I use this app to replace my notebook and all those little post-it notes floating around!
  2. Google Drive – I use Google Docs to type out any notes within meetings. I take my iPad in with me and type directly into Google Drive which auto-saves your work and is instantly uploaded to the Drive enabling you to access this from anywhere.
  3. OneDrive – this is very similar to Google Drive but if you have a minute template that is in Word that you would normally use simply type directly into that document using OneDrive. There are lots of videos on how to connect this to your works file system and I am always happy to answer any queries you may have.

Remember to question processes, does it need to keep being done this way? If not, change it!

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Since moving to a paperless office there has been an abundance of benefits. Firstly, it means that I am able to focus on my work more clearly as it is all in one place. It has allowed me to be more organised, above is a photo of my desk this morning – note it’s still more cluttered than I would like but no paper except for the folders for my Executive. Secondly, it has enabled me to work efficiently off-site. If I need to work at another location (which happens very regularly) I can simply take my laptop and iPad and not think about whether I have everything I need. This is on top of being more sustainable, which is a huge bonus.

Don’t be afraid to take the leap and move to a paperless office. You won’t look back!