Many companies have been forced to make significant changes to the way they work. Corona has made German offices more digital. Even with the return from the home office, there is no way back to the analogue era.

The digitization of the German economy accelerated further in the second year of the corona pandemic. This is the result of a representative survey by the digital association Bitkom among companies with 20 or more employees, which was presented in Berlin on Tuesday.

The results show that communication in companies is taking place less and less by letter and fax. For the first time, less than half of the companies (48 percent) use letter post frequently or very frequently. In the first Corona year 2020, this value was still 56 percent, in 2018 it was even 71 percent.

The fax is also becoming obsolete: Only 40 percent often fax documents. Two years ago it was 49 percent, in 2018 it was even 62 percent. «We’ve been talking about the paperless office for a long time. Now, at least, the paperless office is getting a good deal closer,” said Bitkom President Achim Berg.

Hybrid working as standard

Corona was obviously the impetus for many overdue digitization measures. “The digitization of communication channels is irreversible – and it has once again accelerated significantly,” said Berg. “Whereas the use of video conferencing and collaboration tools was initially forced by the pandemic in many companies or was born out of necessity, the many advantages have now convinced even those who have doubts. Hybrid work will become the standard.”

Almost all companies communicate via e-mail (100 percent) and landline telephones (96 percent). Smartphones are used very often or frequently by 83 percent of companies – two years ago it was 81 percent and in 2018 only 51 percent. In the corona pandemic, however, video conferences in particular have received a boost. They are now part of everyday life in 72 percent of companies, in 2020 it was 61 percent and in 2018 only 48 percent. Every second company now uses Messenger (51 percent), a slight increase compared to the study two years ago (50 percent). Collaboration tools such as Slack, Microsoft Teams or Google Workspace use 40 percent (2020: 36 percent).

Potential not yet exhausted

According to Bitkom, however, the potential for using the digital tools to work together is far from being exhausted. Most companies only use the elementary functions: 88 percent of the companies use the audio or video conferences of the collaboration solutions, 83 percent use the appointment management. The usage values ​​are similarly high for individual or group chats (81 percent) or file storage for collaborating on documents (77 percent).

More complex tasks, on the other hand, are rarely performed with these tools. 65 percent use the option of distributing and tracking tasks, and 63 percent still use collaboration with external parties such as customers or suppliers. In the case of knowledge management (41 percent) or the use of virtual workspaces (41 percent), on the other hand, the values ​​are significantly lower. “Often, the old, analogue processes are simply reproduced digitally in companies,” says Berg. «Further gains in efficiency are possible if the completely new possibilities of digital tools are also integrated into everyday work and company processes.»