Do you want your business to be known as a modern and environmentally friendly organisation? Are you still printing out copious sheets of paper … and filing … and storing … and reprinting when needed? If so, there is a better way.
Yes, the paperless office - it can be done. However, converting to a paperless office requires organisation, commitment and the right tools. But it's well worth considering, and not just for the planet.
Obviously, reducing paper usage (or eliminating it entirely) is environmentally friendly. According to The Paperless Project - a coalition of businesses that have joined forces to encourage others to reduce their paper usage and carbon footprint - some 40 percent of the world's industrial logging goes towards paper manufacturing. Further, manufacturing that paper is the world's third-most energy intensive industry.
Bringing the point closer to home, converting documents into digital forms helps boost the productivity and efficiency of an office while also saving money and making work processes easier and more convenient. For a start, digital documents can be shared between users far more easily than a paper copy. With so many offices spending so much time and money investing in the latest smart technology and apps, taking the paperless step seems like a natural progression. Read on for some key reasons why you should consider going paperless.
Counting down the top six benefits of a paperless office
- Lower costs
The costs of paper, ink, toner and printer maintenance really do add up. By converting to a paperless office, or at least a paper-lite office that has just one centralised all-in-one printer, you can save money in the long run.
In addition, documents can be found and retrieved a lot more efficiently when they are managed electronically rather than from a filing cabinet, saving a significant amount of time during the day.
Further, many cloud storage solutions are extremely affordable, making it all the more cost-effective to adopt a system that allows your employees to access all the documents they need anytime, on any device.
- Secure access
It's simple, electronic document management platforms can be signed into from any location at any time by users with the necessary credentials. A registered username and strong password can be far more secure than a traditional filing cabinet - definitely a factor to consider for your most sensitive documents.
Further, when using paper for sensitive info, you have to invest in locks, cabinets, keys and paper shredders. And then you have to train staff in how to use it all. The main vulnerability is still there regardless. Ask yourself, if your premises caught fire and wiped out all your paperwork and records, would your company survive?
Now consider that many cloud-based content management systems offer high-tech, bank-level data security in order to keep information safe from physical mishap and theft.
- Increased office space
Printers and filing cabinets occupy precious office space. Floor space costs money. Going paperless eliminates these common office obstructions, freeing up valuable room for anything else you need.
Large amounts of documents can be stored in a single computer or via a cloud-based system. A document can be retrieved without having to move physically from one location in the office to another, improving physical workflow around an office.
- Workflow efficiencies
Gone are the days of digging through a filing cabinet to find the appropriate document. With electronic document management, you and your colleagues can sort through files in just a few clicks to easily find exactly what you need. Moreover, using advanced search functions lets you root out key words and dates in a way that paper systems simply cannot achieve. This can be managed anywhere, anytime - offering significant benefit to businesses with mobile workforces.
Those staff operating at a distance can have much improved communication too. With paperless systems, multiple users can access the same document at the same time with more ease and convenience.
Last, if your business is audited, everything you need is on hand. Maintaining compliance with regulations can be significantly strengthened in a paperless system.
- Paperless statements
A paperless office means minimising incoming mail too. Rather than having to sort and organise stacks of invoices, your team can instead download paperless statements and save them to the appropriate digital folder. This requires organisation with the senders, and may take some time to implement, but it's well worth doing and you'll be setting a fantastic example.
From the other side, continue that pattern if your business sends invoices to clients or customers - tell them all you're going paperless and implement ways to encourage them to follow along. Going paperless also lowers your postage costs.
- Decrease your environmental impact
There are many business reasons - efficiencies, increased productivity … more time and money - to go paperless. But, think bigger picture. Every business causes carbon emissions to some degree, yet going paperless means your company can easily eliminate a major driver of its environmental footprint.
The world is making progress on the usage and recycling of paper, so we all need to make a concentrated effort. While total global paper consumption is decreasing, there is still a lot of work to do.
At this point, it's important we note the possible negatives of a paperless office:
- Reading long documents can be tough on a computer screen. Many people prefer reading on paper.
- Electronic security measures must be strengthened and maintained. User access must be monitored and controlled.
- Check if there are legal implications of digital work processing in your business or sector.
- The process of converting existing documents into digital form takes time and sometimes comes at great cost. Especially so for large, old, fragile or highly valuable documents.
- Continual upgrading of hardware and software can be essential.
- Computer viruses, power outages, network crashes and the like can effectively shut down an entire company if it relies solely on digital information.
- No matter how digital you go, you are still going to have some paper around. It might be for legal reasons, physical mail from a supplier or because you've sketched out an idea on the back of an envelope. However it happens, your business will still need procedures to manage it.
Next steps to take
A key to making the transition to paperless systems is ensuring your staff are on board with the process. Tell them about the benefits to the business, their roles, their time, their efficiency and the environment. Be sure to provide the tools and training they deserve.
Don't assume people will discover and implement ways of minimising their paper usage by themselves. They need clear instructions they can understand. Create written guidelines and processes they can follow towards the goal of a paperless office.
If you want to 'go green' to increase productivity, optimise workflow, reduce office supply costs and convert your paper documents into electronic formats, then you're ready to pursue the paperless office dream.