We’ve been talking about the paperless office for decades. The idea has long been pushed by technologists and environmental advocates as a way of ushering in the next phase of modern business. Yet despite significant advances in technology in recent years, most companies seem to be stuck and unsure of how to dive in and actually make paperless a reality. Could 2019 be the year that your business finally takes the plunge?
The Push for Paperless
In the 1970’s and 1980’s, as computers were first introduced into the business world, there was the belief among many leading experts that paper use in the office would decline significantly in the coming years and nearly disappear by 1990. Yet here we are, nearly 29 years later, and paper is still very much a reality.
According to research curated by Iron Mountain, paper usage in the United States has increased by 400 percent over the last 40 years. Over the last 20 years alone, usage of paper products in the U.S. has skyrocketed 126 percent. The average office worker uses 10,000 individual sheets of paper annually and things don’t appear to be trending in a positive direction. Yet despite these increases in paper usage, research is clear that the paperless office would be far more economical and productive.
On cost alone, going digital would save $500 per employee per year on paper costs. Add on the cost of filing cabinets and the people to maintain them and the savings are even greater.
From a productivity point of view, paper files are cumbersome and challenging to access. Anywhere from 19 to 40 percent of an employee’s time is spent looking for documents and searching for information. By digitizing documents, some of this information employees are looking for instantly becomes more accessible.
Making Paperless a Reality
Most businesses are fine reducing paper in isolated areas of their business, but few are willing to make a commitment to becoming totally paperless. There’s a level of fear and uncertainty that comes with it. However, it’s far more practical than most companies realize. Here are a few ways you can get started:
- Scan and Recycle
Any time a piece of paper comes into the office, scan the document, upload it to your digital filing system, and recycle the piece of paper. Whether it’s a receipt, invoice, contract, or other file, a digital copy will suffice.
- Always Opt for Digital
Most other businesses would actually prefer to email or upload files, as opposed to printing and mailing. Whenever you’re given the choice, opt for digital copies of documents over paper copies.
- Use Digital Signatures
For many businesses, the hesitancy to go paperless is rooted in the uncertainty of how important business processes will play out. For instance, how will you handle signatures on important documents?
Believe it or not, digital signatures are becoming the standard across many industries. They’re legally binding, offer greater security, and lead to faster approval processes. Start using digital signatures and you’ll wonder how you ever did without.
- Get Rid of Printers and Copiers
If you’re serious about going paperless, you don’t have much of a need for printers and copiers in the office. All they do is tempt you to use paper.
While you probably shouldn’t quit cold turkey, getting rid of printers and copiers will help your office move in the right direction. Start by putting a limitation on how many prints and copies each employee gets per week. Then slowly phase them out one by one until everything is digital.
- Keep Employees in the Loop
If you suddenly tell employees that they aren’t allowed to use paper any longer, they’re likely to become frustrated and resentful. Make sure you explain to them the why behind going paperless. In the beginning stages, incentives and rewards can help you achieve better results.
Welcome to the New Age
There will always be applications for paper, but these uses are becoming fewer and further between. With every new tool and technology that’s introduced into the marketplace, the utility of paper is diminishing. And the quicker your business gets ahead of the curve, the more of an advantage you can give your business for the future.