Your Guide to Going Paperless in 2021
While picking up a piece of paper to scribble a note or reminder seems trivial, the positive effects of limiting or eliminating the use of paper in offices are enormous.
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Creating a paperless office was first theorized in 1975, in a Business Week article by a man called Vincent E. Giuliano.
The term “paperless office” is still going around but the need for organizations making the switch is becoming more and more obvious.
While picking up a piece of paper to scribble a simple note or reminder seems trivial and obvious, the positive effects of limiting the use of paper in offices or eliminating it entirely are enormous.
That is why we have created this article to show you what it would be like to transition into a paperless office and how you can do it.
What is a Paperless Office System?
Before we go on to discuss why you should consider going paperless and the ways in which you can convert your current office and organizational environment into one which is considered paperless, it is important to understand what is considered a paperless office.
A paper-free office is a concept or the act of minimizing or ideally completely eliminating the use of paper in an office environment.
Basically, this is achieved by reducing the dependency on paper documents and converting them into digital form instead.
There are many advantages to adopting this paper-free office the most obvious of which is the positive impact it would have on the environment. It has also been seen to boost productivity, efficiency, and save money.
We will discuss some of the benefits of a paper-free office in detail below.
Advantages of a Paperless Office
If you decide to make the switch and transition to make your office paperless there are many things that you, your team, your organization, and the environment can gain from your efforts.
There are multiple benefits to going paperless to your business both internally and externally.
Here are some of the most standout advantages of transitioning to minimize your organization’s reliance on paper and making a paperless office.
1. Benefits to the Environment
One of the most prominent reasons why organizations want to go paperless is because it is good for the environment.
The manufacturing of paper products is known to have disastrous effects on the environment including the production of greenhouse gases, global warming, and causing deforestation.
While recycling is a way to combat some of these effects the ratio of manufacturing and paper demand in comparison to how much is being recycled barely scratches the surface of what is needed to help our environment recover.
In fact, not only is the ratio too great, much of the paper used in offices wind up in landfills anyway.
Moreover, not only is it the manufacturing of paper products that is harmful to the environment.
The ink and toner used in printers and other such machines are also damaging.
By reducing the use of paper and switching to paperless offices, these impacts can greatly be reduced.
2. Customer Reactions
With the effects of human negligence on the status of the Earth that we live in, many individuals are now trying to be more conscious as to who they are interacting with and buying services or products from.
Promoting that you are doing your part as an organization to become paperless is a great way to improve customer loyalty and to gain new customers.
People now want to buy from organizations that are more ethical.
If you and a rival company are offering the same product or service to its customers but you are showing your customers that you are taking steps to do the right thing for the environment there is a greater chance of individuals choosing you.
3. You Can Save Money
Another benefit of going paperless is the money that you will save.
By reducing or eliminating the need for paper in your office you will not only save money on having to buy reams of paper but also on other paper-system-based products like printers, ink for those printers, pens, etc.
Apart from direct costs, there are also other costs you will be saving. For example, office space and filing systems that you will have to purchase to organize the papers and documents.
Paperless systems are also more efficient, being able to process a larger amount of paperwork. There is also the employee time that you save which in turn allows you to save money.
4. You Can Save Space
We touched upon this briefly, but paper takes up a lot of space, and going paperless will allow you to save space.
You will need things such as filing cabinets, and then office space to be able to house those filing cabinets and systems.
Alternatively, going paperless means using digital files and documents that allow you to store documents and other information on on-premise servers or on the cloud. This saves a tone of physical space.
5. You Can Save Time
Another benefit of going paperless is the time you could save that can then be used on more productive tasks.
Filing, storing, organizing, and then searching for documents take up a lot of valuable time that could otherwise be better utilized.
When going paperless you are investing in digitalizing documents that do not require physical organization. It also has powerful search capabilities that allow you and your team to easily find documents and information that they need.
6. Easy Transfer of Information
When you transfer paper documents into digital documents it simplifies the means by which you can transfer and share information.
If you are using a cloud to upload data and documents this can be accessed from anywhere where individuals are given permission. You therefore no longer need to be in the physical presence of the information you are seeking.
7. Ensures Security of Data
Paper documents are at a higher risk of vulnerability. They can get misfiled, get lost, or damaged and destroyed.
Furthermore, it can be tedious to monitor who has access to the paper documents or information and whether it is printed or copied. This is especially troublesome for sensitive information.
Creating digital documentation gives added security to your information and data.
With most systems, you can usually set up access rights and permissions. This in turn gives added security to sensitive information.
And these are just a few of the benefits associated with a paperless office.
Going Paperless at work: How to Run a Paperless Office?
Making this change in your organization won’t be as easy as it may seem. It is not merely about deciding to make the change to go paperless and everything just falling into place.
However, there are certain steps you can take and tips you can follow to help smooth the transition in attaining a paperless office.
Tip 1: Transition into the Paperless World Gradually
The first thing to consider when going paperless is to make the transition gradual so that there are more chances of it sticking.
Making the switch altogether lessens the chances that you will be able to maintain the change for very long.
This slow transition will allow you to implement new processes that minimize the use of paper but still serve your company and its workers.
Keep in mind that you may not be going completely paper zero. And this is especially true for the transition period where you may find an integrated system being adopted for a while where certain processes are still using paper while others go paperless.
One way to start the transition is by limiting the number of prints available to employees.
You can do this by moving some of the printers in the office, getting less paper so people do not print as much, or even adopting policies such as a limit on how much each employee can print.
Tip 2: Get Employee and Manager Buy-ins and Get Everyone Involved
Another thing you want to ensure is that everyone is involved and on board with the changes that are being implemented.
This change is a change that will take the entire organization and is not a one-person job.
Involve employees in the decision-making and process changes so that you can create a process that not only everyone is on board with but ones that will also work for in accordance with your company culture.
Moreover, involving employees will offer up more solutions to problems that you could face along the way that you would otherwise not have thought of or considered.
Give employees some ownership over the change that you are making so they are more likely to work towards the end goal with you.
You can put up signs and reminders around the office or near printers and fax machines in your attempt to limit paper use so employees stay involved.
Tip 3: Provide Necessary Tools and Make it Easier to Work Without Paper
There is no point trying to make the transition into a paperless system if you do not offer necessary alternatives or processes that can be used instead.
Ensure that the processes you create are easy while still achieving what you need them to achieve and also providing additional benefits that we mentioned above, that is cost efficiency, time-saving, less effort, etc.
When thinking of necessary tools that may be required by your employees consider what they use paper for. Some common uses of paper in offices include:
- Note-taking in meetings.
- Reminders and to-do lists.
- Collaboration on documents and information circulation.
- Roadmaps and project plans.
Disadvantages of a Paper-Based Office System
Convincing anyone to change a fundamental element of how they work is often difficult. It is human nature to resist change and be comfortable in what you know.
We have discussed above that it is important to gain not just management buy-in but also the support of employees to make the transition smooth if at all possible.
One way to encourage this change is to highlight the issues that are prevalent in a typical paper-based office system.
Highlighting pockets of unproductivity could help encourage employees to move past their comfort zones and take steps to overcome these issues that are faced.
Reiterate to your employees the time wasted and workflows affected by having to manage and handle the paperwork.
In fact, an IDC White Paper survey found that there is a loss of 21.3% productivity in relation to wasted time associated with handling paper.
Your employees will agree that they spend valuable time capturing, storing, organizing, and searching for documents or data. A way to overcome the tedious processes associated with paper documents is likely to come as a welcome surprise.
Another disadvantage is the obvious cost associated with paper processes. We have discussed this above in detail.
In fact, studies show that employee printing on average costs around $150 just including ink and toner. And this cost could be more depending on which industry you look into.
Not to mention the cost of employee time in the processes involved with paper documents. Employees will be happy to know their valuable time and efforts can be better spent on more valued inputs.
Going paperless from a paper-based business includes a digital transformation as we have indicated above.
There are typically 5 main steps to being able to digitize your workspace. These steps are digitizing, organizing, automating, streamlining, and transforming.
We hope our tips and tricks will help you make the transition to a paperless office. If more and more organizations make the switch we can hopefully start to revert some of the damage we have done to the Earth so that future generations have a world worth living in.
Published at DZone with permission of Fred Wilson, DZone MVB. See the original article here.
Opinions expressed by DZone contributors are their own.