Since the birth of the digital era, people have been praising the concept of a paperless office. In this article, we will discuss the concept, why it is vital, and why most projects fail.
A paperless office is a work environment in which the usage of paper is eliminated or considerably reduced. This is accomplished by transforming documents and other paper-based materials into digital format.
It is the first step towards digital transformation in your organization.
For decades, paper documents and file cabinets have served as the primary means of organizing information in any business. However, this does not imply that physical, paper documentation is the preferable option.
Paper documents are related to decreased productivity, efficiency, and internal corporate processes that are delayed. According to a recent survey, on average each employee wastes one hour every day looking for documents.
Going paperless implies that enterprises or governments will begin to reduce, if not totally eliminate, the use of paper documents in their business operations and will instead rely entirely on digital documents.
Because not all businesses can go entirely paperless for a variety of reasons, as we shall see in this article, these businesses that must still rely on paper are referred to as “paper lite” offices or fewer paper offices and implemented PO best practices.
The digitization of papers is the first step toward a paperless environment. Depending on the size of your document stack (the number of documents), this project might be difficult and time-consuming. However, after the documents have been digitized, companies may begin to use the potential of a digitally structured environment with document-centric automated procedures.
The ultimate paperless office strategy is to have a system in place where all documents are stored electronically and can be accessed by authorized personnel from any location. This would ideally include a way to track and manage documents, as well as security features to protect confidential information.
Brief Paperless Office History
The paperless office was first referenced in a Business Week article in 1975 when they published an article titled “Office of the Future,” which predicted that all documents will be digitized by 1990.
IBM and XEROX introduced the first laser printing devices to the office in 1976.
Since the early days of computing, there has been much discussion about what the “office of the future” will look like.
Organizations began to produce documents electronically and print them for additional paper based processes and approvals with the advent of desktop computers in workspaces.
Between 1980 and 1995, the number of paper files doubled as laser printing equipment and computers became more inexpensive.
Large software development firms began to build solutions, such as document management systems, to support the whole lifecycle of digital documents.
Despite this, many businesses are unable to fully transition to digital and must continue to rely on paper files for day-to-day operations in their traditional offices.
With today’s technology advancements and society shifting toward sustainable living and green computing, we are better positioned to break free from paper document reliance and attempt to achieve the long-promised paperless workplace objective.
So here we are in the year 2021… Is it possible to convert to a paperless office?
Why Paperless Office is Important?
Returning to the motivation for attaining the ambition of transitioning to a paperless workplace, we can certainly see the need for a paperless workspace.
“Is going paperless worth it?” I’m frequently asked. In a nutshell, YES IT IS. In fact, in the current digital age, it has become necessary to operate using paperless ways. Going paperless provides your business with the agility and flexibility it requires to function more quickly and smoothly.
A completely paperless office may provide several benefits to enterprises, including lower operating expenses, increased productivity, improved security and compliance, speedier business processes, enhanced customer experience, and faster data access.
Many organizations across the world are shifting from paper documents to electronic document management systems with the aim of creating a paperless office.
9 Paperless Office Benefits
The benefits of a paperless office include reduced costs, improved efficiency, faster access to information, easier collaboration between employees, improved security and compliance, minimizing data loss, and reduced risk from natural disasters and fire hazards.
The nine paperless office benefits are:
1- Reduced costs
One of the most significant benefits of a paperless office is the possibility of dramatically cutting storage and operating costs.
Going paperless is a great way to reduce costs in a paper free office. Paper is expensive, so it’s good to find ways to save on it by utilizing electronic documents.
Paper processes can be time-consuming. It takes time to buy paper, shred it, and then all the time it takes to sort and file it. This can easily take up a large chunk of your day if you’re not careful. Paperless documents are a great way for your office to save money and time on paper.
For example, paperless offices reduce the amount of paper used and stored, which also means less paper is needed for printing, photocopying, and scanning. This can save businesses time and money that would otherwise be spent on ordering, printing, and storing paper.
It is predicted to save companies around 11 billion dollars each year. Corporations will no longer need to spend money on ink, paper, postage, and printing.
2- Improved efficiency
One of the most important benefits of going paperless is that it reduces the amount of clutter that is seen in an office, which can lead to an office that is more efficient. It also leads to a more organized, paperless process, and less cluttered workspace, which makes it easier for employees to find what they need.
Using the right document management system, organizations can boost their operations and make sure that no documents are being lost.
3- Improved access to information
People can now access information more quickly and efficiently thanks to the emergence of digital records and the paperless system concept. Employees will be able to access digital information from anywhere in seconds, allowing them to be more productive and make better-informed decisions faster by retrieving files quickly.
4- Better organization and accessibility
Among the many paperless office benefits, this may be the most fulfilling.
Workers are spending an average of six hours a day looking for existing documents. This costs companies $1,700 per worker each year and creates an immense amount of stress. When going paperless, workers can find electronic documents in seconds and are more productive.
5- Easier collaboration
With so many employees working remotely, it can be difficult for them to collaborate in a paper-based workspace using filing cabinets. However, with the proper supportive tools, employees can easily share and access digitized documents, presentations, and more through a cloud-based solution. This way they can work together as if they are in one office.
The ability to easily collaborate and share important documents between employees is considered one of the top benefits of a paperless office.
6- Less risk of data loss or destruction
One of the major risks of keeping physical files is that they can be easily lost or destroyed. Luckily, going paperless can reduce the risk of data loss due to fire, human error, and natural disasters. It also can help you keep track of your files by digitizing them in cloud storage or with an electronic filing system.
7- Improved Security and Compliance
Digital data may be safeguarded with today’s technology, reducing data breaches and papers falling into the wrong hands.
The physical paper saved in filing cabinets could be a huge liability for your company. Files containing sensitive information are easily hacked, and physical documents are frequently misfiled, lost, or stolen. Your customers’ trust in you should be founded on more than a safe file cabinet and shredder.
Furthermore, with automated document preservation and archival, you can achieve greater compliance with various standards and requirements.
8- Reduced risk
There are many ways in which going paperless can reduce risks. One of the most obvious ways is that it reduces the chances of losing important documents. If all of your documents are stored electronically, you can always access them and you do not have to worry about losing them.
Another way that going paperless can reduce risks is that it can help you to avoid identity theft. If you have all of your important documents stored electronically, it is much harder for someone to steal your identity. They would need to have access to your computer in order to do this, which is much harder than simply stealing a piece of paper.
Going paperless benefits the workspace by also reducing the risk of natural disasters and fire hazards. In an office with thousands of papers, it is not difficult to imagine that many of those papers consist of highly sensitive data. It takes just one spark to set an entire office on fire, which could happen if a natural disaster
9- Lower printing costs
One of the most important benefits of going paperless is that it lowers printing costs. Your organization could save up to $500 per year in printing costs alone, not to mention the cost of toner and ink cartridges. This would be a great way to cut down on your carbon footprint as well!
How to make your office paperless?
There are 7 actions you can do to start pushing the paperless office initiative in your organization.
- Begin scanning and digitizing paper documents using OCR. This is the beginning of the journey.
- Verify that you have a system capable of regulating the whole lifecycle of the digital documents.
- Prepare your employees for the changing ways of working. Dealing with digital documents differs from dealing with paper documents.
- Confirm that upper management completely supports this project. You don’t want to have to print documents again for approvals.
- Begin by minimizing the number of printing machines in your company. This strategy helped to reduce printer paper usage once again.
- Begin automating your document workflows, such as leave requests, document approval, and so on.
- Consider using a digital signature instead of a traditional wet signature.
Is Paperless Office Possible?
Yes, the paperless office is possible. In fact, many companies have already implemented paperless office solutions and are reaping the benefits of increased efficiency and decreased costs.
It is difficult to establish a completely paperless office, but it is possible. It is dependent on businesses’ readiness for a fully digital experience. Estonia and Dubai have claimed that their offices are completely paperless. Organizations have no excuse not to succeed if governments and capitals can.
If a company is unable to completely eliminate paper, it should strive to minimize and achieve what we call a “paper-light” workplace.
In order to be agile, efficient, and competitive, businesses must switch to a digital business model.
The only way to truly understand your consumers, know how your products are doing, and gain insights into how your business operates is to employ one of your most valuable assets: information.
Taking care of your records will aid your organization’s future success.
The office became paper-free when the digital age really took off. There was a time, not so long ago, when people relied on paper as their primary method of communication. Nowadays, we are communicating through emails and mobile devices.
There are many ways to make your office paperless. You can start by getting rid of all the paper in your office, including printouts and photocopies. Once you have done that, you can start using digital tools to do tasks that were traditionally done on paper.