Google returns about 64,3 million results for the word “paperless” in under one second. Global trend data for the word “paperless” hit a peak in 2015 and has remained in the higher rung of search since then, according to Keywords Everywhere.
There’s undeniably a steady interest around the concept, but what does it mean to “go paperless”? First, let’s define some terms related to the concept:
- Encyclopaedia Britannica defines paperless as “using computers instead of paper to record or exchange information”.
- The term “paperless office” was first used in commerce by automated office equipment company, Micronet Inc., in 1978.
- According to Wikipedia, “A paperless office (or paper-free office) is a work environment in which the use of paper is eliminated or greatly reduced.”; and
- The process of converting paper files into electronic files is known as Digitisation.
So, now that we have established a little around what paperless is, let’s look at why it’s even a thing in the first place. As history has it, trends and movements generally arise in response to a problem or a need for something to be improved – or even eradicated.
The paperless problem: Persistence of paper
Document scanning and records company, Record Nations, exposes some interesting statistics on the use of paper documents in companies:
- Employees can spend up to 2 hours looking for files every day.
- On average, large organisations lose a file every 6 seconds.
- Managers can spend on average 4 weeks per year searching for misplaced and lost information.
- For every $1 spent on printing, another $6 is spent on distribution.
- Roughly $480 billion was invested in paper records manager salaries in recent years.
- On average, companies spend $180 to re-create a one-page document.
To make things worse, approximately 20% of print jobs are never even retrieved from printers and 50% of all printed material ends up in the trash by the end of that day. Currently nearly 80% of transactions are still carried out on paper and 50% of companies still print their documents for archiving purposes. Needless to say, automation is a game changer for companies.
We have found that, very often, a big reason companies still use paper-based processes is lack of control and initiative on the management front. So, given the right leadership and tools, many more businesses would make the move to paperless.
We also know from first-hand experience, that reducing the amount of paper in an organisation is something most executives would love to achieve, but they struggle with where to begin. Thankfully, creating a paperless office does not have to be a pipe dream – we have a myriad of mobile apps, software, and digital storage platforms available today.
The benefits of going paperless: The digital dream
That’s not to say it’s an overnight exercise. It is totally understandable that execs would be a little apprehensive. We get it – it’s a big change and change can be scary. But it must be said, unequivocally, even though it may take some time and resources to make the transition, the benefits outweigh these by far.
- Time savings: When your documents are digitised you can create, share, organise and search for documents on demand.
- Space savings: You can finally get rid of those space-hogging (often frightful looking) filing cabinets, printers and shredders.
- Waste not, want not: The unnecessarily massive use of paper and ink takes a huge toll on the environment.
- Still haven’t found what you’re looking for? Having electronic archives of your documents means no more losing your documents.
- Hybrid work models: Employees will be able to access documents from anywhere and from any device.
- Reputation: Being digital promotes a forward-thinking and environmentally friendly impression of your company.
- Improved security and confidentiality. If you digitise your documents, they are less susceptible to manipulation or destruction.
- A single source of truth: Digitising your documents gives you better insight into which versions are the most recent and accurate.
Yes, but how?
And now come the inevitable nerves and questions: “That all sounds great, but how do we make the transition when we have collected years’ worth of paper? How do we know what to keep and what to discard or shred? And how can we create a system that everyone will use?”
Breathe. With the proper planning, and the right digital partner by your side, your fears will be assuaged, and all your questions quickly answered.
You will need to set realistic achievable goals and take things in your stride using a gradual, phased approach.
Cory Porteous, director of marketing and inbound business development at Office Interiors says there are usually only a few processes within each organisation that account for most wasteful printing. So, find out what the major culprits are and focus on them first.
Oh, and another thing, many hands make light work, right? Don’t be afraid to involve your employees, especially early on in the decision-making process, so you can together decide on the best systems to deploy for your team and its specific needs.
Be calm and go paperless: Tips for a stress-free transition
By now, I am sure you are convinced, and you just need a little nudge in the right direction. We’ve got your back.😉 Here are some quick tips to get the wheels a-rollin’…
- Create a paperless office policy and appoint a champion to create momentum.
- Encourage recycling by providing recycling bins to collect waste paper.
- Form new habits and reward good behaviour.
- Use digital apps like FineScanner to digitise your filing cabinets and Box to manage and share your files.
- Get a good electronic signature solution. eSignature solutions not only allow you to avoid the hassle of signing with wet ink, printing, scanning and emailing, but the right solution can automate and digitise complex business processes across departments, including legal, HR, procurement, finance and IT asset management.
- Sign up for digital statement and payments and remove yourself from physical mail lists.
- Implement purchasing guidelines that encourages waste prevention.
- Use note-taking apps in meetings, such as Microsoft OneNote, GoodNotes, and Evernote – which allow you to take digital notes and share them across different platforms.
It’s true: Going paperless is not a quick trip or overnight solution. It is a journey. But it’s a journey with a rainbow and a big pot of gold at the end of it…So don’t be afraid to take it!
- Encyclopaedia Britannica – Paperless
- Wikipedia – Paperless office
- Wikipedia – Digitisation
- Record Nations – The paperless office: How much you can save
- Office Interiors
- Abbyy – FineScanner 8.0
- Microsoft OneNote