People have been talking about going paperless in the office since companies began using computers. And it’s finally happening, thanks to smarter electronic document management systems. The paperless office is an intriguing idea with many financial and efficiency benefits. But getting there can be a challenge. Can you really eliminate all paper?
Let’s take a look at what a paperless office looks like, what you stand to gain, as well as the roadblocks you’ll face when converting to a paperless office.
What exactly will it take to go paperless in the office?
Are you thinking of becoming a paperless company? Here are the steps you’ll need to take at a high level:
- Convert all your paper documents to digital format (typically using scanners)
- Index the data in your digital documents to make them searchable
- Store digital documents in a secure archive
- Organize digital documents for easy retrieval
- Control access to documents
- Develop procedures for capturing incoming paper documents
- Create digital workflows to streamline document processing
It sounds like a lot of work. However, paperless office software solutions, also known as document management systems, make the task easier than you might expect.
Is going paperless in the office worth the effort? The benefits are numerous and very attractive. Let’s take a look.
10 benefits of the paperless office
- Save space. Do away with filing rooms and cabinets stuffed with paper-filled folders. Especially in a city like New York where space costs a fortune, how much are you paying to store all that paper?
- Save money. According to a recycling firm, the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper per year. 30% of print jobs are never even picked up from the printer. 45% end up thrown away by the end of the day. Add that up to calculate the wasted cost in paper alone. That doesn’t even include the cost of wasted printer ink and toner, or printer service expenses (calculated in cost per print).
- Save time. Electronic document management reduces the time it takes to find information, as well as the time it takes to process documents.
- Tighten security. Contrary to what people tend to think, paper documents are not secure even in a locked drawer. Modern cloud-based document management systems keep your records safe and only accessible to authorized people.
- Ensure regulatory compliance. We work in an increasingly regulated business environment. Whether you’re subject to GDPR, HIPAA, or Sarbanes-Oxley, controlling who sees private records is critical. Digital systems greatly reduce the chances of a mistake (and an expensive fine).
- Prevent loss. How long could your business last if you lost critical paper records due to a fire or flood, or even a computer crash? With digital document management technology, your records are safely backed up so that risk is eliminated.
- Work remotely. Electronic document management systems allow authorized workers to access documents on the go… wherever they happen to be working.
- Collaborate. Given the increasingly competitive global economy, every organization needs to be innovative, and the secret to that is enabling collaboration between workers. With today’s distributed workforce, it’s impossible to collaborate without electronic access to documents and information.
- Track progress. When you develop workflows to automate document processing, managers can monitor progress and track any document’s status quickly and easily.
- Be a good corporate citizen. Reducing the use of paper (and ink and toner) helps you do your part to protect the environment. TIP: If your company is struggling to attract top talent, this is a quality that younger generations want in the company they work for.
6 challenges and drawbacks of going paperless in the office
- Resistance to change. You may find that employees who have been doing things a certain way for a long time have a tough time changing their work habits and resist adopting new ways of working.
- Time and cost to digitize records. If you’ve got years’ worth of paper records to digitize, that can take quite a bit of time. And you’ll need digital scanners to get it done. Another option is to hire a scanning service to do it for you. However, most companies choose to purchase scanners because they need to scan new records on an ongoing basis.
- Struggling to find digitized records. Without the right document management technology, employees might still struggle to find the documents they need. For example, searching on a smartphone for a document buried in a complex network folder structure won’t be much easier than searching through a file cabinet.
- Certain situations call for paper. Think job interviews, taking notes in a meeting, handing out sales materials, and keeping original documents for legal purposes.
- Customers, suppliers, and business partners still use paper. Others you do business with still send paper invoices, checks, contracts, legal documents, medical information, and more, so you’ll need to keep scanning and digitizing those records. Going paperless in the office is not a one-and-done process!
- Iron-clad internet access is a must. If your internet is unreliable, people can’t work in a paperless office.
A hybrid approach: the paper-light office
In spite of the benefits, a completely paperless workplace can be difficult to achieve. Getting rid of ALL printed documents is probably not realistic, or even desirable, for most companies.
In fact, according to a Quocirca report, millennial decision makers expect the usage of print to increase: 69% want important documents printed, and 63% believe print is more durable than electronic records.
For many firms, the best of both worlds is a strategy for digitizing where it makes sense (using smart document management technology), while maintaining a limited and controlled usage of paper documents (also known as managed print). When you do both, you minimize the expense and security risks that come with printing, while keeping the use of paper documents when you want and need them.
Superior Office Systems can help NYC businesses to develop the right balance of digital and paper documents, set up smart document management software (DocuWare), and properly optimize and control your print environment. Contact us for a free consultation.