Eliminating paper is a viable option for many businesses. In fact, going paperless offers several enticing reasons to adopt the policy – lower operating costs, fewer lost documents, and lower environmental impact. So, why don't most businesses choose this route?
Barriers to Paperless Operations
Unfortunately, the hurdles posed by converting to a paperless office prove too difficult to overcome for many businesses for several reasons. Many businesses, though, can overcome these barriers by anticipating them and lessening their effects on operations.
First, many businesses fail to properly implement paperless operations. Instead of choosing a secure, remote location for file storage, they use physical hard drives located within the office. These drives are just as susceptible to natural disasters and theft as paper filing cabinets are. Choosing a remote server with encrypted storage that requires authorized access can eliminate the issues of storing paper or digital files within an office.
Secondly, companies that try to go paperless too quickly may lose documents in the process or leave behind employees without adequate training. Before you make the move to converting from paper-based operations to paperless, start training all workers and plan to incorporate the information into future education sessions for new hires. Once everyone knows what to expect from the paperless process and how to use the programs, then you can begin to shift your operations.
Lastly, businesses that fail to plan for emergencies, such as needing to access information remotely or during a power failure at the office, will find that they lack the ability to properly use paperless systems. Make sure all workers who might need access to remotely stored documents have the authorization to log into the cloud system. Some programs allow users access only to certain files, keeping other information stored in the cloud protected.
By overcoming the most pressing problems with going paperless, your office can begin to embrace the benefits of this environmentally-conscious option.
Why Reducing Paper Is a Good Business Move
Cutting paper improves productivity and reduces waste. By reducing paper, you can
Lower Office Waste
Offices generate copious amounts of paper waste. In fact, half of the waste generated by businesses comes from paper. Paper also contributes to a quarter of landfill waste and a third of the trash in cities. Across the country, American offices use 12.1 trillion sheets of paper annually. By cutting paper usage in your office, your environmental services staff will thank you because they will have fewer trash cans to empty and lighter loads to carry when taking out bags of garbage from your office.
Reduce Operating Costs
By going paperless, you will have the costs of the software needed to replace your paperwork. However, eliminating paper from your office will also save you money. You won’t have to pay for the paper, ink, pens, copier toner, printer ink, and fax machine phone lines required for paper-based operations. Eliminating bulky copy machines, expensive fax machines, and multiple printers will save you money and free up space.
Aside from no longer needing to purchase paper on a regular basis, you can also cancel the contract with the copy machine maintenance company, your fax machine phone line, and your subscription for printer ink. Reducing these costs will have an immediate improvement on your company's budget.
Increase Office Space
The layout of a workspace has a direct connection to employee health and wellness. When you go paperless in your office, you can get rid of space-consuming filing cabinets, office supplies for paper-based work, copy machines, fax machines, paper cutters, laminating machines, binding equipment, and printers. Removing these items can open up your office space for a more productive work area. In fact, reducing clutter can allow for better airflow, more natural lighting, and spaces for physical activity.
Opening space in the office to improve fresh airflow can improve productivity by 11%, according to the World Green Building Council. If you have office equipment in front of windows, move those pieces to allow for opening the windows for fresh air flow and more sunlight to reach workers.
Access to sunlight is important, especially for office workers who average spending 90% of their time indoors. Having more sunlight within 10 feet of a work desk reduces employee eyestrain, blurry vision, and headaches by 84%. Sunlight also promotes production of vitamin D in the body, a vital nutrient for health. Removing filing cabinets and other paper-using devices between the windows and workers can increase their access to sunlight during the workday.
Lastly, removing cluttering furnishings from your office when you go paperless can free spaces for your workers to walk around and engage in exercise. Whether they want to stretch in a corner or have space to store a bicycle, opening up the office area can allow them to have these fitness-improving areas.
Free Worker Time
How much time do your employees spend waiting to make copies or for a fax to go through? Do you have to pay workers to drive to a client to get a signature? What about the time required for workers to sort through documents and file them into drawers? These examples of wasted time disappear when you don't have paper in your workplace. Consequently, your employees will have more time to get business done instead of wasting it on paper chores.
Ways to Effortlessly Reduce Paper Use
Reducing paper use or going completely paperless is possible. To make the process easier for you and your employees, integrate paperless options slowly into your workplace, one program at a time.
Collaborate Without Paper
Instead of passing out papers and having everyone take notes on copies of your slideshow, use digital alternatives. Share your slideshow with others through a cloud drive such as mDrive, Google Drive, or Dropbox. This gives everyone a copy of the material without wasting paper. Have them take notes through one of the many note-taking applications available for mobile devices and computers if they need to do so during the meeting.
Instead of collaborating with others on projects through a paper calendar, workflow programs, such as Asana, help everyone in the team to know what they need to do and when to do it. The manager of the program sees when someone completes a task or is late doing so. These workflow programs allow even remote workers to stay on task without the need for sending paper job outlines to everyone.
Handle Documents Better
In addition to handling tasks through workflow programs, the documents used for projects can also be digital. With digital documents stored in the cloud, only those authorized to see them can access them, making the information more secure than a paper on someone's desk.
Should you need to send a document to another person or company via fax for a signature or to maintain regulation security, such as HIPAA, digital faxes work as a better, more secure, and more precise alternative to traditional faxes. By sending an electronic fax through mFax, you don't have to deal with poor printouts, lost information, or an inability to see who sent and accessed the faxes. Also, the cloud-based fax system allows you to send and receive faxes from anywhere, for better collaboration and productivity even when you're out of the office.
Digital Contracts and Invoices for Recordkeeping
One major concern that some have with going paperless is the legality of using only digital contracts signed electronically. Digital signatures are legally binding, and only a handful of services (mostly legal) do not allow e-signatures. In fact, by using a digital signature service, like mSign, you don't need to fax a document or wait for someone to get an in-person signature. The signer can approve a contract or invoice immediately, cutting down on wasted working time.
When it comes to sending invoices and saving them for recordkeeping, you can still use cloud-based storage services. In fact, by keeping documents in the cloud, there will be less of a chance of the information getting lost. If you need to send a replacement invoice to a client, simply resend the link to the cloud document. The client will have immediate access to the invoice, and you can show better customer service.
When it comes to going paperless, your business will have to make some major changes. However, the benefits of choosing a paperless operating system will ensure that your workplace saves money and becomes more productive and less wasteful over time.