For decades, transitioning companies to operate in paperless offices has been imprinted in our minds by those working to make advancements in the workplace. This revolutionary idea which is now turning into a reality, was first introduced in a 1995 Business Week article.
So after more than 25 years, has the idea of a paperless office become a reality? Honestly, going entirely paperless seems unrealistic, considering we can’t eliminate paper files from legal and compliance departments.
Nevertheless, the progress toward paperless offices, or “paper-light” offices, as some like to say, has been helping businesses achieve their long-term goals more efficiently. According to Gartner, an average of four weeks are wasted every year due to misplaced, lost, and misfiled documents.
Advantages of A Paperless Office
There’s an article in Forbes on The Paperless Project that claims businesses in the U.S. spent more than $120 million on printed documents, which mostly end up in the trash within three months. Transitioning to a paperless office offer multiple benefits including:
Time and Money Savings
The biggest upside of a paperless office is the significant decrease in cost and time needed to store, retrieve, and organize printed files. The amount of time an employee spends searching through file cabinets to get a specific document is replaced by the few seconds it takes to search on a computer.
Additionally, the cost reduction from a paperless approach is incomparable to the time it saves. Eliminating most of your paper-related costs and the capital spent on purchasing and maintaining printing devices, supplies, and storage cabinets results in a substantial positive impact. All the money and time saved can provide a significant value to your business in terms of new investments and adopting advanced digital document management systems.
We can’t emphasize enough the consequences of a security breach for any organization, regardless of its size. Throwing away a piece of paper with sensitive information is a security risk. However, businesses can manage access to sensitive digital files for only authorized users. This adds an extra layer of security and reduces the risk of unauthorized access and the misuse of critical data.
Ease of Access
Paper documents and files require physical access, so if printed copies are not with you when you need them, they’re useless. Imagine going all the way to your office just because you forgot to bring a specific document with you to a meeting or you grabbed the wrong one. In a paperless environment, files are accessible to you anywhere with an internet connection, unlike a physical file.
What would you prefer? Would you choose to work with a company that makes you fill in a multipage form in person, or one that allows you to fill it out online and auto-populates your information?
Implementing efficient systems, which are the core of a paperless office, dramatically increases your chances of winning more customers. You end up with workflows that reduce paper costs while simultaneously improving customer experiences and productivity.
Overcoming the Challenges
When the paperless office concept was being discussed, the technology wasn’t as advanced as it is now. Challenges made transitioning to a paperless office difficult for businesses. Scanning equipment was not cost-effective for companies, and storage space was limited for scanned documents. There was also the risk of unauthorized users accessing files because businesses couldn’t manage and assign permission-based access.
However, with advancements in technology, the paperless office concept has evolved. Companies are now embracing cost-efficient document management systems that store, manage, and track document records.
Benefits of a cost-efficient document management system include:
- Reduced physical storage space
- Centralized information
- Search functionality
- Backup of files
- Improved compliance
A Hybrid Solution
Businesses who still need to print documents but want the advantages and cost savings of a paperless office can adopt a hybrid solution. Companies don’t necessarily have to give up all of their paperwork in a hybrid solution. Instead, they can partner with a managed print services provider who can provide technology, services, and supplies and implement document management software to improve productivity, minimize wasteful printing and reduce costs.
Some people refer to this approach as “paper-light,” and it’s best for those who need to maintain some printed documents. A hybrid strategy provides positive results for many organizations by using innovative document management technology for digital files while optimizing print output with a managed print services program.