In 1975, the author of a Business week article predicted that in a short period of time a paperless system will overtake paper-based organisations. Technology was not as advanced back then as it is now, so although he foresaw the possibilities and many benefits associated with going paperless, not everyone believed him. Now we live in a digital world where technology makes everything possible. It saves lives, improves service delivery, and helps promote better livelihoods. In order to embrace this digital transformation and the 4th industrialisation in the workplace, the first step lies in introducing a paperless office.
What does it mean to go paperless?
It refers to the deliberate removal of paper from processes with the aim of improving efficiency. This simply means that all the information that was stored on paper is then changed into an electronic form. For instance, documents are scanned and then securely stored in a central repository that is easy to access. Also, processes that were initially done manually with the help of paper, are now automated. This is very important for a good workflow as electronic documents can now be accessed quickly, anywhere and at any time you need them.
Some organisations, however, can not completely eliminate the use of paperwork, instead, they use an electronic document managing system while at the same time maintaining minimal paper-based services. This is sometimes referred to as a paper-light office.
7 Benefits of going paperless
There are various reasons why it is important to transition from a paper-intensive system to a paperless one. These benefits include:
Reduced Operational costs
The costs of printers, sheets of paper, toners, filing cabinets, and any other devices used in paper-intensive organisations are very high. All these unnecessary operational costs and paperwork can be reduced by investing in a small, secure device that does not even require much office space. Devices needed for a paperless office such as a scanner, pdf software, and a reliable cloud system might be costly, but as compared to devices used in paper-intensive offices, they require a once-off payment. This shows that with a paperless system, organisations can save more money and resources.
Better security and Compliance
Despite the frequency of cyberattacks and internet malice, information stored electronically is actually safer than its counterparts. There are many techniques that can be used to increase the security of electronic documents. For instance; end-to-end encryption can be used to make them unreadable, they can also be locked to prevent unauthorised access, printing and sharing. Also, access controls and audit trails are in place to regulate, assign and even revoke viewing privileges as well as to reveal anyone who accessed the document. This means that sensitive information can be guarded against any misuse, unauthorised edits, theft, and loss. Going paperless increases access to information hence showing compliance.
Going paperless allows everyone to have instant access to documents whenever they need them. Also, team members are able to collaborate and share files electronically which improves the workflow and teamwork. This reduces the time spent searching for documents, printing, and risks associated with data loss and slow service delivery, thereby promoting efficiency and productivity in the workplace.
Employees in paperless organisations can easily access the information they need anytime, anywhere within a few minutes as compared to those in paper-intensive companies, who spend a lot of time looking for misfiled and lost documents. This lost time in paper-intensive organisations contributes to inefficiency and customer frustrations. It is very easy to index, organise and retrieve digital documents and this saves time which can then be used to carry out more important tasks in the workplace.
As compared to paper-intensive offices which require more space for storage of paper, shredders, and other devices needed for daily work, a paperless workplace needs less space, as you can use a small server to accommodate all your documents.
Be environmentally friendly
A lot of trees are cut down in the production of paper and this end product ends up contributing to greenhouse gas production and pollution as people through it away as waste after using it. This deforestation and pollution issues are reduced when many organisations choose to go paperless. This helps to keep the Earth clean and sustainable.
Improve Customer Satisfaction
Poor and slow service delivery is one of the most common customer complaints in many organisations. So imagine how much happier and appreciative your clients will be when you start delivering their requests instantly instead of making them wait hours or even weeks. This will in turn help to boost your company’s reputation and clientele.
Disadvantages of going paperless
Despite all the good associated with going paperless and the development of new technologies aimed at reducing the use of paper, only a few organisations have adopted a paperless system. Below are some of the disadvantages associated with adapting a paperless system:
• Digital literacy barriers
Learning and adopting new technology is not a walk in the park for everyone. This is especially true for the elderly, disabled, and some uneducated people. This literacy barrier makes it hard for them to make use of digital communication and tools.
• Lack of resources
Not every employee or customer has access to electronic devices and this means organisations have to invest more money in starting and promoting digital systems in the workplace. The organisation also has to buy devices to be used by employees in a paperless system.
How to go Paperless in 6 simple steps
Going paperless makes your office versatile as you do not have to worry about packing, unpacking, and even losing documents during relocation. It will take your organisation some time to fully embrace and practice a paperless system. E-signature, expense tracking apps, and attendance applications are some of the digital solutions that can be used to help your employees to transition smoothly into a paperless workplace.
Some of the strategies you can adopt to help fully transition your office into a paperless system include:
• You should have a smart and clear plan so that everyone in your team is on the same page.
• Start by sorting your documents into relevant categories.
• Then scan all documents under each category and shred the scanned material.
• It’s important to invest in good cloud software that will securely store and encrypt all your scanned and digitized documents.
• After safely storing your documents, you can sort out and shred any sensitive document and then recycle the remaining paperwork that does not contain any confidential information.
• Lastly create and strive to maintain a paperless workflow by signing up for electronic delivery of bills and reports as well as embrace any paperless options that can help you manage your books.
What are some challenges associated with going paperless?
Some of the challenges associated with going paperless includes:
• Hardware failure
• Human inaccuracy
• Software maintenance
How do you encourage employees to go paperless?
Being patient as well as giving your employees control over the transition to a paperless workplace can help them participate and fully embrace the change. It is important to include them in the decision-making process by requesting their suggestions through the use of surveys and questionnaires. Also, make sure you promote a work environment that supports the paperless transition.
How much can it cost to establish a paperless office?
If you don’t already have some of the electronic devices needed, the initial cost might be between $30-300.
What’s the main reason why some companies don’t go paperless?
Lack of management incentives is cited as one of the main reasons why some employees are reluctant to adopt a paperless system. So managers are requested to lead by example and to provide the relevant tools for starting a paperless workplace.
Change does not happen at once, so try to transition to a paperless office in stages in order to give your employees time to adjust to the changes. Consistency is key to ensuring a successful transition. Though it might take lots of time and effort to transition to a paperless workplace, it is very beneficial and the benefits surpass the disadvantages. Going paperless might seem like an extreme sport to partake in. However, with the right mindset, tools, and plan, organisations can fully embrace the paperless transition.
Using a paper-based system is costly, reduces productivity and operational efficiency, and might pose some security risks, but that’s not all. So read on to know more about the paperless system, how it can benefit your organization, its pros and cons, tips to help you transition into a paperless office, and everything you need to know about going paperless.
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