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Can "Paperless Office" Be a Reality?

by K Logan | May 25, 2016

Paperless officeIt’s hard to fathom going 100% paperless; many office processes are heavily reliant on paper. What becomes more of a barrier for offices, is the internal cultural predilection towards paper.  Human resources likes to crack open a physical file to see all of the employee documents. Accounting likes to handle physical invoices – and many employees print important emails so they don’t lose track of them. From healthcare to education and into the business sector, paper remains a way of life, despite the adoption of software applications across departments and industries, paper remains. 

And yet, you’ll find across industries many visionaries moving to technology to replace paper. For example, the Air Materiel Command of the US Air Force has replaced each pilot’s 60-80 pound flight bag with tablets. They save manpower hours, ensure pilots have the most up to date manuals, charts and fight data, and align with the Air Force’s paper reduction initiatives.

Meanwhile, medical practices are under increasing pressure to adopt electronic health records (EHR) systems, universities are pledging to be paperless, and corporations are holding executive meetings to debate the merits of eliminating paper.

Paper requires a lot of unnecessary work and can be a drain on resources. Yet, 70-80% of processes are still paper-based. In a paper-based environment, up to sixty percent of an employee’s time is spent work with documents. Locating a single document takes an average of 18 minutes.

Paper is an ongoing cost that grows with your employee count. An average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper annually. If you have 19 employees, you’re using around 1 ton of paper every year. For those keep track of their environmental impact, that single ton of paper destroys 3 tons of trees and 19,000 gallons of water, while creating 2,300 of solid waste and 5,700 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.

Beyond the initial costs of paper, there are other costs. If you’re not maintaining the knowledge and information in a secure manner then you risk losing and misfiling documents. When employees leave, you lose nearly three quarters of their knowledge because of reliance on paper. In the age of the millennial worker, the average employee moves on every 2 to 3 years.

Going paperless doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t need to be dramatic. It is a cultural shift that takes time and organizational investment. Here are 8 steps that can get you moving towards a paperless office:

  1. Set printer settings to default to 2-sided printing and make printing less convenient
  2. Monitor printer use with print management software
  3. Implement electronic document signing policies
  4. Generate reports in PDF and email them instead of printing and distributing
  5. Ensure employees have the required hardware to reduce paper use – such as a dual
  6. Monitor set up and the software required to read and write on PDF
  7. Provide access easy access to scanners and online fax services
  8. Acquire software that uses Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to manage documents – you’ll get a lot more use out of those documents

Is it possible to make your office space completely paperless? Yes. Is it going to happen tomorrow? Likely not. Even if you don’t think a paperless office is within the realm of possibilities for you, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. At the very least, you can start reducing the use of paper, getting your staff more comfortable with digital practices instead. 

Milner is an industry-leading technology solutions provider. We help businesses gain control of their paper-based processes, with everything from document signing to print management to OCR document management software. Contact us to learn more about reducing paper-based processes.