Using less paper in the workplace will result in a more efficient workplace, direct cost savings and a greener environment. Gina O’Reilly, COO of Nitro, explains the benefits of a paperless office and how to go paperless.
For years, companies have discussed going paperless, but the concept still remains a challenging goal. According to recent research, over half (56%) of workers are still printing and 50% are scanning even while working from home. This way of working is no longer sustainable, and organisations that continue to rely on paper-based processes will face increasing challenges as we shift to a remote-first work environment.
The need for digital workflows has never been more relevant or urgent. And while we’ve seen widespread adoption of more digital tools over the past year, many businesses still have gaps in their approach, particularly around document productivity. A little over 80% of workers say the way their company manages documents has not improved significantly during the pandemic.
It will take some time to eliminate paper from all areas of your business, but it is a pretty painless process. Still not sure if it’s worth the effort? Here are three benefits of having a paperless office:
A more efficient workforce
Using paper for all your work processes makes it difficult to collaborate and manage document edits. There’s also a ton of manual work and time that goes into completing paper-based tasks – just think about how many hours you’ve spent filling out forms or running around the office to get documents signed. Simple tasks become much easier and get done quicker when you remove paper from your workflows.
Doing this not only helps improve efficiency but also creates a better employee experience. Our Future of Work research found that 51% of workers believed better document productivity technology would make their job easier, and 55% said it would save them time. These two factors can have a big impact on cutting job-related stress and boosting morale.
Direct cost savings
Whether or not your organisation actively tracks paper expenses, there are some major cost benefits to going fully digital. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average knowledge worker uses over 10,000 sheets – or two cases – of paper per year. At around US$40 per case, the costs can become significant. Additionally, the labour costs needed to file, retrieve and recreate documents can add up to US$3.5 million per year for a company of 1,000 employees, according to PwC. If you need to tighten up your budget, digitising paper-based processes can help immensely.
A greener workplace
The amount of paper still used in today’s workplace has a significant impact on the environment, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. Did you know it takes 11,134 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity to produce one ton of paper? That’s how much electricity an average household uses over 10 months. Also, the ink and toner cartridges used for printing are extremely damaging if not disposed of properly. The EPA estimates that over 400 million ink and 100 million toner cartridges end up in landfills every year.
Organisations that keep paper around not only hurt the environment but also risk alienating themselves from millennial and Gen Z workers, who place a high value on sustainability. This means companies that are fully digital and eco-friendly will have an easier time attracting younger employees.
Four steps to going paperless
The benefits of a paperless office are clear, but how do companies start making the move to digital? Most will follow this four-step process:
- Evaluate your paper-based processes
The first step is determining which processes and teams take up the bulk of your printing and physical storage resources. Next, you’ll need to figure out what security measures should be applied to your digital processes – determine which documents may be subject to industry and other regulations so you can ensure you are compliant before transferring anything over. From there, you’ll want to choose which new technologies are needed to complete the transition to paperless.
- Work out a system for going digital
Start digitising the processes that consume the most printing resources first. These are likely signing and sending forms. After you’ve done that, you’ll need to ensure you have sufficient document storage. If you don’t, consider upgrading or purchasing a different storage solution.
- Introduce employees to the new digital workflows
Company-wide training is crucial when it comes to implementing new tools. If your employees don’t know how to use them, they simply won’t get adopted. On top of new tool training, it may also be helpful to provide refresher courses on the existing solutions that will play a part in the transition.
- Create a thoughtful onboarding strategy
Many businesses make the mistake of deploying new digital tools without a well-rounded onboarding strategy. As a result, the onboarding process becomes overly long, stressful and drives low user adoption. However, a thoughtful approach and support from your technology vendor can help ease the transition – and allow you to get the most ROI.
The way we work has completely changed, and the paperless office is now a necessity. If companies want to thrive in a remote-first world, they need to start making the move to digital sooner rather than later.