There have been talks for over forty years about achieving paperless offices – the holy grail of the business world – and though companies have reduced their consumption of paper in the office, thanks to the increasing rate of conversion to electronic tools (tablets, smartphones, wireless, broadband, laptops...) – the paperless office is still to be achieved.
Going from a classic office environment with trays, filing cabinets, archive rooms, fax machines, printers and photocopiers at every floor to a digital working environment can be a challenging experience in which everybody in the company needs to join the cause and buy in the new process.
For older generations of employees, it may be harder to get rid of their ocean of hard copies to embrace the on-screen filling in, reading and filing – whereas younger , tech-savvy staff will take it in their stride.
The question is not to get rid of any paper – some people do prefer holding a hard copy and who would deny a customer’s request? – Other services still need to use paper especially where staff design, proofread or edit.
At a time of budget reduction and lesser outlets, it is worth considering converting your work area to a paperless place and reap the multiple benefits: economical, environmental, efficiency and security –not mentioning the pleasure of looking at neat work spaces, rid of paper trays and overflowing bins.
Enjoying new rewards
Converting to a paperless office requires a long-term preparation both internally and externally.
Businesses will need to engage staff and external partners (suppliers, clients...) and to prepare the organisation: arranging and password protecting your server into relevant areas, finding a good back-up system, scanning of documents and digital archiving, find a process to name and store documents so that they can be easily retrieved in the future, group databases and train employees and managers...
Managers may need to invest in a document managing system to help the company with the transition and facilitate the capture, indexing, storage, retrieval, search and access to documents.
Centralising the printing to one powerful copier/printer/scanner (set by default on using both sides of a sheet of paper) instead of using different printers in each service will help reduce costs and the use of paper; it will also generate data on how much is printed, wasted, and who are the biggest paper users. And on a lighter note, when employees need to get up and walk to retrieve their printed documents, they think twice before pressing the “print” button.
Businesses will need to think about how and when to dispose of old documents – Make sure they find the right partners to help with recycling or shredding in big quantities and in compliance with the local regulations.
Communication with external partners (customers, suppliers and other service providers) will be crucial to control the amount of incoming paper – this can be achieved by getting taken off mailing lists and opting for electronic delivery of invoices, bank statements, utility bills, payslips etc.
This methodological planning and organisation may at first glance seem overwhelming and time-consuming, especially when staff must first dedicate themselves to their daily activities and core business; however there is always the option to delegate the task to external consultants who, thanks to their knowledge and experience, will recommend bespoke solutions, encompassing if needed software and organisational processes for the company.