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Paperless Office: Why and how to do the switch?

Posted by:

Paulyne

December 20, 2022

We can sign up with a new bank in a few clicks but somehow still get our pay slips in a paper format. Why? In an era when sustainability and digitalization play a major role, aiming to become a paperless office is the obvious next step. A “paper-light” office is a workplace where the use of paper is reduced to a minimum. Ideally, the goal is to reach the no-paper office objective like Dubai, which became the world’s first paperless government in 2021. But why is minimizing the consumption of paper at work so important? Although decreasing paper waste to be more eco-friendly might be the main reason that comes to mind, there are many other advantages to digitizing all documents and files. This article is going to give you greater insight into these other key benefits. To support you in switching to a paperless office, we’ll share the best practices and the modern technology available to embrace this digital journey. 

Advantages of going paperless: a sustainable answer for People, Planet, and Profit

Makes the office greener

As we highlighted in our article about the importance of sustainability in business, making the office greener is crucial for organizations that wish to succeed. Reducing paper usage is a fundamental eco-friendly measure for your workplace. Knowing that the pulp and paper industry represents the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, going paperless can definitely help fight global warming. Plus, 50% of the office garbage ending up in landfills is paper*. 

Fulfils the expectations of a modern workforce

From organizing their next trip to ordering food and subscribing to digital sustainable banking solutions, Millennials and Gen-Z are used to doing everything online. Keeping paper-based processes in the workplace is a true pain point for companies employing  these generations. As 40% of the workforce are Millennials and Gen-Z, meeting their expectations is more important than ever. For them, picking up a paper version of their pay slip or bringing piles of documents home is a sign of a corporate culture lacking in progressive and modern practices.  

Provides a cost-saving solution

A US worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper per year*. When multiplying this figure by the number of employees in your organization, the result might be frightening. But you also have to think about the expenses related to the printing equipment and maintenance, in addition to the waste disposal fees you pay for paper waste. The average price for a paper sheet is around 1 ct. This means it costs you  $10,000 per year if you employ 100 people. Digitizing your processes as much as possible enables you to lower your office costs and save tons of space!

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Allows better organization and efficiency

There is nothing worse than wasting time searching for a document. In a paperless office, all your files are centralized and organized in document management software. Your employees can quickly find the record they are looking for and carry on with their work. If they don’t know the location of a specific document, they can use the search bar, type a keyword related to the topic and find it in seconds. Workers can stop wasting time searching for files and getting frustrated when struggling to find documents. As the data Elastic mentioned in its report about Unified search for finding workplace content, 54% of US employees waste time looking for key documents. With a well-organized digitized system, they are more efficient and focus on more meaningful tasks. 

Reinforces data security

Although cyberattacks happen, going paperless is a lot safer and more secure than having all your important documents in paper format. With the strong security systems that exist today, the chances of getting records stolen are slimmer. It also reduces the risk of losing data due to human error, fire, or natural disasters.

Facilitates team collaboration

A paperless office helps your peers work together more efficiently. First, they can find the file they require more quickly. Second, they can quickly send it to their teammates instead of stopping what they are doing and going to their colleague’s desk to drop it off. Third, if it’s a file anybody on the team can access, they can look for it on the document management software without disturbing anybody! Last, having all your files in an electronic format is a must to embrace hybrid work and allows teams to work together from different locations.  

Enhances automation processes

Automation and AI (Artificial Intelligence) enable employees to focus on more purposeful tasks by letting technology take care of repetitive and meaningless tasks. To enable this process, going paperless and digitizing all your files and documents facilitates the shift to automation. Therefore, adopting a paperless office also improves employee experience and performance.

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crumpled ball of paper being thrown out
A lot of paper in the office goes to waste.

Best practices to switch to a paperless office: 5 useful tips to reach your goal 

1. Digitize all your paper-based documents and files

Scanning and saving all your existing documents is the first step and, we’re not going to lie, it's the most time-consuming. However, it is a necessity. For this reason, many companies offer document scanning services to transform paper files into digital ones. It helps save a lot of time and ensures all your data is safely digitized. 

2. Communicate with your team about your paperless office strategy

Although the reasons for becoming a paperless office might be obvious to most of your workers, communicating with them about it is crucial. You can share your current figures in terms of paper usage and waste, your goals, and your strategy to achieve them. Their participation in this process is vital to success. They must know what they can do at their level to contribute to lower office waste. Moreover, it is key that they understand why having all documents available electronically will help them in their daily tasks.

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3. Apply the 3 R’s rule

One of the sustainability in the workplace ideas we shared was to promote the 3 R’s which stand for “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle”. This is also efficient for decreasing your paper usage. If you don’t fully switch to a paper-free environment (doing it gradually is always the best way to succeed), it is important you encourage your workers to rethink their use of paper. Instead of throwing away an old document, keep it to use as a draft or a note sheet, for example.

4. Use paper alternatives

For some people, having a little Post-it block on their desk is a must. Taking notes digitally doesn’t work for everybody, and that’s OK. Nowadays, green alternatives to paper exist such as stone paper, for instance. You can equip each of your team members with a reusable notebook (it’s Christmas soon!) so they can keep taking notes during meetings with a pen and “paper”. They can erase them once they no longer need them or scan them if they know they will have a look at them later. 

5. Choose the right digital tools

Lastly, you need to know about the technology available to help you switch to digital. If you are used to doing your employees’ schedules manually, you might want to have a look into the deskbird week planning tool, for instance. As mentioned earlier, like keeping your paper documents safe, you also have to think about a strong security system when going paperless. Don’t worry, the next part of this article is all about these crucial digital tools.

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Person reviewing sheet with charts
Many physical documents can be made digital.

Digital solutions to reduce paper usage in the workplace: which tools do you need?

Document management software

Let’s start with a tool we keep mentioning: document management software. A DMS allows you to store, manage and track all your paper-free files in one place. This tool is a fundamental resource for employees that can find all the data they need to perform their job efficiently and collaboratively. The most common DMS offers to following features:

  • storage location;
  • version control;
  • security and access supervision;
  • audit trails;
  • check-in, check-out, and document lockdowns.

DMS examples: DocuWare, PaperSave, ClickUp.

e-signature technology

Once switching to a paperless office, how do you sign documents digitally? E-signatures have existed for quite a long time. Some of you might have used this technology to sign private documents such as contracts, for instance. Thanks to online signatures, organizations no longer need to print, sign, and store paperwork. It enables validating legal documentation efficiently while reducing paper consumption.

E-signature technology examples: DocuSign, HelloSign, PandaDoc.  

Time and attendance software

Are team members used to signing in and out of work manually? Do you then store these documents somewhere or do you transfer them to an electronic format before throwing them in the trash? Instead, save time, money, and paper by shifting from a time and attendance sheet to a digital version. Time and attendance software allows you to track your employees’ working time. This is the perfect solution for teams embracing flexitime and hybrid work.

Time and Attendance software examples: Clockify, BambooHR, Time Doctor

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Scanning apps

A scanning app will help scan your old files and paper documents that might be necessary from time to time. This tool is ultra-efficient and very handy when you need to quickly scan and store a record in your DMS. Traditional scanning equipment is no longer necessary when your paper usage decreases as only little content has to be digitized. Employees can have the app on their mobile phones and scan a page within seconds.

Scanning app examples: CamScanner, Adobe Scan, Microsoft Office Lens

Secure password managers

Controlling access to confidential information and ensuring your files are secure are two crucial aspects of a paperless office. Technology can support you in creating a high security for your corporate records. A password manager is a software that stores and manages credentials for online services in a safe location. You can also use multi-factor authentication for an even more secure access.

Password manager examples: 1Password, Bitwarden, Dashlane.  

Cloud storage software

Now that you save a lot of room in your office by digitizing your paper files, you need to find a digital space solution to store your documents online. Cloud-based tools are replacing hard-drive storage resources. Not only does the Cloud allow you to keep all your information in one location, but it also enables you to easily access it, create new data, and collaborate with colleagues on shared documents.

Cloud storage software examples: Google Drive, Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive.  

Online hybrid scheduling platforms

Hybrid schedule platforms allow you to manage your flexible workforce timetables in a blink of an eye while reducing paper usage. There is no longer any need for printing schedules (that often end up in the trash once the week is over) and last-minute changes are a lot easier to make. You can also track your staff’s working time and attendance. To foster an employee-centric approach, you can let your team members handle their own schedules. By having access to their colleagues' calendars, they can choose when they will come to the office accordingly for collaborative work and when they will do remote work.

Hybrid schedule platform examples: deskbird.

Digital finance tools

How many of us still get bank statements on paper? Not that many. In our private lives, receiving billing documents electronically is the new normal. So why not apply this paper-free practice to the office? You can also manage your finances online and drop the paper format. When it comes to invoicing, tracking and analyzing, digital finance tools support companies.

Digital finance tool examples: Bill.com, Oracle Netsuite, Xero

Two co workers reviewing digital documents
The right tools help organize a paperless office.

To embrace the trends of the future of work by digitizing your files, data, and overall work environment or adopting sustainable standards, going paperless is the key step to achieving these goals. Among other benefits, a paperless office allows you to modernize by fulfilling employees’ expectations, facilitating flexible work and enabling automation. Are you looking for a digital solution to manage your hybrid workplace and scheduling system? Request a free demo of the deskbird app to discover a tool tailor-made to your company’s and workers’ needs!

* All statistics in this article come from the report Paper Wastage Facts: Statistics About Paper Waste You Must Know published by Eco-friendly Habits.

Paulyne

Content Creator

Paperless Office: Why and how to do the switch?