The concept of a paperless office has been around for the last forty years after being coined by Xerox (an international document management company). It still remains a notion, rather than a reality in most offices.
In 2013, the “Paperless Coalition” was created to promote the benefits of going paperless. Among the service providers joining the “Paperless Coalition” were HelloFax, HelloSign, Google Drive, Xero, Expensify, Fujitsu ScanSnap and Manilla. However, even in this digital generation, the concept of a paperless Utopia is still a long way from realisation in most businesses.
Going Paperless: The Benefits
There are a great many benefits to becoming a paperless office:
- Enhanced Security
- Time Savings
- Easy Accessibility
- Improved Customer Service
- Better Communication
- Environmentally Friendly
- Efficient Audits
At present there are plenty of new software packages that can automate office life. In particular, paper forms that require signatures or official stamps can be replaced with digital substitutes with the help of Databases, E-forms and Web Servers. It is now possible to complete a signature on a smart phone with programmes such as SignNow and SignEasy.
Whilst one of the best ways to reduce the use of paper is simply by scanning documents, you may find that outsourcing this procedure to professionals leads to better results. At Secure Data MGT, we offer an low cost scanning service for UK businesses. This makes document sharing easier, speeds up offsite retrievals and saves plenty of space: two filing cabinets with four compartments amounts to one CD!
Using documents digitally is now easier than ever before. A central, cloud-hosted database enables multiple users to access information at the same time; computer security enables companies to impose restrictions on who can view documents and tracking history enables each user to leave a full audit trail.
To learn more about the benefits and drawbacks of cloud based documents check out our post: What is the cloud & what can it do for your business?
It is a much more efficient and secure method of maintaining and updating data than having documents under lock and key in a filing cabinet.
Top offsite storage facilities with 24-hour security systems are able to ensure that your physical l documents are safe, whilst offering digital retrieval services available on demand. This can be provided in the form on a 2-hour scan back of a hardcopy record, meaning that you only pay to scan what you actually need.
Complications of the Paperless Office
With all of these benefits why are so many companies still not paperless? First, some companies believe that paper documents are still considered vital in the workplace. An AIIM survey of 822 companies showed that the majority believed that there is a legal requirement for paper documentation and 19% of these companies are actually increasing their dependence on paper.
There are some disadvantages to a paperless office which still make businesses cautious, including:
- Security Risks and Viruses
- Initial Costs
- Difficulties Digitalising Existing Documents
- Software Maintenance
- Human Inaccuracy
- Legal and Compliance Issues
It is not only these concerns that make the paperless office seem out of reach. Printers and photocopiers are still viewed as essential office equipment and over the last few decades have become considerably more efficient. As a result paper documents are being produced in larger quantities.
Some would argue that paper document storage still has many attractive qualities, especially with the advancement of offsite archiving systems which strive to make the retrieval of paper documents far more accessible. Secure Data Management, for example, offers first class retrieval options for our clients from next day delivery to emergency retrieval within just four hours.
Is Going Paperless Really Achievable?
The main concerns of the paperless office can now be easily addressed: the space that piles of paper and cabinets take up in an office can seem like an obvious reason to go paperless, added to the daunting fact that each square metre of office space is becoming increasingly expensive.
Space can be easily reduced with the use of offsite document storage. A move to offsite storage provides an opportunity for any business to reduce the amount of on-site paper that is cluttering up office space.
The environmental consequences of relying on paper are another concern that should exercise the minds of eco-friendly managers (and cost conscious accountants). There are solutions for those that are worried about their ‘paper footprint’. Today many companies have the choice of buying paper that has been made out of 100% recycled content as opposed to virgin-material paper.
Although businesses are beginning to use less paper in the workplace as technology advances, the UK is still using 12.5 million tonnes of paper and cardboard. Unfortunately, the paperless office is a long way from becoming a reality, however, there are alternative solutions available to reduce our overall dependence on hard copy records.