We are the first generation of human beings to realise how much damage we are causing this planet. And as the old saying goes,
"the first step to recovery is acknowledging there is a problem".
Over recent years people’s efforts to conserve and help recover the damage already done to our planet has significantly increased. This is due to a change in views when it comes to the environment.
So how can you as a business owner make an impact? With recent shifts in technology one of the ways you can make a difference is by turning your working environment into a ‘paper lite’ office.
Now I bet you are wondering - Why not paperless?
We will be honest with you, the realities of any organisation going completely paperless is quite simply not practical and we will go over why in this article. However just because you need to use paper in the office you can still be smart about how much paper you use.
So let us talk you through some of the benefits of choosing to go ‘Paper-lite’
Reduced Costs by Going Paper-lite
We know that as business owners you are always looking to save on costs. Well by choosing to convert your business into a paper-lite one you will find that you will reduce costs in more ways than one.
Firstly a reduced use in paper would ultimately result in reduced costs as you won’t need to spend as much on replacing reams of paper. Now take into consideration what extra costs come with reducing your paper use.
These could be the cost of ink, the cost to run printers and not forgetting that you probably won’t need numerous printers on site. When you reduce your paper use, you will naturally need to less machines.
Printer machines can be costly on their own, so by choosing to go paper-lite you won’t need to purchase multiple printers. These printers also take up space in the workplace so it's also worth considering the other benefits removing them would be.
An example is when you need less space for printers you could utilise this or even perhaps downgrade office size therefore reducing costs even further. This could be especially the case for the smaller businesses looking to go paper-lite.
Increased Team Productivity and Morale
As a business owner it is your duty to provide all your teams with the correct tools to carry out jobs as swiftly and efficiently as possible. The same can be said for choosing to migrate to more digital solutions.
By choosing to turn to a digital file storing system you could improve on your teams productivity. We’re specialists in helping companies with document management solutions too.
An example of how this could work:
If a customer or client rings up requesting information that would usually be stored in a paper format. Your staff will then need to take the time out to search for this information, also there could be a possibility that the information is lost or at a different location. Therefore prolonging the time to help the customer out.
Your employee would need to cut the call and spend the time finding the information, then make a call back which the customer/client might not even answer the first time. This creates a circle of back and forth that could be seen as time wasting.
Now if you made the decision to go paper-lite and store information like this onto a digital filing system it can help improve business efficiency.
This means that now your team wouldn’t need to physically get up and search for the information. They can simply search for it on a computer desktop, locate it and tell the customer exactly what they want to know all while still maintaining a conversation with the customer. The whole process becomes much more efficient.
Also with advanced technology, information can now be accessed whilst mobile. By logging into an online cloud using a work email, businesses can access information without needing to go into the office.
This will see a constant improvement to employee productivity but it also in turn will benefit the clients. Therefore creating a good reputation for your business.
Another benefit you will see when choosing to go paper-lite is that your team members morale will potentially improve. Those that work in managing the records and physical file sorting will know how tedious the job can become and this is turn makes the jobs in-enjoyable.
By turning the workplace into a paper-lite workplace you eliminate those tedious tasks and in the process your employees will learn new skill sets by embracing the digital world. This in turn will elevate these employees future careers with their new found skills.
Security Improvements of a Paper-lite Office
So when it comes to printing every piece of delicate information you need to keep, there is a strong possibility that the security of these documents will be compromised. Paper documents can be easily accessed in a working environment. However by switching to digital copies, delicate information can have passwords created for them or you can even control who can look at them.
Therefore security risks are minimised and can be tracked should there be a breach.
Another factor to consider is that by choosing to go paper-lite you are also choosing to have more damage control in case of an emergency or crisis. Files that are saved to a cloud software will be easier to recover than paper ones that have been burned up or suffered water damage.
These solutions are perfect for building out a solid disaster recovery plan for your business.
Documents can be uploaded again, cutting out all the mess of having to recover sensitive information that you only had one paper copy of.
What the Industry Experts are Saying
We reached out to experts in the field and was kindly provided insight from two companies with their thoughts on the realities of going paperless and whether or not paper-lite is in fact more feasible.
James Turner, Regional Manager at Y Soft, a leading enterprise office solution provider. James commented that:
‘As part of Digital Transformation, many organisations are now considering how they can improve productivity and efficiencies within their company. Looking a paper-based processes with an eye to digitise them to reduce paper and increase productivity is a logical place to start.’
The question remains on how realistic a paperless movement can be within today’s office environment or perhaps how relevant?
James commented by referencing research carried out by AIIM - State of Information Management 2017 - and found that only 24% of companies had adopted an entirely digital workplace. The research points out that for many companies, there is still a vital need for print, especially those related to the human factor. For example, printing long documents for later reading or proofreading, or when interacting with third parties that have not yet adopted digital methods of communication.
James then goes on to say that taking on a full digital transformation, replacing all paper-based processes is a ‘long-distance run’. It would be demanding on resources with no instant return on investment. Referring to the research, it was also cited that one of the biggest reasons for preventing or slowing the uptake of a digital transformation was in fact the human factor.
With these situations in mind, James mentioned that the concept of a ‘paper-lite’ office with a focus on user simplicity becomes a more realistic goal. Instead of completely eliminating paper based processes, a paper-lite approach integrates both paper and digital to support productivity while at the same time eliminating paper where it makes sense.
‘Therefore, going paper lite is a much more realistic goal for any organisation rather than going completely paperless. Businesses should also focus on creating digital processes instead of just creating digital documents. Creating digital documents alone can actually decrease productivity within an organisation.
Creating digital processes involves the increasing use of advanced automation infrastructure. For example, within an organisation, each user has a personal identity card or pin number to log in to a scanning device. Once logged in to the device, each user in the business will have a personalised set of predetermined workflows available to them based on what they are typically processing within their role and what they are authorised to do. It is this kind of customisable infrastructure that truly delivers efficiencies.’
James then concludes that digital transformation and creating a paper-lite office go hand in hand. Done correctly this will increase efficiency, reduce overhead and help reduce the impact on the environment. By addressing document workflow automation, businesses will also cut down on human errors, improve consistency, security and compliance whilst also providing more control over content.
Secondly we received a comment from Nik Williams, Managing Director of total information management company Shredall SDS Group. Nik has years of experience helping businesses of all shapes and sizes manage their sensitive information through Shredall SDS Groups shredding and document storage services.
‘Going paperless’ has become one of the biggest buzzwords of the past few years, with businesses of all shapes and sizes heralding the practice as the panacea for the world’s sustainability problems. Removing paper entirely from a company’s operations certainly seems like a good idea given the environmental consequences of mass deforestation.
However, sacrificing it altogether remains too difficult a feat for most businesses and focusing entirely on the idea of a paperless office risks delaying real change when a more measured approach could be taken.’
Nik then went on to explain that while many organisations boast their paperless practices. They in fact contract partner businesses to shred or store their documents, giving off the impression they have gone paperless.
Referring to a report conducted by Brother, Nik identifies that although 61% of businesses are trying to reduce paper consumption, 63% of managers admitted they could not function without paper. Citing compliance with regulations and personal preferences for working with physical documents as why.
So Nik goes on to say, that given this reality. Businesses should be doing more to become ‘paper-lite’. By combining technology with traditional working practices you make the process of consuming less paper much smoother. Nik then says that it is highly unlikely to ever truly achieve paperless offices across the board but a more considered approach to paper is within reach.
The first steps a business can take according to Nik is regular scanning of physical files and using cloud services to share and collaborate on documents. This will reduce the need to print hard copies and reduce paper waste too. Making sure to use paper for important roles such as file keeping and signing contracts.
Nik then goes onto explain the complications that can come with having a completely digital format. That would be leaving digital documents vulnerable to cyber attacks and accidental losses of data due to power cuts or poor WiFi connections. These issues can be avoided by retaining at least some paper and making sure to store it securely.
Another problem to consider is that as Nik says, employees that spend hours at a time staring at screens every day will eventually complain about headaches and eyesight problems. Therefore business owners should allow their employees the flexibility to take notes and read physical documents. This should keep employee morale high without limiting productivity.
So, there you go Paper-lite is the new Paperless
All in all, we believe that going paper-lite is a very achievable goal for almost any business. It’s about making the decision to reduce your reliance on paper and print; becoming better at reducing the amount of waste produced will not only help the environment and your pocket but will also contribute to a more functional happier work culture.