As the current wave of digital transformation prompts most businesses to rethink their systems, paperless offices are set to become the new normal. But while many companies have digitized in certain areas, many still rely upon paper documentation in one form or another.

A truly paperless office is one that primarily utilizes digital documentation, with paper-based systems avoided wherever feasibly—and legally—possible. If you haven’t switched to paperless yet, we’ll explain how to begin making the necessary changes. But first, let’s dive into the considerable benefits that paperless offices provide.

 

Why a paperless office is good for your business

It’s no surprise that more and more companies are moving away from paper documentation. We’re all familiar with the benefits of digital solutions; an online phone search is certainly quicker than trawling through a phone book, for example. A paperless office is no different. These are the main improvements you can hope to see when you ditch paper for good.

Sustainability

Let’s start with the most ethical reason; a paperless office is clearly a far more environmentally friendly way of operating. From implementing an online payroll system to making the switch to digital signatures, taking steps to minimize the amount of paper your office uses will significantly reduce your carbon footprint. Most companies have sustainability policies and targets now; this switch will help you achieve yours.

But more than that, data shows that many people consider environmental concerns to impact their feelings about a company and influence their buying decisions. 84% of customers said they would be alienated by a brand with poor environmental practices. Evidently, consumers are conscious about buying from companies whose values align with their own, so being more sustainable is a good decision—both ethically and from a business perspective.

Data protection compliance

The issue of data protection is ever more pressing as laws are introduced globally to ensure businesses protect their customer’s data. All companies have had to implement stringent data protection policies to ensure they comply with laws such as GDPR. Switching to a paperless office is an essential step to ensuring greater data security.

The risk of the loss or theft of physical documents is reduced by going paperless, but also digitizing documents enables you to have greater control over who views documents, as they are less likely to be left lying around. Sensitive digital records can be encrypted, access to them carefully restricted and tracked, and automated backups set up in case of any unexpected problems.

Increased efficiency

Going paperless will yield greater efficiency and organization for your business. Paper-based systems consume a lot of time and resources, as they require physical storage, retrieval, and disposal. These processes are often time-consuming and labor-intensive. As a result, they cause operations to be bogged down with inefficiencies.

The most common way of digitizing documents is to scan them and create a digital file, such as a PDF. Optical character recognition (OCR) technology can convert these documents into text-based, searchable files for greater accessibility. This may be a time-consuming process, but once it’s done, you can look forward to a big boost in productivity for your organization.

Additionally, you can use your contracts to boost productivity. Good contract management software allows you to effortlessly create contracts using templates or AI, then get them signed without any ink involved whatsoever. Great contract management software takes it to that next level. It allows you to store and manage your contracts through archive functions. There’ll be no more lost hours spent searching through heaps of paper or endless Google Workspace folders when you can search for a contract using just a date or a keyword in only a few clicks. Great contract management software is the backbone of creating a paperless office.

Digital systems are more easily organized and also allow opportunities for automation. For example, HR software features include electronic signatures, document storage, and time and leave tracking tools. These can significantly improve workflow efficiency, reduce manual errors, and enhance overall productivity in the workplace.

More accessible information

Paper based-systems can mean that information is scattered across filing systems, difficult to track down, and usually in the hands of someone else right when you need it. The result can be a delay in critical decision-making and time wasted looking for information. This can frustrate your team and hinder them from doing their job. However, tools such as cloud file sharing or data streaming solutions facilitate real-time access to important files and breakdown information siloes.

What’s more, digital systems can be easily searched and better organized. This makes it much quicker to locate information and means multiple people can access it at any given time. Consequently, staff are more empowered to do their jobs and have up-to-date information at their fingertips. This greater accessibility leads to faster decision-making and improved productivity.

What’s more, digital systems can be easily searched and better organized. This makes it much quicker to locate information and means multiple people can access it at any given time. Consequently, staff are more empowered to do their jobs and have up-to-date information at their fingertips. This greater accessibility leads to faster decision-making and improved productivity.

Remote working

The pandemic caused a seismic shift in the way businesses operate and has highlighted the need for employees to be able to do their jobs from anywhere, which a paperless office makes even more desirable. Changing to digital-only documentation means employees can access the necessary information and collaborate from anywhere using just an internet connection.

This not only means your business can keep operating when employees can’t come into the office but allows your team to have a more flexible work life. It also enables you to recruit from a wider talent pool, regardless of candidates’ geographical location. This change doesn’t mean less secure processes, either. For example, a Qualified Trust Service Provider will ensure the authenticity and integrity of electronically signed documents in a paperless office.

Cost saving

Consider how much you spend buying and maintaining printers, copiers, ink, paper, and document storage. By shifting to a paperless office, these expenditures can be greatly reduced.

Digital documents can be backed up to a cloud-based system, the cost of which is significantly less than physical storage. Another angle to consider is that digital communication tools, such as email and video conferencing, can also save money on travel expenses. Plus, the greater efficiency and reduced manual errors we mentioned earlier can also save you money as less time and resources are required to complete any given task.

 

How to set up a paperless office

Setting up a paperless office is not without its challenges. For a start, you should prepare for how to manage employees during digital transformation successfully. But by following these guidelines, you can enjoy the benefits of being paperless in a relatively pain-free way.

 

1. Roll out slowly

Transitioning to a paperless office can be a big task affecting your whole organization, especially if you currently rely on paper-based systems in many areas. As such, it is wise to roll out the process slowly. A good place to start is by identifying an office that is most in need of updating and greater efficiency, which will benefit the company as a whole.

Start with this department to test the waters and identify any potential issues. One example would be your HR department. Shifting away from paper-based systems here can be done by utilizing a platform like Paylocity workforce management software to track attendance, scheduling, and other HR tasks digitally. If this is a success, the process can be expanded to other departments.

2. Offer extensive training

When setting up a paperless office, do not be surprised if you encounter some resistance. This may be in the form of employees who prefer the old way of doing things or need more confidence using new technologies. The best way to combat this is with adequate training. This may require some patience, particularly with employees who have been using old systems for a long time.

While it is important to ensure they are trained on big changes, such as how to use new systems and software, it will also require attending to smaller tasks, such as signing Word documents digitally. Make sure training and support are ongoing so that your new systems are adopted and maintained effectively.

3. Digitization

Digitizing your documentation is a major step in becoming a paperless office. This doesn’t just mean using only digital documents going forward, but digitizing any existing paper documents. First, be discerning about which documents actually need digitizing to make the whole process more efficient.

The most common way of digitizing documents is to scan them and create a digital file, such as a PDF. Optical character recognition (OCR) technology can convert these documents into text-based, searchable files for greater accessibility. This may be a time-consuming process, but once it’s done, you can look forward to a big boost in productivity for your organization.

4. Implement a document management system

A digital document management system will be your centralized location for storing and accessing documents. When you are deciding on which system to use, the choice can be a bit overwhelming. But allow the specific priorities of your business to be your guide and this will help you narrow it down to one that will serve your needs.

As a general rule, though, you want to look for a document management system that provides certain key services. These include document search and retrieval, sharing and collaboration tools, plus version and access control. You should also look for one that will integrate with your other software, such as Customer Relationship Management programs and email, to enable smooth and efficient workflow management.

 

Make the switch now

There is no downside to switching to a paperless office. Whether your company is big or small, it’s a smart business decision. Reducing your paper usage means contributing to a more sustainable environment, cutting costs, and empowering your employees to better perform their roles through more accessible information and more efficient operations.

The transition will certainly require strategic planning, training, and patience, but the benefits to your business are clear. You can ensure you make the transition a success by taking a gradual approach and investing in the right technologies. Ultimately, paperless offices are the future, both for businesses and the planet.

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