Almost 2000 years ago the Chinese invented paper. In the 1440s Gutenberg invented the printing press, one of humanity’s defining inventions. Before the printing press, Europeans wrote on parchment made out of animal skin, which was a very time consuming and expensive process. Since parchment was so pricey, only a select few knew how to read and write. But the printing press enabled mass production of paper goods, which made them readily available to the public.
But people always thought the use of paper would see its end. In the late 19th century Thomas Edison predicted that there would be a paperless office, but he thought that office memos would be recorded on his wax cylinders. But in the 1970s with the invention of the computer, the use of paper actually boomed, thanks to the printer. The paper from all of America’s copiers, fax machines, and printers created enough sheets of paper to cover the entire country every 5 years. Was the paper office really a prediction that would see the light of day?
It wasn’t until 2013 until the idea of a paperless office came back as a possibility again thanks to digital distribution. Digital is doing to paper what paper did to parchment with the help of the printing press. Making the exchange of ideas and information more cost-effective, especially when it comes to the office. In this article, we’ll explore how going paperless boosts employee efficiency and reduces overall costs.
Why go paperless?
There are many benefits to going digital. Going digital offers users better security and backup, greater efficiency, and a smaller carbon footprint.
With the right business process management software and workflows in place, an all-digital system can cut down significantly on human error. A great example can be seen with forms that are digitally scanned and processed rather than having someone type them into a database. Banks are seeing a huge benefit from going paperless. American Banker reports that one bank that switched to an all-digital process have seen a significant reduction in errors, “mistakes have dropped so much that entire departments that used to be dedicated to fixing errors and calling those customers back in to repair mistakes have been disbanded and the reps are being redeployed to other work”
Another benefit of going digital is that documents can now be easily searchable from any device connected to the internet. Additionally, AI-powered digitization can help businesses create highly structured data that can feed machine learning algorithms that can improve business processes. Staff can also easily share files with a click of a button as well.
Employees become mobile and less-stressed
Studies have shown that driving more than 10 miles each way to and from work is associated with higher blood sugar. That same report found that that same 10-mile commute is also associated with higher cholesterol, higher depression, and higher anxiety. A paperless office enables employees to access digital files wherever there is an internet connection. This leads to decreased commutes and a better work-life balance resulting in a less-stressed staff.
Employees have less tedious tasks
Having paper files means having to lug around documents that need to be placed and filed in bulky cabinets. Filing and paper management is a menial task that doesn’t provide much satisfaction for employees. A study by the Harvard Business Review found that when employees dropped tedious, menial tasks and opened up their schedules for more value-added work, they were more productive and, in some cases, their sales increased.
Greater security & backup
Going paper-free means better security and backup. With important data saved in the cloud, businesses don’t need to worry about misplaced and/or damaged paper files. Cloud storage has strong safeguards in place to protect privacy and regulatory compliance.
Smaller carbon footprint
On average, one American uses seven trees a year in paper, wood, and other products made from trees. This amounts to about 2,000,000,000 trees per year. The amount of wood and paper we throw away each year is enough to heat 50,000,000 homes for 20 years. By eliminating the need for paper in the office each year the average worker can save 2.5 trees, 938 gallons of water, 56 gallons of oil, 595 kilowatts of energy, and 12.15 cubic feet of landfill space.
While paper isn’t going away anytime soon, going paperless may not just be an option for leading organizations very soon. Millennials are now the largest share of the workforce and have identified sustainability as an important value in their work environment. Take the time to look at your organization as a whole and plan to support an environment that encourages going paperless. In the end, going paperless has many benefits for organizations and employees alike.