In April we celebrated Earth Day, “a movement that continues to inspire, challenge ideas, ignite passion and motivate people to action.” With the environment in mind, it seems fitting to address the realities of a paperless office, and how we can utilise automated technology to reduce waste paper.
As the years go by, we as a workforce are becoming gradually less dependent on paperwork to organise information and manage workflow. In reality, however, excessive use of paper is still an issue that is holding many companies back. Research conducted by Loudhouse, on behalf of Kyocera, shows us that the average British office worker used 10,000 sheets of paper per year in 2010, equating to four boxes of paper at an estimated cost of £10 per box. To make matters worse, 6,800 of the 10,000 are considered waste. In addition to this, the WRAP’s Green Office Guide of 2013 shows that the average office employee uses up to 45 sheets per day, with over half being waste.
The reasons for this high use of paper are usually down to accidental duplicates and the printing of unnecessary emails. According to YouGov, 84% of UK organisations are printing documents solely to get a "wet ink" signature, a statistic which raises to over 90% in financial services and public sectors, adding that business processes are delayed as a result. Interestingly, under the Electronic Communications Act 2000, these signatures aren't strictly legally necessary, and generally, an electronic signature will suffice. It should be noted that electronic signatures stand to improve productivity, efficiency and compliance.
An underwhelming 1% of EU businesses achieve a paperless office, and this might be due to the common misconception that technology has not yet advanced to the extent that a paperless office is possible. This is simply not the case. The main obstacle to a paperless office, rather than technology, is people. Environmental issues aside, paperless offices stand to reduce business costs and increase organisational efficiency, simultaneously ensuring that your company remains ahead of the competition. This is integral to surviving long term.
Here are just a few ways that forgoing paper and automating your business processes can boost productivity and success within your organisation.
Workflow is streamlined
No matter how organised you might be, it is a simple fact that digitalised files are far simpler to access, share and backup than their paper counterparts. Rifling through papers on your desk or in a cabinet is no longer necessary. With a touch of a button, you are able to find relevant documents and forward them as desired. Technology also allows a number of users, over many departments, to work on, and make changes to, the same document without the need for multiple copies.
Privacy and security are amplified
With paper-based systems, the extent of ensuring that business secrets and confidentiality is maintained ends with a lock on a filing cabinet. A digital environment adds a further dimension of safety, ensuring that your organisation remains compliant whilst also reducing the likelihood of losing pertinent documents. Disaster recovery is quick and simple, given that multiple copies of documents can easily be saved to a number of locations.
In security terms, you also benefit from the peace of mind that a lost or unintentionally damaged piece of paper won’t affect your business.
Visibility is increased
Utilising appropriate software, an organisation can benefit from increased visibility and transparency. Managers can track processes in real time, meaning that HR can be certain that employees are adhering to their goals and objectives. Automation also increases the chances of management picking up on any potential issues in a timely manner, providing an opportunity to quickly rectify the problem.
Consider how much time business automation can save your business. Instead of employees wasting valuable man hours on repetitive, obligatory tasks, they could be getting on with other duties that stand to advance the organisation and increase productivity. The software you utilise will get the job done, to a high standard, and without the potential of human error, one of the greatest risks to the success of a business.
Reiterating the company’s paperless policy and enforcing it strictly will greatly reduce corporate costs. When you consider the statistic mentioned above that the average employee uses £40 of paper per year and multiply that cost per employee, you are doubtlessly looking at a substantial expense that could be better used elsewhere. Even when you take into account the cost of software, you stand to save a great deal of money.
Communication is key to the successful running of a business, and the implementation of software used to replace paper and facilitate everyday business processes has the added bonus of improving communication. With technology, real-time feedback is possible, managers are able to digitally manage and oversee employees and employees are able to reach out for advice and assistance when desired. This means that communication throughout the organisation is heightened, which has a direct bearing on employee engagement.
About the Author
Yaakov Smith, a First Class Honours graduate of Oxford University, has almost twenty years’ experience developing and designing software. He is the CEO of Logican Solutions, a UK-based business management software company that serves to streamline processes, and increase productivity. They offer a range of products, including solutions for claims management, debt management and property portfolio management.