40 years ago, Business Week featured an article introducing the futuristic concept of a paperless office. Four decades later it’s a pipe dream still being pondered. We’re getting closer, but the reality is we’re just not there yet. Let’s take a look at what’s causing the resistance, how we can help make the shift and why we should seriously consider it.

Why Go Paperless

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the average office worker generates two-pounds of paper waste per day. That is a significant cost to businesses and by far the most obvious reasons to go paperless. But there are other equally significant hidden costs that factor in too: damage to the environment and our time spent filing, searching for and printing out paper documents.

Take paper manufacturing as one example. Making paper has a significant impact on climate change and yet we rarely talk about the impact of paper recycling which is equally impactful in different ways. There’s not much publicity around the deinking process in recycling and how it accounts for as much as 22% of the generated waste ending up in landfills. And regardless of how paper is created (new or recycled), 10 liters of water are consumed in the production of a single sheet of A4 paper.

Beyond environmental savings, there’s time and ease of doing business both of which can benefit from going paperless. With 95% of business related information still stored on paper, how much time is spent looking for, filing, copying, and waiting for documents to print only to later take more time to walk it to the recycle bin or filing cabinet?

Why paper is still so appealing

With so many good reasons to adopt paperless offices, what are the remaining barriers? Partly it’s habits we have to overcome and replace and partly it’s a lack of standardized processes that make going paperless a bit daunting.

Technology is catching up and finally delivering what we need to make the move and schools are helping by training our upcoming workforce to interact, create and utilize less paper. Both work to propel the movement forward. The final hurdle is the notion that, albeit temporary, we’ll experience productivity loss during the conversion and nobody wants to suffer that.

The good news

The nature of paperless communication requires both senders and recipients to have access to appropriate software and hardware. Since we can’t control business practices of other organizations, it’s a perfect time to begin the change by striving for paperless within our own organization, first. This will make for a much easier undertaking later when fully shifting to paperless across internal and external communications.

In a recently study, 30% of respondents claimed their office could be fully paperless by the end of 2015. Another 20% said they already are. The shift to paperless has caught flight lately due in large part to technology. Digital signatures are fast becoming the norm, banking is done online, contracts are passed over email and digital documents are now available anytime, anywhere from any device.

What can you do to join the paperless movement?

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit. -Aristotle

The move to paperless does not have to be done overnight. In fact, we don’t recommend it. Starting with small, repeated changes will make the overall large change stickier and therefore permanent.

Start with small technology changes. Adopt software to sign documents securely online, and invest in cloud storage solutions for e-documents storage with access across users and devices. Adopt hardware changes like using scanners to clear paper clutter while creating electronic documents. And, adopt network changes that make managing your paper and paperless environments simple.

At Professional Document Solutions, we strive to help our customers save money and create a more sustainable business. We’re here to provide consultations, expertise and custom solutions when you’re ready to make an easy move to paperless.

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