Are We Finally Ready For The Paperless Office?

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Imagine having an office without huge filing cabinets, being able to find any document with a few clicks as opposed to the hassle of looking through huge piles to locate the right one.

It sounds incredibly simple, doesn’t it?

But are we ready to have a paperless office? Are we ready to digitise all of our documents and not have any paper documents for official business?

In this article, guest blogger, Nathan Morgan discusses the advantages and disadvantages of a paperless office.

Why Go Paperless: The Benefits

There are several benefits to having a paperless office – financially, logistically and environmentally.

  • Producing one ton of printing paper costs the earth 24 valuable trees. The biggest advantage of having a paperless office is that it helps make the earth greener by saving the environment. Less paper means fewer trees being cut down. Introducing document scanning and making the office paperless can make the business more eco-friendly and also save a lot of money.
  • Going digital frees up your office space, the parts normally used to store paper, printers, filing cabinets and cupboards, and makes the space available for a better office plan, or to accommodate more employees. This can also help reduce the expenses involved with renting or buying office space.
  • Less paperwork means that locating certain documents becomes easier. Compared to the filing system used for paperwork, digital files can be stored in a way that can be simple to navigate, and more accessible to all employees. Confidential information can be stored in separate folders, and access to these can be restricted on a need-to-know basis.
  • If your business is international, going paperless can be a huge advantage. This means that documents and files can be sent to branches or clients in other regions without having to pay huge sums for mailing, or having to wait for the documents to reach. Sending documents by e-mail is quick, and free.

What Can Go Wrong?

Going paperless sounds perfect in theory but there are a few things that can go wrong if you have a paper-free office.

  • Not everyone accepts e-documents as being official and credible. The government, for instance, will require certain forms and documents to be submitted in paper: visa forms, tax returns, etc. Many legal documents require authentic signatures, not digital ones, and can be held valid only on paper.
  • In the case of an electronic problem, like a server malfunction or the breakdown of systems, the management and employees will not be able to access any of the paperwork until the systems are back up and running. This can cause the business huge losses of time and money until the problem is rectified.
  • For smaller businesses, ensuring the safety and protection of paper documents is more difficult, compared to the protection of e-documents. Paper documents can be kept in a locker with only a trusted person authorised to access it. E-documents, on the other hand, can be e-mailed or taken away by the employees, and this may cause breach of confidentiality.
  • While going paperless can save a lot of money, it also means a substantial initial investment. Some businesses carry out certain tasks manually, and computers will have to be introduced to digitise all data. This can also be difficult because the staff may not have the skills to work on a computer, and will require additional training.

So, are we ready for a Paperless Office?

Every improvement in technology brings about a debate: is it better than the older system? How is it possible to upgrade to it? Going paperless has several advantages, but there can be several disadvantages too. It is not possible to digitise all office procedures overnight. Nor are e-documents accepted in all situations. The in-between solution, and the one that businesses can start implementing now, is to digitise all documents that do not need to be printed out, and keep the process on. The day may come when all documents are accepted in digital format, and moving onto a paperless office will be a lot easier then.

Written By: Nathan Morgan has been a IT professional for 14 Years his work is currently focused on Linux servers, he is experienced in methods of encryption including True Crypt and other alternatives, he has a great depth of knowledge in document scanning solutions including both off line and digital data.

About the Author Staff Writer

Our staff writers come from all over the world, but one thing unites them - their passion for sustainability.

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3 comments
Mark Altman says February 15, 2015

I think many organisations are ready and able to go paperless – I would have said the main benefit to be derived is from paperless processing. The medium of paper is still considered more convenient in many contexts but the time wasted checking, routing, extracting information and updating other systems is where the real savings can be seen … all of these tasks can be automated with affordable technology today … with the environmental benefit as a bonus.

Also, the issue of security should be enhanced by electronic document storage – you can keep backups but also allow or deny access and then track who has done what and when – much better than a filing cabinet.

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