From ATMs to mobile apps, sophisticated digital technologies and internet services allow us to live virtually paper-free! Happily, it’s possible to introduce that same level of paperless convenience into your own business platform. Manual transactions and documentation are inefficient and costly. But cloud computing, digital document management, and other forms of office automation are making it relatively easy for companies to benefit from a paperless workplace.
And that’s important.
Because according to 2016 paper consumption statistics, the average US office worker uses some 10,000 sheets of paper every year! While it would be rare to eliminate all paper from the typical office environment, the more of your workflow you can automate, the better off both the environment and your bottom line will be.
Don’t Let Your Business Get Bogged Down by Paper
The pursuit of paperless solutions in the workplace can cut overhead costs and boost employee efficiency.
Setting the obvious cost of all that paper aside, consider the following scenario.
A customer calls your paper-based business to question an invoice. Your employee puts the customer on hold, walks to the file storage area, locates the document in question, walks back to their desk, and resumes their conversation. Sometimes that same customer will request a copy of their invoice or some other type of supporting documents. These will need to be found and faxed, or copied and mailed. And once the issue has been resolved, everything will need to be refiled.
A simple customer query can consume enormous amounts of time. But you can avoid all this by introducing basic digitalization into various areas of your business. Some of these areas may include (but are certainly not limited to):
- Document storage, retrieval, and forwarding,
- Accounting, and
- Customer relationship management (CRM)
Some of your clients or suppliers may not be set up to exchange bills and payments electronically. There may even be security issues surrounding the storage of digital files within specific industries. But for the most-part, switching to a paperless office in some form is doable if you tackle it a step at a time.
When the Pros of Paperless Outweigh the Cons
Before we consider the inherent advantages of a paperless business platform, let’s get the downside out of the way. Here are some of the negatives associated with striving for a digital workflow:
- you may need to purchase advanced hardware, software, and regular upgrades,
- training employees in new procedures can take time and persistence,
- you may need to hire internal or external IT personnel,
- network security, computer viruses, and privacy issues become a greater cause for concern, and
- the initial migration of your office systems can sometimes be expensive and time-consuming
Every business owner must weigh the pros of a paperless approach against potential pitfalls like these. But remember: “paperless” is a spectrum. It’s up to you to determine how much digitalization is right for the size and nature of your company.
Now let’s take a look at some of the benefits you can expect to enjoy when you take steps to green your business.
To begin with, reducing unnecessary paper processes reduces your organization’s carbon footprint. It’s also one of the best ways to cut expenses related to office supplies (think postage, envelopes, toner, and equipment maintenance), and to ramp up productivity in the workplace. Here are some additional factors for you to consider:
- It’s been estimated that accessing, managing, and exchanging paper documents can chew up more than six hours of a typical employee’s work week. That’s an awful lot of time that could be invested in tasks that generate income for your business.
- Going digital can help your business organize and consolidate supplier payments. Better control can lead to more streamlined invoice approvals, more timely payables, and the chance to capitalize on early payment discounts and preferred pricing opportunities.
- Our earlier example showed how inefficient paper document storage and handling can lead to lengthier query resolutions. But it can also result in inferior customer service and inefficient communication in the workplace.
- A more efficient workplace makes for happier personnel. It’s been widely demonstrated that the more capable employees feel when carrying out their duties, the more motivated their performance becomes.
- Less physical file storage space can mean cost savings where square footage leasing is concerned. There’s also a much lower chance that documents will go missing when they’re filed electronically.
- A digital environment generates opportunities for working remotely and for promoting flexible schedules. This can greatly improve efficiency and may attract better quality job applicants.
- Reducing your dependence on paper is a key consideration when it comes to recovering from an unexpected disaster like flood, theft, or fire. And clients tend to look more favorably on companies that make efforts to reduce their environmental impact.
Going digital means your business can benefit from the integration of software platforms like Salesforce and QuickBooks. Electronic databases improve workplace organization and provide a detailed view into your company’s processes and progress. They also allow you to set up workflows where time-sensitive tasks are streamlined and crucial employee reminders and notifications are triggered automatically.
Adopting a paperless business platform can take time, so don’t be afraid to start slow. After all, with the US consuming a staggering 9,125,000,000 tons of paper each year, even the simplest of changes can help your business become part of the solution.