Way back in 1975, an American Business Week article boldly predicted that workplaces would be entirely paperless by the early 1990s. Fast-forward 40 years and the office of the future isn’t quite as they predicted – or at least, my desk still seems to attract piles of paper through the course of each sales month. And that doesn’t even compare to our finance department and their endless paper trails.
Still, I can’t deny the digital revolution is slowly starting to make its way through New Zealand with more companies wanting to put aside ink and paper and seek higher tech solutions. With the office of the future just around the corner, are we looking at the end of paper’s long and illustrious run in the workplace?
On the plus side, like the digitisation of phone books, maps and magazines, there is a lot to say about the benefits of attempting to adopt a paper free approach in your workplace.
Paper-free = environmentally friendly?
When considering the benefits of reducing the amount of paper used, many people instantly assume it will be a load off the company’s environmental conscience. But in New Zealand, our paper is actually sourced from a renewable production forest resource, and approximately 65% of all paper we use is recovered and recycled by the industry. We also follow stringent international standards to ensure paper suppliers can always trace the species of wood back to a sustainable, renewable forest. So if paper isn’t really as bad for the environment as we originally believed, what other compelling reasons are there for Kiwi businesses to transition to electronic alternatives? The truth is, the real benefits of paper free workplaces lie in the efficiency, security and cost reductions that follow the switch.
Digitised resources mean information can be stored on secure servers and accessed almost immediately, saving time and removing the need for physical filing systems that take up an unnecessary amount of space. In an age of information overload where we need answers - and we need them now - trawling through physical bits of information just isn’t the way to go. Instead, information can be easily accessed by the relevant people in an instant, from any location, giving organisations the opportunity to be more agile, intelligent and responsive in their everyday business.
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Workflows that work.
Digitisation can also lead to more streamlined workflows with reduced bottlenecks. Imagine getting that important client the information they require instantly without going through the usual chain of command that takes up to three working days. Processes would eventually become less arduous, giving you the time to focus more on the bigger picture. The question remains; if paper free workplaces are so promising in theory, why aren’t they more prevalent?
The problem with paper-free.
The crux of the situation is that print and paper will be part of the way we do business, at least for the foreseeable future. The necessity of tangible offerings are undeniable, be it a promotional brochure for your clients or a confidential employee contract that requires you hold onto physical signed copies.
Additionally, digitisation of important files can still lead to the same problems as traditional filing systems if your server is over-crowded and disorganised. We’ve all been there – you were so good at sorting that document into it’s relevant folder, but the sheer amount of information stored on your company’s server means there’s now duplicate folders, broken links and an overload of unnecessary data. A badly planned digital system is just as unhelpful as a filing cabinet brimming with a chaotic mess of folders. Add to this the issue of changing systems that employees have grown used to after years of doing things the ‘tried and tested’ way, the initial cost of investing in new software solutions, and the prospect of training potentially change-resistant employees. Suddenly creating your paper-free haven seems destined for the too hard basket. So how can we make this change to a paper-free workplace a little more comfortable?
Easy does it.
Slow and steady wins the race when it comes to improving your company’s paper usage. Start with small changes, such as using both sides of the paper when printing or requesting electronic invoices and statements where possible. Start to review business processes on a departmental basis to identify those that waste paper. I bet you’ll find it’s not as challenging as you thought to replace these with digital solutions instead.
The Kiwi office of the future may never be entirely paper free, but I hope technology leaders will see this as an opportunity to innovate at the forefront of the revolution. There is a host of spectacular technologies already in the market that can help improve processes and move you one step closer to a paper-free environment. At the end of the day at Sharp, our aim isn’t just to offer print solutions, but rather complete solutions that can enable smarter business practices, remove unnecessary paper usage and so much more.