Ever since the first microfilm machine was rolled off the line 100 years ago, mankind has been striving to achieve the paperless office. If you are too young to remember using microfilm, think of an arcade cabinet, except, instead of Mortal Kombat, documents battle it out over a projected screen. Thankfully, we have come a long way in 100 years.
Digital technology has revolutionized the way the world does paper; a variety of scanners, document sharing software, and backup solutions have almost made paper obsolete. Although, as much as we would love to see a 100% paperless office, the reality is that paper will always be needed to some degree, especially when you consider that you will always have to work with other offices.
One might assume that with all this digital technology the paper industry is a dying field, but this is simply not the case. It would appear that everybody’s favorite paper salesman, Dwight Shrute is doing just fine, and if you mentioned to Dwight that, “The future is paperless,” he would quickly put you in your place by arguing:
False: US offices increase paper consumption by 20% per year.
Fact: The average US office worker uses one sheet of paper every 12 minutes.
Fact: Since the introduction of email, paper consumption for offices increased by 40%.
Fact: I am faster than 80% of all snakes.” (US EPA, Forest Ethics, NBC Universal).
With paper consumption actually growing, it appears that going paperless will not just happen by itself. The paperless office can only be achieved when the decision is made and a solid plan is put into action. The decision part of the paperless equation is easy, the benefits of a paperless office include: better organized documents, saving resources like paper and ink, the security of having your data backed up, freed up storage space, and savings compounding over time. The hard part of the paperless equation is actually doing the work required. Going paperless is a huge logistical undertaking that will put to the test just how much you care about the environment.
As is the case with any new office policy, it is a good idea to first count the cost of going paperless. The expense of upgrading office equipment and software can add up: a backup solution, scanners, shredders, an online fax and contract service, .pdf editing software, laptops or tablet computers, and let’s not forget all the time and energy it takes to complete this extreme office makeover. Also, do not to forget to factor in the cost of training. Once you have an office full of shiny new equipment, everybody now has to learn how use these newfangled contraptions.
You will also want to decide on what to do with your pyramid of boxed up documents stowed away in the office catacombs. Going through everything and scanning each paper is a great idea, but it may or may not be a practical move. Consider how often the files are accessed and how much the storage space is costing you. If the boxes have an inch of dust and storage is a non issue, then it might be better to leave well enough alone, and simply enact a “go-live” date and enforce paperless policies that date forward. Whichever way you go about it, staying resolved with a paperless deadline is the key.
If you and your employees are stretched, and nobody has the time to do the work of going paperless, this is a job that can be outsourced. There are companies that send in specialist to work with you. These folks specialize in the mind numbing work of scanning and organizing. You can even find time after office hours by throwing a “scanning party,” order some pizza, play some music, and huddle around scanners to make the tedius process go faster. Of course, the best course of action is to make a realistic schedule and commit to it until your paperless goal is achieved.
Eventually, going paperless will more than pay for itself. The more you add up the numbers, the more attractive going paperless looks. One convincing figure to budget around is the cost it takes to fill an average four-drawer file cabinet, after all supplies and staff time are accounted for, it adds up to a whopping $26,000!
After all the work has been done, and all the shredded paper has been recycled, it is now time to celebrate your paperless triumph! You can now call yourself a green company – this makes for great PR. If you need any help going paperless, write a letter or send a fax (or just call us at 305-592-5433, if you want to start being eco-concious today!) to your friends at Michell Consulting Group, we will be happy to walk you through this process and provide you with the tools it takes to succeed.