For decades we’ve talked about the somewhat mythical idea of a paperless office – a business where every form of accounting, marketing, advertising, and networking is done via virtual platforms. But here we are, preparing to enter 2017, and the idea of going totally paperless still seems far-fetched. Is it even practical?
The Feasibility of a Paperless Office
The idea of going paperless was first realistically discussed in the 1980s, which was well before the dawn of the mainstream internet. So, it’s not like this is some newfangled pursuit that people are throwing around. It’s something that’s been discussed for years and will be for many years to come.
The problem is that many businesses have points in their supply chains or workflows where analog and digital processes collide. In many instances, the technological infrastructure simply doesn’t exist for replacing the analog. In other instances, paper is simply superior.
“In many settings, paper will long remain the most practical choice for capturing information,” industry expert Kuang Chen admits. “In some situations, it is the only choice: paper does not break, run out of batteries, risk security breaches, or need upgrading.”
There’s also the comfort and convenience factor that comes with paper. Many people prefer to jot down quick notes, hold a paper calendar, or remind themselves of important tasks with sticky notes.
Sure, there are apps that replace these habits, but they aren’t the same.
What Leading Businesses are Doing
While it’s possible that a paperless office exists somewhere in the very distant future, it’s better for businesses to spend time focusing on ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle paper. This is a more feasible objective – and here are some of the things leading businesses are doing to make it happen:
- Take Marketing Online
One of the easiest ways to reduce your paper consumption is to move all of your marketing and advertising efforts online. Mailers and other print marketing materials aren’t very effective anymore, so you might as well shift your attention to social media and digital marketing. This is something business consultant Sam Ovens has done, using Twitter as one of his primary channels for disseminating content and engaging clients.
- Turn to Paperless Invoicing
Not only are paper statements and invoices wasteful, but they’re also cumbersome. There are dozens of digital invoicing platforms available – therefore, you should move all of your bill paying and invoicing to the cloud.
When you go paperless in this area, you’re able to speed up payment times, save money on postage, and keep track of documentation and records with much less effort. It’s really a no-brainer.
- Empower Your Employees
“Consider a dual or multi-monitor setup,” says expert Paul Mah. “One common reason that workers print documents is the need to cross-reference them with another document. You can reduce wasteful printing by setting up a multi-monitor workstation. Giving employees two (or three) screens provides more digital real estate and offers a productivity boost at the same time.”
You should also place restrictions on printing and copying to make your employees think twice about printing. Many companies use weekly and monthly caps.
Do What You Can
Is a paperless office practical for your business in 2017? In all likelihood, the answer is no, but it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing attempt. It’s better to go paperless in some areas than not at all. Start virtualizing what you can and take baby steps. Eventually, you’ll find yourself in a position where going paperless looks more possible. It probably won’t be this year, but who says it can’t be the next year – or the year after that?