Each year, U.S. offices print out more than one trillion sheets of paper. In many cases, the printed documents are stuck in a file and never looked at again. And when office workers need to reference those printed materials, they usually spend a significant amount of time tracking documents down. When employees are finished with a paper, it’s up to them to return it to the appropriate location in a timely manner, but that doesn’t always happen.
The office of the future is meant to be paperless — with files and documents stored digitally, where they can be accessed from almost anywhere. Among the benefits of going paperless are a reduced environmental footprint, improved office organization and a streamlined workflow. If you are still wondering why companies go paperless or how to make your business more eco-friendly, here are a few positive changes your company can see once it makes the switch to a paper-free workspace.
1. Improves Document Organization
Consider how your company stores its paper documents. Most likely, they are kept in physical file folders and stored in drawers or cabinets. The files might be sorted alphabetically, by client name or chronologically. When you need to access a particular piece of information, someone has to sort through the physical files to retrieve the document.
When you switch to an electronic document retrieval system, you can streamline document organization. Instead of flipping through paper files, looking for one receipt from three years ago, you can use the document retrieval system’s search feature to immediately locate and load the receipt you need. A digital storage system also provides multiple options for opening a file when you need it and allows you to email documents with the click of a mouse.
2. Gives You Easy Access to Your Data
When you switch to a digital system, all you need is an internet connection to retrieve the documents you’re looking for. If you or another employee need to work from home, you don’t have to worry about carrying files between your home and the office. You can avoid getting home only to realize that you left an important document on your office desk. You also won’t need to worry about misplacing important files.
Using an electronic system makes it easy to get your files, and it can also improve your relationships with customers and co-workers. When you can retrieve documents anytime and from anywhere, you can provide a better experience to the clients you work with and collaborate with co-workers seamlessly.
3. Provides Automatic File Backups
Although paper can last for a long time in the right conditions, it is can also be lost easily. A page of an important report or a small receipt can end up in the garbage or can get shredded by accident. If they are not stored in ideal conditions, paper files can become water damaged or sun-damaged. There is also the risk of fire damage if the documents are not kept in a fireproof cabinet.
An electronic document retrieval system tends to be more secure than a paper-based filing system. You have the option of backing up files, storing them in secure, cloud-based servers or storing them on a flash drive or other portable hard drive. You can schedule backups to take place on a regular schedule, minimizing the risk of data loss.
4. Offers an Eco-Friendly Alternative
If your company has been trying to reduce its eco-footprint, you can’t ignore the environmental impact of going paperless. Switching to digital files and cutting down on the amount of paper that comes into and goes out of your office helps the planet in several ways.
First, you can conserve water and reduce greenhouse gases by cutting down on paper use. The process of creating paper is water-intensive and increases the volume of greenhouse gases in the air. More than 47 gallons of water go into the production of one ream of paper, and around 1.5 acres of forest are typically cut down to produce 40 reams of paper. If left intact, those forest acres would be able to continue to absorb carbon, helping to reduce the effects of global warming.
Going paper-free doesn’t just reduce the amount of paper products in your office. It can also cut down on the equipment you need. When everything is electronic, there is less of a need to use printers or copiers. You will save on the financial cost of purchasing and maintaining those devices, as well as on the environmental cost of producing the equipment and safely disposing of it when it has reached the end of its usable life.
5. Boosts Collaboration
Throughout the course of a day, it is likely that many different members of your team will need to access the same files or documents. When those files are all contained in an enterprise content management system, the process of working together becomes streamlined. Employees can share documents with each other as needed and can share legible notes on each file or about each client.
Going digital allows for continued collaboration, even when an essential team member is out sick or away on vacation. Instead of having to track down a file that a team member might have left on their desk or on a shelf in their office, other employees can easily pull it up on their laptops or devices. There is less of a chance of time being lost or people being uncertain about what they need to do on a project when everyone can access the necessary documents.
6. Helps Your Company Save Money
After the upfront investment in a content management system, making the switch to paperless can help your business save money. It reduces the need to purchase paper, as well as the need for filing cabinets and hanging filing folders. Your company may also use less ink or toner in its copiers and printers.
Along with needing fewer suppliers and less equipment, your company can save money when it goes paperless by renting a smaller office space and by discontinuing any offsite storage rentals. Since your team will be printing fewer things — or will completely eliminate printing altogether — your business won’t need to buy as many printers and might notice the printers you have last longer, since they are experiencing less wear and tear.
7. Delivers Data Security
Many businesses are concerned about the safety and security of their private data and information. In the interest of keeping private data private, some companies choose to use paper filing systems for the most confidential information. But paper filing systems aren’t as secure as they might seem. While they cannot be part of a cyber data breach, it is possible for someone to break in and steal physical paperwork stored in an office or at an offsite storage facility.
Electronic content management systems offer multiple security features, designed to keep your company’s data safe and away from prying eyes. Encryption and password protection are just two examples of ways to protect digital data. You can also restrict access to certain files based on an employee’s seniority.
8. Expedites Customer Payments
The benefits of a paperless office extend beyond file storage. When you go paperless, you can also switch to an electronic accounts receivable (AR) system, including AR automation. An AR automation system simplifies the process of sending out invoices to clients. It can email invoices to the appropriate clients. If you have clients who have not gone digital, the system can produce and print physical invoices that can be mailed to them.
AR automation can lead to faster payments from your customers by ensuring clients receive their invoices in a timely fashion and by making it easier for them to pay the invoice. In the case of clients who might miss a payment due date, the system will follow up quickly. The sooner a late notice is sent, the more likely a client is to pay an overdue invoice. Clients are likely to be happier with the service your company provides with a paper-free system, which may prompt them to pay quickly. Happy clients want to maintain relationships with their vendors.
9. Increases Efficiency
A paper-free system is much more efficient than a paper-based one. When things are stored digitally, there is no need to sift through physical files or documents. Finding the information you need becomes much easier. Electronic document storage improves efficiency by reducing or eliminating the time spent creating those paper files. There is also no need to get up and walk over to the filing cabinet or to call the offsite storage facility to request the documents you need.
Another way that going paper-free helps improve efficiency is by allowing you to use keyboard shortcuts to find the information you need and input data. Automating the process of filling in forms saves the time it takes to make the forms and cuts down on the risk of errors in the information.
10. Allows for a Cleaner, More Organized-Looking Office
One of the drawbacks of paper is that it tends to lead to clutter. You pull one client’s file out of the cabinet and suddenly there’s a stack of documents on your desk. Or, it might be that files never get put back where they belong. They end up cluttering tabletops and any other flat surface in the office.
A cluttered office can make it difficult for you to focus on your projects and tasks. It also can send a message to your clients. They might think your company is disorganized or question the quality of service they are going to receive based on the state of your office. Making the move to a paperless office helps to cut down on clutter considerably. All the files you need will be stored digitally, meaning there is no chance they will end up stacked in piles on desks or tables.
11. Enhances Regulation Compliance
Depending on your industry, there might be regulations and rules you need to comply with when it comes to keeping data safe and confidential. For example, health care companies that deal with patient information need to be sure they are following HIPAA regulations. It is often much easier to comply with regulations when you use a digital system rather than a paper-based one.
For instance, under HIPAA, there should be an audit trail that shows who accessed a particular file, and when they accessed it. Although you can attempt to create a similar trail using a paper-based system by asking people to sign out documents, it is much easier to keep track of documents electronically. Using an electronic system instead of a paper-based one also allows you to show your clients the steps you are taking to keep their information secure and to ensure everything you do is in compliance with the rules and expectations of your industry.
12. Gives You Peace of Mind
When you make the switch from a paper-based system to a paperless system, you get to take advantage of cost savings, increased efficiency and improved team collaboration — not to mention the knowledge you are helping to protect the planet. All those benefits work together to give you peace of mind. You can rest easy knowing your company’s most important files are being stored securely and that the risk of them being stolen or otherwise compromised is low. There is also less of a risk of the information being lost when it is stored electronically.
You might find you enjoy coming to the office more after you’ve gone paperless. There won’t be piles of documents cluttering up surfaces or stacks of invoices waiting to be mailed out. You and your team are likely to feel more at ease as you go about your tasks for the day, which can help improve overall office productivity.
Go Paperless With Vanguard Systems
Vanguard ECM is an elite document storage system designed for businesses of any size. If you have been considering making the switch to a paper-free office, Vanguard ECM provides an easy-to-set-up, user-friendly way to make the transition. To learn more about the content management system and to see how your business can benefit from automation and going paperless, schedule a free demonstration today.