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Is the Paperless Office Possible?

Wadih Pazos October 1, 2021

Is the paperless office possible?
Document Management
The concept of a paperless office is nothing new. But as of now, for most businesses, it’s still just that, a concept and not a fully realized idea. Heavy paper usage is still the norm at many companies, which has led some to call the paperless office a myth or a fantasy.

CTV reported that the concept of a paperless office goes back at least to the 1970s but we haven’t seen businesses put it completely into practice. In fact, most offices have actually increased their paper usage in the past 40 years.

“At one point, we did realize that in this business, the computer age was coming. However, we find that the paper has not depleted as much as what we’d anticipated it to be,” Bob Wallace, a Wasteco general manager, said to CTV. Wasteco is a document shredding and waste collection company in Toronto, Canada.

Recently, however, the ubiquity of cloud computing has made the paperless office less pipe-dream and more reality, according to Farm Futures. Whether you believe that the paperless office can become a reality or not, however, some tenets of the idea have indisputable benefits for a company.

Big Island Now reported that Hawaiian Governor David Ige is putting some of the ideas of a paperless office into place in his own office with electronic signatures and document processing replacing the older hard-copy methods the governor’s office has been using for years. Government departments that formerly submitted paper documents to the governor will now do so through an electronic form. Once they are electronically signed by Governor Ige they are then encrypted and sent to their destination.

This won’t signal the death of paper at the governor’s office. There will still likely be some documents that reach his desk in traditional paper form, but the move to a standardized system of electronic document management is being made in the name of sustainability and waste reduction according to Big Island Now.

Drawbacks of paper

Paper served an important role in the office for hundreds of years, as it has always been the best medium for record keeping and passing messages between employees. But now, with the computer firmly entrenched as a basic office tool, that simply just isn’t true anymore

Farm Progress reported that there are many drawbacks to using a traditional paper filing system. Paper can be misfiled, making important documents hard to find. Even if the document is put in the right place it takes time, to manually search through filing cabinets to find the correct file.

Paper also takes up an immense amount of the physical space in an office. Farm Progress noted that K&K Farm Enterprises in Logansport, Ind. went paperless after running out of space for filing cabinets. The company was looking into expanding its office space to accommodate the overflow when a business partner suggested that investigating a paperless system would help the company achieve its goals instead. The switch allowed K&K to move its files to a computer system and cut its ink and paper usage by a third, the source reported.

What is needed to go paperless?

According to Farm Progress, there are three things any company – from a farm to a high tech giant – needs to make the transition to a paperless model. First, the source explained the business will need a way to create and capture electronic documents, like a computer and a scanner. The scanner replaces the need to manually file each document received, saving time and space.

Secondly, it needs to get good document management software to handle storage, archiving and searchability of the newly digitized files, Farm Progress suggested. Without management software, a batch of computer files is as hard, or harder to sift through than a traditional filing cabinet. But with a good document management solution searching hundreds or thousands of files is as simple as typing the search terms you need.

Lastly, a company needs a place to store files. This can be as simple as a computer or external hard drive for a small business, or as complex as a server or cloud based storage for a company with much more to handle, the source pointed out. Though these storage solutions do take up some space, they can store exponentially more files in a much smaller package. For instance, the source reported that K&K was able to store 8,000 files in less than 1 percent of a 1-terabyte hard drive.

While it’s probably impossible for most companies to go completely paperless in their office, a move in that direction can save time and space. With employees focusing less of their time on document processing and searching, they can focus more on doing the work that keeps a business going and less on tedious administrative tasks. The paperless office may be a pipe-dream, but an office that uses less paper is an achievable goal for any company.

Wadih Pazos

Wadih founded both PairSoft and PaperSave. He is an avid technologist who specializes in streamlining operations and maximizing productivity.

View all posts by Wadih Pazos
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