Paper recycling is a commendable practice, but the most effective way to eliminate any problem is to make sure it doesn’t arise in the first place. The environmental challenge of reducing waste is no different – if businesses stop producing tonnes of paperwork, we won’t have to find solutions for the devastating impact that paper production, processing, distribution and disposal has on the environment.

Mind-blowing paper stats:
– It takes 250 trees to make 1 million sheets of paper.
– Businesses generate 200 billion documents for customers every year – and it’s growing by around 22% every year.
– 45% of paperwork produced ends up in the garbage.
– Each four-drawer filing cabinet holds 10,000 to 12,000 documents, takes up to 9 square feet of floor space and costs $1,500 per year.
– More than 70% of businesses would fail within three weeks if they suffered a catastrophic loss of paper-based records due to fire or flood.

Good for business

As well as all the compelling environmental reasons to go paperless, it’s a savvy business move too. First, there’s the money saved on paper, printers, ink and toner, and the office space saved by ditching those huge filing cabinets. Businesses and customers alike benefit from greater mobility when they are able to access documents online, anytime, anywhere. Staff become more productive when they have to spend less time creating, searching for and mailing documents. Turnaround times improve as documents can be created, sent, received and returned with a few clicks of the mouse. Documents can be securely backed up and held in a central repository…. the list goes on…

Ready to get on board? Here are some tips to help the journey to your paperless business go smoothly ….

Lead by example

Going paperless has to begin with management taking the initiative – setting clear goals and facilitating staff achieving them. But it’s not enough to talk the talk. It’s crucial that employees see their managers actually make the transition to electronic systems, if they are to follow.

Take the path of least resistance

As with any major change, you’re bound to get some push back. The best way to overcome it is to communicate, consult and demonstrate: let your staff know what changes are planned; ask them about their concerns and fears; and show them how going paperless will save them time and effort. Publishing news of your achievements internally, or instituting some kind of an incentive scheme, can help sustain staff enthusiasm as time goes on.

Assemble your paperless toolkit

There are various digital document management systems available, some with specific value-added features that might be relevant to the particular needs of your business – such as offering a certain level of storage capacity, a reporting functionality, or a relevant number of users. It’s worth taking time to do your research, making a list of the tools that are essential, beneficial and ‘nice to have’, and using your checklist to identify the system that is right for you.

Roll up your sleeves

The first step in putting in place your new paperless regime should be to define – by date, type, team or other relevant factor – which physical documents will be transferred to the cloud. Do you really need to keep documents that are more than 10 or 20 years old? Do regulations dictate that some documents simply have to be held in hard copy form? Once you know which paper documents can be digitized, break down the task of doing so into teams or departments, setting a deadline for each one and following up with them to see how they are doing.

Let your clients know

We’ve talked about employee buy-in, but going paperless affects your clients too. Let them know what you’re doing, pre-empt any concerns they may have about data security, and explain how they will benefit from the move. To ease the transition, consider making an advice service available to answer any queries they have.

Keep up the good work

Once you have switched to paperless, upkeep should be fairly effortless. The key to your success here is to minimize printing altogether. A document generation app like Docomotion will help you do this. You can generate a huge range of documents in different formats and send them out electronically, together with any necessary attachments. Then, the recipient can review the document, correct it, sign it and return it to you – all without printing a single page!