Despite the rapidly increasing rate of technological advancement, the idea of a paperless office seems further away than ever for most businesses. This concept, which was first envisioned by information scientist Frederick Wilfrid Lancaster back in 1978, continues to dumfound business owners who see the eradication of paper as an effective way of lowering both costs and carbon emissions.
While business owners may understand the benefits of a paperless office, however, many become transfixed with this goal without working out exactly how they are going to achieve it. Even though singular innovations such as the eradication of paper tax discs and driving licenses enables organisations to reduce their paper consumption, for example, entrepreneurs need to push themselves further and create a more comprehensive business model that relies solely on digital files.
Managing Expectations and Reducing Your Paper Consumption
Despite growing awareness and numerous digital innovations such as the evolution of the mobile app industry, paper consumption has actually increased by 20% over the last two decades. This supports the idea that business owners are scrambling in the dark when attempting to implement a paperless office as they embark on a destructive cycle of drastically reducing consumption, struggling to manage large data sets digitally before restoring paper files in even greater quantity. Without a clearly defined strategy, your quest to become paperless is doomed to eventual failure.
Perhaps the biggest issue is with the goal in question. After all, attempting to create a paperless office represents a huge challenge, and one that is unlikely to be completed in one fell swoop. Instead, it is far better to manage expectations and create a structured plan that gradually reduces paper consumption without impacting on productivity. Over time, your business will become less reliant on paper files and will record an incrementally improved rate of carbon emissions. It may even ultimately become paperless, so let’s consider the following steps towards achieving this: -
See also: How to Green Your Business
1. Monitor Paper Consumption and Reduce Waste
If you are working towards reducing your paper consumption gradually, you must first understand the extent of your usage. To achieve this, start by tracking the number of pages printed per person in your office, before collating this data in a report. This may require you to partner with an external partner such as Print Inspector, although this can be negated if your capacity to track printing is supported by existing machines and servers.
With this information in hand, you can identify any instances of excess printing or wasted paper, while also highlighting if there are any document types that are printed more frequently. This creates obvious areas where paper consumption can be reduced, while it enables you to focus on making gradual changes that do not impact negatively on the firm.
2. Create an Infrastructure That Supports Paperless Innovations
As you begin to tackle paper consumption issues and implement digital alternatives, your company will become increasingly reliant on technology. This is where a large number of firms fail when they try to create a paperless office, as they struggle to create an infrastructure that supports multiple digital files. Without this, your business will lose efficiency and ultimately find itself returning to paper files in far greater quantity than before.
This process is far reaching, and one that includes both small and complex innovations. A good starting point is to establish multiscreen workstations for your employees, as one of the primary motivations to print is the need to cross-reference digital and paper documents in real time. You will also need to implement a viable document sharing infrastructure, which enables the internal distribution and scanning of digital content.
3. Create a Culture of Awareness and Make it Difficult to Print
With an infrastructure in place, the final challenge you will face is creating a culture of awareness in your office. Not only must employees be given the resources to collate digital rather than paper files, but they must also be encouraged to embrace the idea of a paperless office. This may be challenging at first, which is why you must start by making subtle changes that make it less convenient for staff members to print paper documents.
Simply by keeping the remaining number of printers in your office to a minimum and placing them in central locations, for example, you can successfully challenge the attitude of workers and effectively drive change. This helps to bridge the gap while you educate your employees on the importance of creating a paperless office, implementing a culture that will become second nature over time. Only once this is achieved can you begin to consider becoming a paperless office, as even the greatest infrastructure and business model can be undermined by the attitude of staff members.
See also: 8 Simple Ways to ‘Go Green’ at Work
By adopting a measured approach and gradually implementing these steps, you can reduce the consumption of paper and create a more energy-efficient business. This makes the goal of becoming paperless both achievable and scalable, while it also helps you to manage your expectations and adapt without damaging productivity.