A level of comfort in the familiarity of old habits, a sense of overwhelm at the thought of tackling difficult jobs, and a resistance to change are all common reasons why business leaders decide not to take their operations paperless. Unfortunately for those leaders, their lack of preparation in a period of digital disruption may come at a hefty price.
Though the amount of effort and implementation costs for going paperless may seem intimidating, successful integration of a paperless approach to business can yield many benefits.
Speed is the new currency of business, and going paperless at the office is one of the most efficient ways to increase your business velocity. The high rate of interconnectivity in today’s market has made consumers expect near-instant results, which can be difficult to deliver when your employees need to sift through hardcopy documents to deliver a service. Some studies indicate that employees of companies that rely on paper may spend up to 30 percent of a workday organizing or searching through documents.
Going paperless improves document organization at your office, allowing employees faster access to invoices, receipts, and other personal data needed to provide services to clients. Your firm’s ability to negotiate and execute a speedy service can mean the difference between being a competitive company and losing sales to your business rivals.
Your rate of business velocity is also affected by the speed with which your staff members communicate among themselves and how quickly the chain of communication reaches you. An efficient business leader delegates decision-making responsibilities to qualified employees, but problems will still rise from the bottom of the office hierarchy, requiring the attention of those at the top.
This is also an aspect of business where a paperless approach can give your company an edge. Digitizing your internal documents makes them easily shareable, whether via e-mail or through document-sharing applications integrated into popular e-mail platforms. E-mailing relevant notes and files about an issue that requires the direction of management saves time by diminishing the need to track down a supervisor who may be out of the office, in a meeting, or elsewhere in the office building.
Additionally, document-sharing applications allow multiple employees to work on, edit, and discuss a single document simultaneously. This can enhance the efficiency of projects by eliminating many of the distractions that come with physical meetings.
The initial investment required to create a paperless office will incur costs for necessary transitional elements, like data storage, software, and conversion services. Some businesses will also need to direct scanning responsibilities to its employees, which can seem like a sizeable time investment for any business that has relied heavily on paper in the past.
Despite the initial price tag, a paperless office will reduce operational costs, such as purchases for office supply items like paper, printer ink, envelopes, and postage. Perhaps the most cost-effective element of paperless operations is the amount of time your employees will save when not required to coordinate paper bill pay, checks, invoices, or hardcopy document deliveries. The time that your staff does not spend organizing and searching through paper is time that they can direct their talents to more important tasks within the company.
With the increase in data breaches over the last few years, the idea that a paperless office can enhance data security may seem counterintuitive, but it’s actually your best bet for high-level protection. The interconnectivity of devices is still in its early phases, but year after year new and better security systems are implemented. Conversely, any sensitive information documented on paper can be lost, stolen from filing cabinets, or destroyed in accidents like fires or floods.
Opting for a paperless office increases your data security by allowing you to control who sees what information within your company. Sensitive data can be secured through multi-tiered security approaches, and employees can be given access on a need-to-know basis. Additionally, digitized data can be backed up and stored through cloud computing or on off-site hard drives, which is a solid precaution against the loss of valuable documents.
Traditional business methods typically require employees to work at a company’s physical location in order to achieve maximum operational efficiency. Relying on paper documents stored in one office limits the amount of work you and your staff can perform when out of the office.
With a paperless business approach, employees have no obstacles in the way of achieving usual levels of efficiency from offsite locations, which helps your company maintain business velocity no matter where your employees work from. All content needed to attain usual levels of productivity can be accessed with the click of a button when company tools and files are stored within the cloud. Companies like DocuSign even allow you to sign legally binding documents from your computer.
A company that relies on paper needs a secure place to store the many pages of documents created as a result of its daily operations. While a single sheet of paper is not difficult to store, the secure filing cabinets that many business owners rely on for storage can take up many square feet of office space. Too many pieces of office equipment in a small space can cut into the efficiency of your office floor plan, or even require you to spend more on rent for a larger building.
Paperless operations can give you more options for floorplan layout and increase the number of employees you are able to hire for work at a single location. Additionally, it frees up desk space, which research indicates can increase levels of productivity and efficiency for employees—and profitability for your business.