More than three decades into the information era, one would think we would be closer to the “paperless office” I wrote about for Forbes in 2013. Yet we’re still stocking our offices with paper and using enough of it to reach halfway to the moon (move over, Elon Musk).
Just last year, data surfaced that, globally, we used more than 400 million metric tons of paper. And here’s the kicker: the United Nations predicted that paper usage is expected to rise by 50%. The average employee is now using more than 10,000 sheets of paper a year ($80-$100 worth), and once you add in the costs of toner, energy, employee time spent printing, filing and searching for documents, etc., this use can really add up for both the environment and your company’s wallet. In fact, the average enterprise wastes $2.5m-$3.5m per year just searching for information and re-creating lost documents.
The data speaks: paper is robbing us of our productivity. Not to mention, Pulp and Paper is the 3rd largest industrial polluter of air, water, and soil. With chlorine-based bleaches being used during paper production, toxic materials are being released into our air, water supply, and soil. Which begs the question: “What’s paper really costing us?” and “And what can we do to run a leaner, greener business?”
Equip our organizations with digital resources, tools, and training. Yes, it’s a positive move for the environment, and for reducing your office’s carbon footprint – but going paperless or ‘paper-light’ can save your organization a pretty penny and makes you and your team more efficient. Thanks to lightweight technologies, companies can cut paper out of their daily routine to drive productivity and reduce their environmental impact.
So, here are five tips for taking control of your productivity (and budget) back:
1. Perform a company-wide paper audit.
Review your paper-related expenses and usage with your CPA or office manager — or you can use a paper calculator for an expense snapshot. Once you have a ballpark figure in hand, you can begin to craft an actionable plan to trim the excess.
2. Scan and recycle existing paper files.
Costs associated with paper go beyond purchasing reams of copy and printer paper. Maintaining the average file storage cabinet can cost your company upwards of $8,000 while electronic records management systems cost less than one-fifth their physical paper counterparts. Convert paper files to a digital format using a professional scanning service that’s equipped to make light work of the task for you (and can recycle the archived files). Moving forward, implement a digital document management system.
3. Equip your employees with the proper resources and training.
More than 33% of U.S. employees report they haven’t taken steps to advance their digital skills in the past year. Drive efficiency and skill level by providing employees with the resources they need to run a leaner, low-waste operation. Invest in continuing education as part of your organization’s initiative to stay one step ahead of the competition and produce a more efficient workforce.
4. Implement digital signature policies.
With data showing that digital signatures reduce document turnaround time by a whopping 80%, organizations would be remiss not to implement digital signature policies and upgrade their technologies to include lightweight pdf editors for ease of editing, securing, and sharing documentation. Install editing programs and create a permissions framework to reduce turnaround time, increase efficiency, and reduce paper waste.
5. Ask your organization to go green. Not the one calling the shots? Launch a campaign to motivate your employer to invest in paperless and sustainable business practices. Volunteer to formulate a simple ‘sustainable practices’ strategy to result in three short-term sustainability wins. For your organization, that may look like #PaperlessFriday, converting all inbound and outbound invoices to paperless, or Feng Shui the office to make printing more inconvenient and simultaneously, the space more harmonious. Track paper usage before and after the implementation of paper-light practices and present the data to higher-ups within the organization; monetize the win to amplify the impact of your data findings.
Moral of the story? Paper doesn’t have to come at such a high cost. While a 100% paperless office might not be passible, motivating our organizations to to implement ‘paper-light’ practices and equipping them with greener printers, proper resources, and education are steps in the right direction for both the planet and your business’ bottom line.