A Business Week article published in 1975 forecast that all offices would be entirely digital by the mid 1990’s. Closing in on the last quarter of 2014 it is safe to say we haven’t quite reached that goal.
So why go Paperless?
Did you know that Australians consume on average 210,000 tonnes of office paper annually? What do you think are the costs associated with such an amount?
Initially you may just think of the cost connected with each individual pack of paper that your office uses, but there is more. You must also include costs such as handling, transport, printing, storage and paper disposal. Once you consider these costs, the dollars associated with a paper office quickly add up.
An estimate of the true cost associated with a paper office can be anywhere from 25 times the initial cost of a ream of paper or more! Thus the main benefit of a paperless office is clear; businesses can save a significant amount of money by reducing their paper usage.
What constitutes a Paperless Office?
A paperless office is one where paper is absent or at least greatly reduced, with information stored and transferred electronically.
The Barriers to a Paperless Office
1. Fear of Change
Changing to a paperless system would require large scale change management of the company’s processes, policies and people. Staff may need to be re-educated in how their role is possible without paper and management need to be identify and work through ‘break points’ so that the change management will be effective.
2. Legal Issues
While electronic signatures are legal and binding, there will still be those uncomfortable and mistrusting of this system especially due to issues of security. As software is develop to combat such security problems, resistance may fade but again, change management will be critical in creating company wide acceptance.
In conclusion, although technology is bringing us closer to an office where paper will not be necessary there are still barriers to overcome for companies hoping to embrace the cost saving and environmentally responsible practice. For so long workflows and workplace practices have revolved around and incorporated paper. Therefore it is not simply a transfer from paper to technology for staff, but the adjustment and adoption to new workplace practices as a whole to allow the paperless office to succeed. Firms must have strong and well thought out change management plans in place for such a transition especially to overcome the fore mentioned barriers.