Paper filesThe idea of the “paperless office” is by no means a new phenomenon. The term can be traced back at least as far as a 1978 Micronet Inc. publication, and the concept itself has persisted in the minds of those looking for the best ways to revolutionise the contemporary workspace near-enough ever since. Although far from being a ubiquitous philosophy — a great many organisations still depend somewhat heavily on paper and associated products, a state of affairs that has led the more cynical among us to brand the paperless approach as nothing more than a “myth” — more recent years have seen a gradual increase in those adopting the ideals favoured by proponents of the paperless view. Maximising the amount of workplace operations handled digitally offers a number of benefits that can’t really be disputed, and as more and more people begin to realise this, it stands to reason that in the near future we will begin to see more and more companies moving towards the paperless office.

There are some cold, hard facts about the use of paper copies in the office environment that simply cannot be argued with. Once a document is printed on paper, it immediately becomes out of sync with the digitised original; in order to reflect any changes at the source another copy must be produced. Whilst this may seem like a relatively minor effort in and of itself, repeated instances cause the impact of relying on paper copies — both in an environmental and a financial sense — to quickly add up, fast becoming a wholly preventable blight on the efficiency of your office. Sorting and searching through sizeable collections of paper documents is a task that can generally only be accomplished manually, in an amount of time vastly longer than searching an electronic database would take; costs in terms of both time and money can be greatly reduced by making use of a digitised document storage system.

Eliminating paper use going forward is, however, just one aspect of the move towards the ideal “paperless office”. A big part of making the transition to the digital workplace is the digitisation of existing documents. Traditional media — paper copies, microfiche, etcetera — requires a variety of solutions (most of which feature some kind of a scanning component) to be digitised properly, and the number of man-hours needed to diligently complete such a task is bound to be significant, especially if your company has been historically paper-oriented and has as such amassed a vast collection of hard copy documents to be digitised. Fortunately, however, there are companies out there that specialise in providing such a service, and this route may be more desirable for those more discerning office managers who lack (or would like to achieve the end product whilst minimising the expenditure incurred by the process) the resources to accomplish a transition internally. This approach vastly reduces the loss of productivity that can be associated with mass digitisation, and is definitely an option that should be considered in any case.

Although the conversion process itself can certainly be time- and resource-intensive, the benefits offered by a successful transition are such that it definitely merits consideration. Although difficulties can arise in terms of external communication with organisations yet to “see the light” of the paperless office, you are sure to find that internal operations — in both a day to day sense and in terms of the bigger picture – within your own office run much more efficiently, whilst simultaneously making a serious dent in the carbon footprint of your business; it really is a win-win move with a list of benefits that significantly outweighs the time and labour costs of implementing them. Although the days of universally paperless offices may still be a little way away, you can definitely take steps to make your own organisation one of the pioneers of a movement that is sure to take off in the coming years; as more and more people catch on and begin to reap the benefits for themselves then the notion of the “office of the future” could become a reality sooner than we might think. Don’t you want to be ahead of the curve?