Want to Go Paperless in 2023? Here’s How
January 13th 2023
Gartner Inc. estimated that buying, using, and storing paper documents costs an average business 3% of its revenue—and that was 10 years ago. The cost today is likely even higher.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that the average office worker goes through 10,000 sheets of paper a year and that the cost of using paper is 13 to 31 times the original cost. And if that weren’t bad enough, years ago Xerox reported that nearly half of all documents are thrown away within 24 hours.
For both cost and environmental reasons, businesses in a wide range of industries are now taking aggressive steps to reduce their reliance on paper. You’ve probably already received notices from your bank, mortgage, and credit card companies asking you to opt into paperless statements. Sending out tens of thousands of emails is much more efficient and cost-effective than printing and mailing hard copies.
If time and money savings appeal to you, here are some steps your business can take to reduce your use of and reliance on paper this year:
Don’t print it out
Start by watching your printer usage. With communication going electronic—meaning messages are more commonly sent via email and direct messaging than using physical mail—you have an opportunity to cut back on paper usage simply by keeping electronic documents in the cloud rather than converting them to hardcopy.
Read communiques online. If you have to sign a document, use an electronic signature rather than printing, signing, scanning, and emailing back. If someone sends you an interesting article or report to read, peruse it online instead of printing it.
Break the habit of instinctively printing documents out that don’t need to exist in physical form.
Store it in the cloud
When you receive material you want to be able to refer to later, don’t print it out and place it in a paper filing folder in your office. Instead, save it in an online filing folder that you can pull up later on your computer.
Convert your metal filing cabinets to digital ones by using online storage services like Google Drive, Box, and Dropbox.
Likewise, when you receive paper documents and want to be able to store and retrieve them later electronically, scan them.
Using a physical scanner that you keep near your desk, or an app like Genuis Scan on your phone, convert your notices, reports, memos, drafts, and other papers to electronic form and then recycle the pages (unless you’re required to keep original signatures). Once in electronic form, you can easily email documents to others as well as store them for easy retrieval later.
One of the fears paper hold-outs express is the ability to quickly find important papers; they are afraid that a change to their organizational process may make information harder to find. When documents are in hardcopy and filed alphabetically in a filing cabinet, tracking them down is pretty simple. Fortunately, there are now software programs that will serve the same purpose, but in the cloud.
Evernote and OneNote are two big players in this field, both of which allow you to capture images of online information and store it in online folders. You can capture images of web pages, reports, articles, and other published materials, as well as your own documents.
As you start to convert printed pages to digital form, you’ll be left with hardcopies of documents you no longer need. If they are sensitive or business confidential, you’ll want to first shred them, and then recycle them. If you have shredding to do in bulk, Staples and other office service providers will take care of it for a fee.
If you’re considering storing important documents off-site, keep in mind that there is a cost to that as well, which can range from $6 to $10+/year per box, according to RecordNations.
Companies are increasingly recognizing how much more efficient their operations can be without stacks of papers cluttering their desks, filing cabinets, and mailrooms. Can you picture what your office would look like without paper in it?