Achieving a Paperless Office: Objectives and Strategies

Achieving a Paperless Office: Objectives and Strategies

Around the globe, human beings print 4.4 million pages – a length of 39 football fields – every minute. If you work in an office, you know what happens to most of those pages. You might carry them out of a meeting or even to your car but within a few hours, they’re going in the trash. In an increasingly digital and remote work environment, ditching these wasteful practices and achieving a paperless office has never made more sense – or been more feasible – than it is today.

In 2022, a third of U.S. office employees now have permanent arrangements to work at least part of the time from home. As this trend shows no sign of abating, offices must adapt their practices to maintain workflows digitally rather than by passing paper around documents hand to hand. Recent developments in document management software and cloud-based remote access have made this adaptation both possible and increasingly affordable for businesses of all sizes who choose to go paperless.

In this guide, you’ll learn what objectives to set for a paperless office and strategies to help you achieve it.

Key Takeaways:

  • Achieving a paperless office is an important and attainable objective for businesses of all sizes and industries. 
  • The benefits of going paperless outline four critical objectives. 
  • Regardless of the scale of your needs, you can employ four fundamental strategies to achieve paperless operations.

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4 Objectives for Your Paperless Office

Most businesses still rely heavily on paper processes. 97% have minimal digital document processes in practice. Going paperless means changing processes and habits for people at all levels of your organization. Before you set sweeping reforms in motion, you should have a clear vision of what you can achieve in the process.

Charts indicating the state of paper processes in businesses
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In any office context, investing the time and resources necessary to convert paper to digital processes returns four measurable benefits. These benefits should define your paperless office objectives.

1. Reduce Time Wasted 

Creating, filing, and retrieving paper documents all take more time than conducting those processes digitally. Without comprehensive search capabilities, office employees tend to spend more time searching for information they should already have than communicating with those who need it.

When you evaluate where and how your office currently uses paper, you should especially consider junctures where implementing paperless workflows will reduce your overall time-loss in document management. If your business has a significant number of remote employees, ensuring that all files necessary to their day-to-day tasks are retrievable in a digital repository will dramatically improve your workflows. 

2. Reduce Human Errors in Your Files

Unlike digital assets, paper documents represent a chance for costly human error at every stage of handling. The expenses of dirty data accumulate over time.

  • Paper documents can’t receive oversight without physical circulation, increasing the chances originals will contain errors.
  • As much as 7.5% of paper documents get lost in the hand-to-hand shuffle on their way to filing.
  • Paper filing systems can’t be updated to reflect improvements and will contain existing filing errors until the entire system is replaced.

3. Improve Document Security

Paper document security controls cannot account for copies once they have been circulated – even in closed meetings. A quarter of employees working remotely still routinely discard work-related documents in their personal trash bins. 

Carelessness and waste disposal represent recurring risks to any sensitive information distributed in hard copies. Likewise, paper archives cannot keep accurate records of who has accessed or copied what.

Going paperless restricts document distribution to authorized access points. Employees may still share information that they should not but only by conscious choice to do so and not simply by forgetting photocopies on a conference table or neglecting to shred paper waste. Any digital system you put in place of paper processes will also give you the ability to maintain comprehensive records of what users upload, edit, or retrieve.

4. Improve Records Management Practices

Digitally archiving your records mitigates two persistent risks of paper record storage.

  • Prolonged Retention: In many industries such as finance and healthcare, businesses create records that they have legal rights to hold only for limited periods. Ensuring that all records of this type are expunged in a timely fashion often costs so much in time and labor that businesses are willing to accept the risks.
  • Inability to Prepare for Audits: Audit preparation can test your office’s ability to deliver accurate records under time constraints. 

4 Strategies for Achieving a Paperless Office

Regardless of where your business currently stands in the paperless process, four key strategies will keep you on the right path to achieving your objectives.

1. Map Existing Paper Processes

Going paperless involves introducing new technologies to your workflows. To prioritize where and to whom those technologies should be delivered first, you will need an overhead perspective on how different parts of your office currently handle different kinds of documents. With your existing paper processes mapped, you can eliminate more costly wasteful practices before tackling lesser priorities.

2. Map Existing Document Storage

Depending on your industry, how long your office has been around, and what kind of records you need to retain long-term, your office may have anywhere from a few filing cabinets to multiple warehouses of existing paper documents to convert. A proper audit of where you fall on this spectrum is a necessary first step in deciding what methods to use. 

3. Invest in Optical Character Recognition

Optical character recognition (OCR) automates the conversion of printed text to digital file types and, in some cases, can even automate the indexing of scanned documents by pattern recognition and machine translation. For small businesses with limited budgets or large corporations with large volumes of paper to convert, automation with OCR drastically scales down the cost of going paperless.

Graph indicating OCR workflows.
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4. Design Tiers of Authorization

As you begin to convert paper processes and existing storage to digital formats, you should establish in advance the authorization protocols you want to govern your eventual paperless operations. This will eliminate much unnecessary backtracking further down the road.

Automated Routing and Batch OCR Software with FileCenter

Converting, naming, and routing files in the process of going paperless can quickly become a tedious, repetitive burden for your employees whose time could be better spent on other tasks. FileCenter Automate has a software solution for this problem, making scans searchable and their contents automatically indexed.

Download a free demo of FileCenter Automate today.