The term paperless office is not something new. The first time it was used was back in 1975 by a man named Vincent E. Giuliano. He predicted that by 1990, most record-handling would be electronic. So why some 45 years on are businesses still not paperless?
The use of paper has become so ingrained into our daily work lives, from making notes to printing documents, it just seems like such a daunting task for businesses to suddenly take it away.
The hard part of transforming into a paperless business is not the paper itself, it’s easy to remove everything paper from the office, the hard part is the people. Winning employees over to the idea of never using paper again can be extremely difficult. Why should they give up paper and never use it again when they have become so used to it and it has helped them do their job so far?
Moving towards a paperless office can be a huge disruption to employees and the business, which is why it is important to not jump straight into the deep end. You need to make a plan that eases everyone into the idea of never using paper again, one that won’t disturb employees’ work.
How to make a paperless office plan and stick to it
A well-thought-out plan is vital to ensuring that going paperless is a smooth process. You want to make a realistic plan, not a plan that says something like;
“We want to become a paperless business in 2 months.”
Yes, technically you could become a paperless business in 2 months, you could probably do it in 2 weeks if you wanted, but a short-term plan like this won’t work. A short timeframe will mean you are going to be rushed off your feet trying to get everything done in time, employees will become extremely frustrated with the quick change of environment, as well as there being no time at all to celebrate or promote the fact your business is going paperless.
Take your time, there is no rush to becoming a paperless business. An 8 to 12-month plan is a good timeframe, it gives you enough time to implement everything and slowly move everyone away from paper, without it coming as a complete shock when you are finally paperless.
We would also suggest that you set milestones to hit every month or so. This not only gives you smaller achievable goals to hit, but it will also help you keep employees up to date with where you are and what they can expect from the next milestone. You could even have a mini celebration when you hit each milestone and get in some balloons and cake. Who doesn’t like a mini party?
3 steps to become a paperless office
There are 3 areas you need to look at within your businesses when going paperless, as without these 3 areas you will never become a paperless business.
1. Stop using paper and printing everything
Yes, it is that simple. Now you don’t want to stop everyone from printing on day one of your plan, but you can start minimizing the amount employees print.
1. Put signs up around the office asking employees to only print what is necessary
2. Reduce the amount of paper you buy each week for the printer
By telling employees to print less and buying less paper for the printer, it will make it easy when you do finally take the printer away, not leaving employees in complete shock.
Another way of minimizing paper usage is with digital payslips. Instead of handing out paper payslips, send PDF versions to the employees’ email account which can be password protected for security.
2. Replace all paper items
There are a lot of items in your office that are made of paper and can easily be replaced with non-paper items. For example;
Paper towels: Simply replace paper towels with tea towels that can be washed every week.
Post-it notes: Instead of post-it notes on desks, why not use Sticky Notes on your computer instead.
Paper cups: Scrap all paper cups and use mugs instead. Everything tastes better in a mug anyway.
Notebooks: Instead of notebooks, use Word or another program on your computer to make notes.
3. Use online systems
Moving away from writing everything down and onto a digital platform, will not only help you reduce paper usage but has multiple benefits for the business.
Holiday planner: Move away from paper and spreadsheets and use an online solution that is easy to use, has multiple functions, and doesn’t require a single shred of paper.
HR document storage: Upload and manage policies, employee handbooks, and other business-related documents in an online document storage portal.
Employee profile: Remove the need to print employee’s information such as CVs and contracts, instead of keeping them in a filing cabinet, store all employee information in one secure location that can be accessed online.
Why is it good to go paperless?
A big reason why businesses go paperless is that it is good for the environment. However, this is not the only reason to go paperless, with several other benefits to the business both internally and externally.
Customers will like it: By promoting that you are becoming a paperless business, your customers and potential new customers will love it. Consumers are now buying more from businesses that are ethical, so by showing them you are taking the right steps, they are more likely to buy from you.
Employees will like it: With the new online systems in place, day-to-day tasks will become quicker and easier. Making the lives of the employees easier.
Save money: Saving money comes high up on the list of reasons why businesses become paperless. You will no longer need to buy reams of paper, ink for the printer, pens, or other paper-related items.
Easier to manage: With no paper in your business, there will be no need for large filing cabinets filled with unorganized paperwork. By using online systems to store documents, it will make it much easier to find and manage important documents.
Save space: Removing printers, filing cabinets, and other storage units filled with paper items, will free up room in your office. Allowing you to put in more desks for new employees or even a table tennis table to improve employee satisfaction.
Data security: Moving all files and documents to the cloud will keep them safe from natural disasters like flooding and fire.
If you are looking to go paperless and you need a system that can manage holidays, keep employee information up to date and store important documents, then Edays can help. Our absence management system is the perfect solution.
To see how we can help you become a paperless office, take a demo of our system or call us on +44 (0)333 300 3403 and we can help you become a digital and paperless business.
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Katrina is edays' own People Director with significant UK and international experience in delivering people strategy and value-adding HR solutions across a range of organisations and sectors (including Arriva, Boots, Rolls Royce, the utility and charity sectors). Katrina has over 20 years of experience in Human Resources and is CIPD qualified.