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5 Benefits of Switching to a Paperless Office

If you’ve been to a thrift store recently, you might have noticed a surplus of briefcases. Lots of people are getting rid of briefcases because they’re relics of a time before laptops, iPads, and smartphones ruled the workplace.

Briefcases made sense in the era when you hauled dozens of papers to work each day, but that era is over. So why hasn’t your business made the shift away from paper? There are dozens of benefits of a paperless office. Here are five of the most important:

1. You’ll diminish your environmental impact. A single sheet of paper might seem innocuous, but its production requires an incredible amount of energy. The papermaking process is resource-intensive. After trees are harvested — usually by machine — they’re taken to a factory and transformed into paper through a process involving harmful chemicals. The resulting paper is then bundled and transported to the front door of your office. Then it ends up in a recycling bin after it jams your printer.

The pulp and paper industry accounts for 4 percent of all the world’s energy use, and paper makes up 27 percent of municipal solid waste, more than any other material. Even if your office is small, cutting out paper might be the most environmentally friendly thing you do all year.

Why go through the trouble? Eighty-two percent of Americans keep track of which companies embrace sustainability, and most of those people use that knowledge to drive purchasing decisions. So going green could boost business and help you make more money.

2. You’ll increase efficiency. A couple years ago, it was revealed that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs was crippled by paperwork. Veterans’ benefit claims often were delayed because their records were literally buried in disorganized files. In fact, a VA records office in North Carolina was structurally compromised by the sheer weight of its paperwork.

If you have a mountain of paperwork (or even just a molehill), it’s a huge hassle to sift through forms and find precisely what you need. If your important information is digitized, it’s just a few clicks away. Without having to wade through volumes of paper records, your employees can get back to doing their jobs, and that will keep them engaged and increase productivity. After all, would you rather have your HR employees filling out forms or recruiting high-quality staff members?

3. You’ll reduce office space and supply costs. Anyone who’s bought a few dozen reams of paper knows one thing: It’s not cheap. The typical office worker uses around 10,000 sheets of paper each year, amounting to an average cost of $80 per employee. However, this only accounts for about 10 percent of the total cost of paper. Copying, printing, ink, delivery, and other costs make up the other 90 percent.

And after you print all those papers, you have to store them. A relatively small company often needs a large office space simply to store its paperwork. As a result, employers are forced to pay higher rent costs just to keep a roof over their filing cabinets.

What’s more, the cost of office supplies will only continue to increase as governments across the globe clamp down on environmental policies. Go digital, and invest in file-sharing software such as Box or Dropbox to reduce your costs.

4. You’ll improve internal organization. When you have dozens of file cabinets crammed full of old memos, contracts, and files, the concept of switching to a paperless office can seem overwhelming. But by making the switch, you’re investing in better organization. Don’t worry about all of those junk drawers, mislabeled files, and misplaced contracts. When you digitize your office, you give yourself a chance to break free and reexamine your company’s internal organization on a number of different levels.

Most of your employees are comfortable with existing processes, so you’ll need to retrain them. However, keep in mind that this shift is an opportunity to test their flexibility and to ensure that they have the skills needed to be successful in the digital era.

5. You’ll appeal to the younger generations. Millennials communicate through smartphones, social media, and email, not through physical documents. Put yourself in their shoes. If you were accustomed to a digital world, would you want to work in a place that has the same filing system that was used in the Carter administration? Probably not. It’s harder to attract young talent to your organization if you’re stuck in the past.

When you’re weighed down by paper, your business isn’t running at maximum efficiency — not by a long shot. Making the switch to a paperless office might seem daunting, but once you’ve gone digital, you’ll wonder how you ever got anything done.

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About Sathvik Tantry

Sathvik Tantry is the co-founder of FormSwift, a SaaS platform helping organizations go paperless. FormSwift’s tools allow businesses and individuals to create, edit, sign, and collaborate on documents and workflows in the cloud, eliminating unnecessary printing, faxing, and snail mail.