Getting rid of paper could be a real advantage for many businesses
Ah, the ‘paperless office'. Urban myth, or potential reality? We've been talking about the idea of a paperless office for years, but no matter how hard we try, no matter what kind of ultra-cool new tech comes into the market, we're still cutting down trees and using reams and reams of paper every day. It seems that our love affair with paper is almost as strong as our connection to the internal combustion engine, the electric lightbulb and peanut butter - we just cannot do without them in our lives.
However, there is still the potential to go paperless and for certain industries that could be a real advantage. In particular, any industry or profession that could be considered ‘paper heavy' such as accountancy or finance could save a huge amount of money every year by going paperless. Businesses that are trying to emphasise their green credentials could also benefit, improving their reputation as an environmentally aware organisation that is attempting to minimise the use of consumables.
So what could help the transition over to the paperless office easier? Here are five tips that could benefit your organisation in the long term:
1 - Cloud storage vs filing cabinets
One of the constant gripes about online storage is its accessibility. However, the only way you can ‘access' a filing cabinet is to be standing in front of it! With systems such as the Cloud you can get to your files, data and information from anywhere - all you need is a compatible device and a password. The Cloud is one of the biggest steps forward towards the paperless office, and as security issues are tightened and workers have more confidence in the system its benefits are starting to make a real impact on businesses such as international banking, accountancy and finance.
2 - Everyday reports on e-readers
A report doesn't need to be printed out, especially if reports are a regular feature of your business and need to be distributed to multiple recipients. By providing your regular recipients with e-readers, the reports can effectively be sent directly to each reader as a downloadable file, rather than printing out reams of paper. This is beginning to be adopted in multinational organisations with offices around the world, and is a much more efficient way of distributing information quickly onto devices that recipients are accustomed to using.
3 - Mobile technology
The medical profession in particular has adopted the use of mobile technology in an effort to reduce the use of paper. The traditional clipboards at the foot of each patient's bed are now being replaced by tablets used by medical staff that allow them to instantly access a patient's records. One of the biggest advantages of this is that it eliminates the possibility of making mistakes due to being unable to read a note. It's also more efficient at linking multiple departments together to create a more holistic approach to treatment.
4 - Remote working
Faster Internet connections and a computer-literate workforce mean that remote working or ‘telecommuting' is becoming far more common and much more acceptable. It also means a substantial reduction in the amount of paper used within the office environment, as the vast majority of work is done online. Messages are sent electronically (via email, Skype or instant messaging), reports can be sent as attachments and downloaded without the need for printing off copies, and the use of the Cloud (see #1!) means that accessibility is no longer an issue. Remote working is at the vanguard of the paperless office ideal.
5 - Flexible screen technology
Alongside e-readers is another major advance that could change the way we work; flexible screen technology. Innovative R&D companies such as Plastic Logic are at the forefront in developing flexible plastic screens that are quite literally the same width as a sheet of paper, but with the properties of a tablet or laptop screen. While the frame rate and colour palette is not yet quite at the same level as existing technology, it won't be too long before FST or organic electronics make their mark and bring us a step closer to the paperless office.
6 - A change of attitude
But what will really go a long way to spreading the idea and encouraging other industries to go paperless will be a change in attitudes. We're embracing technology such as flexible screens, e-readers and remote systems like the Cloud much more readily, but there's still a way to go before we achieve an office environment where printed reports are a thing of the past. Will we ever be truly ‘paperless', though? That, despite the progress we're making, could still be some way away.