Paperwork — tons of it — has always been a ubiquitous part of the workplace. Regardless of industry, type or size, a business organization deals with paperwork across all its operations. From onboarding new hires, filing purchase orders and presenting reports to countless other functions — you’re bound to deal with a plethora of documents.
However, paper-based processes are incredibly inefficient. This outmoded form of filing documents impedes productivity, increases overheads and even poses security risks. Fortunately, modern technology enables us to transition to an increasingly paperless environment. Through digitalization and migration to the cloud, we can reduce the amount of paper we use and streamline business processes. We can drive the future of work with paperless forms.
Still, going paperless doesn’t happen overnight. You may also face challenges as you go through a digital transformation in your workplace. Here, we go through the advantages of a paperless office. We also go through concrete steps you can take to transform your workplace and implement paperless workflow automation.
Why Go Paperless
One of the reasons organizations are urged to go paperless is to minimize their environmental impact. Paper is believed to account for approximately 26% of total waste at landfills. A good fraction of this waste comes from workplaces, so reducing the use of paper at work can significantly lower this percentage.
Aside from this, implementing a paperless workplace has immense benefits that positively impacts business growth.
1. Saves time, space and money
Paper-based documents require physical storage space. You need filing cabinets, shelves, tons of boxes and a storage room. You’ll need space for printers, copiers, fax machines and other equipment you might need to process paperwork. All these entail overhead costs for maintaining equipment, securing storage space and purchasing supplies. There’s also the time you waste rifling through sheet after sheet of paper looking for the necessary documentation. By going paperless, you save on physical space and reduce costs. Digitized files and paperless forms can be stored on cloud servers.
2. Increases efficiency and productivity
Paper-intensive businesses are prone to processing delays, resulting in long waiting times for customers. Often, forms go through several people before a request or action is approved. These forms can also get misfiled or lost in transit, causing even longer delays.
In contrast, paperless processes can be done almost instantly. Paperless forms and digitized documents are easily accessible and can be simultaneously viewed by authorized users. This makes it easy for teams to collaborate and reduce processing times. Also, digital files rarely get lost. Even if they get misfiled, they can be traced and transferred to the right folder easily. This ease of access makes workflows more efficient and improves overall productivity.
3. Enhances security and maintains the integrity
Fears of hacking and data breaches keep some organizations from shifting to paperless workflows. But despite threats of cyberattacks, electronic documents are still more secure than printed ones. Paper documents can get lost, stolen or destroyed without anyone noticing them right away. They can be copied without the perpetrator leaving a trace. Some can even be altered inconspicuously. These are nearly impossible to do with digitized documents.
Digital files can be encrypted to keep them secure. You can restrict access and sharing of files. You can also control who can copy or modify the documents. Moreover, audit trails allow you to see who accessed your document, the exact time they accessed it and any possible changes made to the document.
How to Implement a Paperless Workplace
A few years ago, an Adobe survey showed that 83% of professionals feel that their productivity at work is hampered by the outdated ways of document processing. The same survey showed that 61% would change jobs just to have less paperwork. While many workplaces have since then changed to adopt more digital environments, there are still organizations that have yet to fully implement a paperless workplace.
Essentially, the only thing you need to go paperless is to use digital forms and processes. But that’s easier said than done. So let’s go through some concrete steps you can take to implement a digital workflow management system.
1. Get everyone on board
A paperless setup will only be successful if everyone’s on board. So your first step should be to ensure that everyone understands the importance of going paperless. Delineate the benefits of the new setup and conduct training so that all team members can adapt to the new workflow.
2. Convert and file documents electronically
Once everyone’s on board, start shifting to paperless workflows by converting documents from paper to digital files. Scan physical documents, and save them in the cloud or on-premises servers. Make each department responsible for its own files. Create a unified organization system in a central repository. You can utilize document management software for more organized filing, storage and access.
3. Go paper-free for internal communications
Ditch passing papers from one department to another. Go paperless by using electronic internal communications. Use Slack, Microsoft Teams, Asana, or other platforms for communication, project management and collaboration.
4. Digitize paper-based processes
Optimize the use of electronic forms by automating business processes. Use approval workflow software and other tools for digital workflows. Train your teams to maximize the benefits of automation tools. Go beyond internal transformation by introducing digital forms and electronic signature services to your clients.
5. Streamline workflows using digital tools
Remove bottlenecks in your document lifecycle by streamlining your workflows using digital tools. Use a workflow management system to enhance collaboration, facilitate document processing and improve operational efficiency.
The Move to Digital Workflows
The future of work is driven by process automation and digital workflows. To drive your business forward, you must transform your workplace to adapt to the changing business landscape. Now is the best time to shift to a paperless workplace with streamlined processes. Implement a document management system and a workflow management system that improve your operational efficiency and maximize your overall productivity.
Chintan Jain is the Director of Product Marketing at Kissflow, a unified platform that enables organizations to manage all types of work in one place. Jain is a skilled marketing practitioner who writes extensively on topics like workplace technologies, work management and the digital workplace. He also actively contributes to various business and technology platforms.