With increasing environmental consciousness in both our professional and personal lives, many have not only become more careful with their recycling at home but also considerate of what can be achieved at work. This push to be more environmentally friendly has prompted many companies across the world to go paperless in certain, or all areas of their business.
Of course, this isn’t a new concept and in a 1975 BusinessWeek article titled “The Office of the Future” the phrase ‘paperless office’ was first discussed after computer terminals were introduced. So, why, more than 40 years later, aren’t paperless offices a universal reality?
However much a paperless office is an aspiration for many businesses the world over – the pros of having a paper trail in some circumstances offers invaluable protection and peace of mind. No matter the nature of your business, you’ll come across certain situations where you’ll need to have proof you’ve followed all the correct procedures and laws. This is why printers, photocopiers, robust filing systems and stationery cupboards filled with printing supplies such as toner cartridges are all still office essentials.
So, if you’re looking to edge your business closer to a paperless future, or reduce your use of paper, what are the pros and cons you need to consider?
Pros of paper trails in business:
You have a firm method of tracing conversations and processes from the beginning
Can provide proof that you’ve adhered to essential procedures and laws
A detailed history of important information that might otherwise be forgotten
Should you have to take unexpected time off, a colleague has a paper trail to follow and pick up where you left off
Cons of paper trails in business:
Reliant on the information being recorded correctly in the first place – chances for human error
Space could become an issue for your business – there are only so many files you can keep neatly tucked away before they start to overflow cabinets
Your time will be taken up regularly with needing to archive or responsibly dispose of files
The reality for some businesses is that the possibility of being completely paperless and operating without paper trails could be unrealistic. However, reevaluating your paper use could be a fantastic place to start if you want to make steps towards being more environmentally friendly.
Carry out a complete audit of your processes and culture – do you print things out that could be sent in an email or via a file sharing service? Are there certain things that could be saved in a secure online environment rather than being filed in an office cabinet? Digitising some files could be a solution, even if it’s not possible for everything you do.
During your audit, you might even find you’ve got inefficient processes you can tighten up or other ways you’re negatively impacting the environment that you can adjust. Digging a little deeper and being honest with what you can and can’t change could make a huge difference.
While removing paper trails completely might not be possible for all businesses, regularly reevaluating what you do and remaining transparent can keep your business firmly on the pulse.