Doing as much of your business as possible in a paperless way isn’t necessarily about being “green.” Paper is expensive –and not just the cost of the paper itself.
Here’s some food for thought:
• The average worker in an office uses 10,000 sheets of paper annually.
• It can cost up to 31 times the original cost to send information on paper (printing, copying, postage, storage, filing, recycling, etc.).
• 7.5 billion documents are created and 15 trillion copies are made each year.
We’ve all heard for years about how in the near future our society and business will become paperless. The truth is, we’ll probably never be totally paperless due to the many areas where digital simply can’t match the tried and true paper and pen. However, many parts of our society are still consuming far too much paper. Most paper consumption comes from an inability or unwillingness to change our ways, as well as a lack of clear incentives to entice a reduction in the usage of paper. The reality is, your paper is actually costing you dearly.
A number of studies have looked at the cost of working with paper, and the results may be surprising. The numbers don’t lie: working with paper costs you time and money, impacts your productivity, and just plain serves as an anchor dragging your business down.
Take a closer look:
• Gartner Research found that those in professional fields working with paper spend 50% of their time looking for information.
• That same study revealed that on average, professionals take 18 minutes to locate each document.
• On average, it costs American companies $120 to find a misfiled paper document.
• Lost documents become even more expensive, costing $220 on average to reproduce.
• On average, companies misfile about 20 percent of their documents. When coupled with the numbers cited above, those errors can get costly.
• Paper documents impact productivity. Studies show that upwards of $14,000 of productivity is lost per worker each year as a result of difficulties in finding data needed to complete their job.
• Paper costs add up. Citigroup conducted a study and found that if each employee saved just one sheet of paper per week, the company could save $700,000.
• The labor associated with paper usage adds up, too. One study showed that a $5 ream of paper ends up costing the average business $155 in labor costs associated with what is done with that paper.
• In terms of labor cost, your standard four-drawer filing cabinet will cost about $25,000 in man hours to fill with documents.
• That same four-drawer filing cabinet will cost about $2,000 per year to maintain. Again, this factors in storage space, labor, and other factors.
• Even today, office workers use a lot of paper. The average office worker uses about 10,000 sheets of paper per year. That’s two full cases of paper per employee.
• While this is changing, at the moment some 90 percent of business information exists only on paper. One fire, one accident, one flood, one theft and it’s gone.
• A study by Cooper & Lybrand found that 70 percent of businesses existing today would fail within three weeks if they had a catastrophic loss of their paper records.
• Cutting waste is easy. Industry studies show that the average business can cut paper usage by 25 percent by increasing the use of email and online services, and doing double-sided copying.
1. Identify documents that can be maintained without paper. The largest step you’ll need to take is to identify what documents and files need to have physical copies and which don’t. You can separate your files into those that are long term and those which are more transient in nature. The nature of your business will go a long way toward determining how much goes into either category. For example, anyone in a field with large amounts of regulations, like legal or insurance, will require that many of their files exist in physical forms which will limit the amount that can potentially be reduced.
2. Develop a strong records management policy and strategy. While this is easier said than done, it’s a vital part of making sure that there is an organizational commitment that will drive your paper reduction. Once you’ve mapped out your document structures to how they should be maintained make it policy so that organizational change occurs. Without having a policy to enforce how to manage each type of document, your paperless strategy is bound to fail. Depending on how comprehensive you want to get and the amount of documents you need to work with you may want to consult with a records management expert.
3. Get an electronic document storage system. Depending on the size of your organization, the options above may not work for you or really be able to handle the mass you produce. The system doesn’t need to be overly complex or advanced, it just needs to be able to serve the requirements of your organization. The key to choosing a correct system for document management is to know your organizational needs well, ensure the system is user friendly and that it has a commitment to usage.
4. Make recycling a must. Not only does this mean throwing yesterday’s newspaper in the bin, or breaking down cardboard boxes; use scrap paper! Find little ways to recycle what paper you do actually use. Write down your daily list of things to do on the back of this week’s grocery receipt; print on the free side of a single sided sheet. Bring it up in an office meeting, share ideas, give rewards!
5. Spread the word. Whether it’s in the office, or casually with friends, or in a deliverance speech to one of your clients, spread the word about how you feel about going paperless. This will encourage others to research, and follow suite, as well as help keep you conscious of your progress. In striving to reduce the amount of paper we use daily, we make a stronger effort to keep our planet healthy, our bills low and our time well-spent. People are constantly looking to educate others about the positive effects going paper-less has, as well as finding new ways and techniques to do so.
At this point, the facts speak for themselves. The traditional way of conducting business –on paper, is a relic that smart businesses are leaving behind. What kind of business is yours? How do you manage your files and paper?