Skip to main content

Steps to Going Paperless in the Workplace

By: Laura Mathews, Eco Promotional Products, Inc. 

Watching an episode of Mad Men, a typical office worker’s attention can be momentarily diverted from the storyline by the highly antiquated technology being used, compared to what would be at their desk today. How were people able to live back when you actually had to type each new original document on a typewriter?! Fast forward to the 21st Century and one might brag at how, with a few clicks of your mouse, you can generate a 100-page document that is sent to the printer automatically. From inception to warm paper in two minutes flat! But is this really the workplace zenith? In 2013, the US Government 
eliminated paper checks for those receiving government benefits. The reduction in postage and printing is estimated to save $120 million of taxpayer money annually. The government is not alone in this innovative paper reduction. As we work in our office, allow us to share digitally some information on 
becoming a paper-free business of the future.

But first, why begin such a huge undertaking? As you might imagine, environmental concerns were front of mind for our company. The average office employee uses 10,000 sheets of paper annually. And all that paper we consume and then toss makes up 28% of the landfill waste in our country. Globally, more than 40% of trees logged are used to make paper. After those startling statistics, we took solace in hopeful statistics such as, “If US offices reduced their paper consumption by 10% it would be the equivalent to taking some 280,000 cars off the road!” But like any savvy business, we understood the economical benefits of a paper-free workplace as well. Those 10,000 sheets each employee uses every year will cost you somewhere in the neighborhood of $120, not to mention the purchase, maintenance and operating costs of a copier and/or printer. This expense is often one of the largest for the typical office. The costs, environmental and economical, were too large for us to ignore. 

The staff at Eco Promotional Products understands firsthand the apprehension in beginning such a huge undertaking as well as the natural impulse to resist change. But, we’re here to say a paperless business can be achieved. 

Here are 6 quick tips to begin removing paper from your office: 

1. If you’re conservatively approaching an overhaul, start by looking at your document settings. Margins can be reduced and more compact fonts can be selected. However, the best change is to mandate all applicable company printing be double-sided. With this simple change you will cut your paper costs in half. You’ll also notice substantial postage savings. Example; a 10 page document printed single-sided will cost $.14 more per page than if it was printed double-sided. 

2. Develop a company-wide database. Sharing information electronically and in real time will improve business efficiency as well as reduce much of the paper in the office. Whether you are a retailer, party planner or accounting firm there are systems already designed that can be customized to fit the needs of your industry and all of the data you need stored digitally. As an added bonus, saving these documents in the cloud, through a system like Dropbox, will allow you access from anywhere through a computer or smart phone. 

3. Eliminate the paper coming into your office. Paperless billing will not only reduce what’s arriving to your business, it will also decrease postage, envelope and paper cost. And it will eliminate the risk of payments being lost in the mail. To reduce junk mail, use the app Paper Karma or go to DMA ChoiceBe transparent and inform your vendors and clients of your wish to reduce paper and ask them to join you in this change. 

4. Any paper you can’t keep from arriving at the office can be scanned and immediately recycled to absolve you of any responsibility towards paper storage. But, to have the greatest benefit, work retroactively. As it stands now, when needed you may have to obtain files from storage. Instead of that hassle it may be more economical to invest the time to convert your files from paper to digital. With proper planning, you’ll be able to do a simple search of your database and see the file in a minute. The traditional copier/printer manufacturer’s recognized the times were changing some time ago and now all offer programs for searchable digital archives. 

5. Keep abreast of new tech developments and use them to your company’s advantage. Enfold, Square, Asana, and Harvest are just a few apps that will help manage your work while reducing the need for paper. Microsoft SharePoint uses the cloud to make documents and programs accessible to everyone on your network. And don’t forget to keep up with the ever-growing social media boom and online newsletters. You no longer need to send paper flyers to get clients’ attention. Facebook, TwitterLinkedIn, and Google+ are some main contenders in social media.    iContact, Benchmark Email and Constant Contact are just a few software programs for creating an eBlast. 

6. Perhaps most obvious, break the habit of printing. It’s instinctive to provide bosses and clients with unnecessary paper copies but, it’s no longer necessary. Internally, documents can be shared and edited digitally through services like Google Docs or by attaching a file through email. Any company wide communications may be done on the computer as well. And a CEO can pass down a memo to the entire company with a click of her button and have a clear record showing the memo was delivered to every employee. Externally, clients and vendors will appreciate the speed of your business when a proposal or invoice is delivered immediately rather than through snail mail. 

Clearly, regarding paper reduction, each company is free to make its own goals. It’s quite reasonable to greatly reduce your paper usage while not having the expectation of eliminating all of your paper usage. Still, Eco Promotional Products had decided to take the step of not providing our staff another option. Our computers are not connected to any printers or copiers. Our day-to-day environment doesn’t allow us to choose convenience over sustainability by just pressing print. That’s not to say even a company like ours didn’t meet some resistance. As Michelle Sheldon, President of Eco Promotional Products put it, “Going paperless is generational and for some of our staff it was more of a learning curve. But when you have no choice and there’s no printer to use, it becomes a culture change for the company and you figure out how to work around it.” 

So we challenge you to join us in the campaign for paperless offices. Whether you start small or compete to outdo us, the change towards waste reduction is the way of the future. In 50 years, when someone who is not even born yet sits down to watch The Office, we hope they are as astonished by their 
workplace technology as the office workers of today are at Mad Men.