The Paperless Paper Office
Is it possible for a paperless office and a paper office to co-exist? What is the Paperless Paper Office?
In order to get the most out of this article we recommend that you first read, ‘Paper Documents still matter, more than you think’. This earlier article provides a useful comparison between paper documents and digital documents.
If you have read the above article you will have an idea of the relative strengths and weakness of paper and digital information, and we can start to answer the questions posed. If you have already formulated some answers while you read our earlier article, then good for you.
Is it possible for a paperless office and a paper office to co-exist?
For some, the answer will be a resounding, ‘No!’ For others it might be a tentative, ‘Yes.’ Still other might scratch their heads and say, ‘I’m not sure.’
No matter your views on the subject, there are a few facts that you simply cannot ignore.
Fact Number 1 – Personal Preference
Most modern offices have more than a few people working together. These people’s backgrounds, ages, and education will of course vary and they will have different preferences. Those who are older may have a preference to the more familiar paper document while younger employees may favour the newer digital media.
This gives rise to a situation where a paperless office can create conflict that can reduce efficiency and productivity. While some older employees may have to spend a lot more time training on paperless technology, many younger employees may feel frustrated with the speed of transition.
Fact Number 2 – Legal Standing
Perhaps a more important issue to consider is the fact that paper documents have more weight and acceptance when it comes to legal matters. This raises the question, ‘Can one really have a paperless office?’ Until all the laws are changed regarding the acceptance of digital documents, the answer has to be No.
Thus, organisations will have to retain some paper records and have paper as part of their workflow or risk being con compliant with legislation.
Fact Number 3 – Pro and Cons
Digital documents and paper documents both have their own unique pros and cons. Digital documents are great for sharing and collaborating on. They also require very little storage space as tens of thousands of documents can be stored on a DVD and many times that number on computer hard drives or magnetic tape.
The down side is that working with digital documents requires computers and electricity. If you are affected by load shedding and you do not have a power backup then your digital documents will be inaccessible.
Paper on the other hand requires little electricity except for a little lighting. Files can be easily accessed and as long as one has a good filing system in place, and your employees are trained to use it correctly and they adhere to protocols then your paper office can be very efficient.
Of course, the downside is the fact that paper takes up a lot of space. It is also not great for sharing and collaborating on and it is difficult to move large amounts of paper.
So, can a paperless office and paper office co-exist? Yes, they can. Perhaps more to the point, they have to as they both have limitations as well as strengths and neither can really be entirely replaced.
What is the Paperless Paper Office?
In short, a paperless paper office could be considered a hybrid of digital and paper information storage mediums. A hybrid where the advantages of each reduce the shortcomings of the other.
For example… If you were to make use of a document imaging and scanning solution to digitise your paper file archive you could then do the following:
- Important records could be stored in a secure offsite document storage facility. This would free up additional office space, which is never cheap, and it would make these records more secure. Importantly, these records would still be available should any legal matters arise.
- Paper files that had reached their legal retention periods could be destroyed using a secure shredding service. This would reduce the number of files you need to store and it would prevent unauthorised access to old files. You would still have access to their information as you will have a digital copy.
- Your digital documents would be easily available through a web portal with full access control and usage management in place.
- Your digital documents would greatly improve disaster recovery should something occur at your offices.
- Important paper documents that are used regularly could still be stored in a small in-house filling system, which could be made more efficient with file tracking software.
Until something revolutionary comes along and makes paper obsolete, the paperless paper office is here to stay. Setup correctly it can be highly efficient, easy to use for everyone and provide numerous business benefits.
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