Traditionally, offices have used paper-based filing systems with file cabinets, folders, microfiche systems, and drawing cabinets that require considerable space, equipment, maintenance, and people to manage them.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it was 1978 when Micronet, Inc. first used the term, “Paperless Office ” in commerce. It referred to the idea that offices would become more automated and paper would become unnecessary for routine office tasks.
Surprisingly, from 1980 to 2000, after the introduction of personal computers in the workplace, worldwide use of office paper did not decrease. In fact, it more than doubled. This was mainly because it became easy to reproduce documents in bulk as printers and photocopiers improved. Then when electronic communication became prevalent, users began printing out large numbers of documents.
Nowadays, an office often consists of only a desk, chair, and computer. Virtual cloud-space and digital tools have replaced the physical floor space and expensive resources of paper-based systems.
It makes sense.
Printed data does not sync with computer database updates and cannot be easily shared between co-workers in different locations.
It is time-consuming to search for and sort information on paper, whereas paperless offices can store, sort and access information with the click of a few buttons.
Laptops, tablets and phones have made workers more mobile and data is immediately accessible in the cloud anytime and from anywhere.
We must also consider environmental impact. Paper manufacturing is a significant contributor to deforestation. It produces greenhouse gasses, contributing to acid rain and global warming as mills release nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon dioxide. Pulp and paper mills discharge water that contains polluting nutrients, solids and dissolved organic matter. According to the American Forest & Paper Association, paper and pulp mills are the third largest worldwide users of fossil fuels. Indeed, recycling and tree-free paper help to reduce the environmental impact of paper, but the reality is that most paper ultimately ends up in our landfills.
Inks and toners have environmental impact, as well. Not only are they expensive, they also use volatile organic compounds, heavy metals and non-renewable oils that can be damaging to the environment. De-inking recycled paper pulp produces something called a waste slurry, sometimes weighing as much as 22% of the weight of the recycled paper, and often ending up in our landfills.
It’s relieving to know that office paper use has been decreasing in the United States. As paper-based generations retired and new workers came in, we learned that younger generations were more inclined to read documents on colorful, interactive displays than print them out. They replaced Rolodexes and index cards with databases, faxes and typed letters with e-mails, paper forms with e-forms, and encyclopedias with the Internet.
Paperless technology has come a long way. For instance, Sherman Oaks Accounting & Bookkeeping powered by One Source Services uses software with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) that searches the full text in a file and finds what we are looking for. We can even place “tags” on files to make it easier for the software to locate the files within the system.
The American E-Sign Act of 2000 made it illegal to reject a document on the basis of an electronic signature. Therefore, all companies are now legally required to accept digital signatures on documents, removing one of the primary obstacles to paperwork automation. Sherman Oaks Accounting & Bookkeeping powered by One Source Services uses cost-effective options for capturing digital signatures on official documents with very little inconvenience to our clients.
As with any update or improvement, there may be costs and temporary productivity losses when an office initially converts to paperless systems. These are minor challenges, though, when compared to how important going paperless is to our planet, how much it will increase your organization’s social responsibility and reputation, and the substantial increases in efficiency and profitability your organization will undoubtedly see as a result. Sherman Oaks Accounting & Bookkeeping powered by One Source Services are pros at minimizing growing pains while converting to the cloud.