This is our 203rd decade, the year 2022, and over the past several centuries or so, we have heard a variety of discussions around the topic of going paperless.
And yet, even as we are surrounded by all these conversations, we still produce over 401 million tons of paper yearly.
Global usage of paper has increased by 400% in the past 40 years, and the demand hasn’t been reduced, not even slightly (in fact, it’s steadily growing).
So, with all our good intentions, it’s about time we shift the focus away from why to go paperless at work, and instead pivot toward what it means to be a paperless organization, the larger effects of becoming a paperless world, and start building conversations around how to go paperless. At work and everywhere else.
Because the more people know, the more impact it’s going to create. In this article, we’re doing just that — we’re teaching everyone about the ins and outs of going paperless.
What does it mean when you say you’re going paperless?
This section is for the readers who are wondering, “what is paperless?”
Well, the thing is, we are surrounded by paper 24/7. It’s there in every nook and cranny of the world, and truth be told, we can’t survive without it (because so much of our information has already been documented on paper products).
But here’s the deal: it’s causing much harm — to the environment, to the world, and to the atmosphere (more explanation on that later). That’s one part of why the paper is a bad option for the present moment.
The other part is when we take a zoomed-out look at the impact of paper in an organization, we are looking at hundreds and hundreds of files, documents, letters, and information lying around on billions of pieces of paper.
So, for an organization, the paper has also become heavy in weight, difficult to find, difficult to preserve, and difficult to move.
For many organizations, paper can also be a costly expense. To give some context, most businesses spend an average of $31,000 to $50,000 on paper annually, according to DocuDavit’s research.
Costs for retail business, where paper receipts are a common occurrence, tend to be even higher — for example, in 2019, the retail sector spent $312 million on receipt paper.
Productivity, misfiled documents, labor, printing, document search, and inefficiencies are among the other costs that add up.
Now, combine these two things together, and there comes the motivation of going paperless in the office (and going paperless at home).
To become a part of a paperless world, we have to scan, copy, and move all our operations that were once done on paper, to online software.
Files can be backed up to the cloud. Signatures can now be done online with electronic software. Contracts can be created digitally.
So much so that post-its and team messages can now shift to a digital mode. On a totally related note, PandaDoc provides all these features that can help you in going paperless.
Why go paperless now?
You might be wondering what has changed in the past few years that has convinced people to go paperless so imperatively.
Well, frankly, the reasons are the same as they once were. It’s just that the pressures of going paper-free are much more serious now.
Here are a few moral and ethical reasons that have led people to go paperless in the office.
1. Effect on climate change
According to World Counts, 42% of the wood harvested goes towards making paper. In 2018, paper and pulp were the largest component of municipal solid waste (MSW).
In 2020, paper and pulp produced 35 million metric tons of CO2 emissions. And, to add to that, a single A4-sized sheet of paper takes 1.3 gallons of water to be produced.
It’s safe to say that the universe isn’t thanking paper manufacturers for their continuous effort to ruin the environment.
We don’t mean to be a Debby Downer talking about the ill effects of climate change, but if you’d like to read about how it can affect our lives, then here’s an interesting Business Insider report that covers it thoroughly: UN climate report warns of drastic changes in coming decades.
2. Helps save trees
Okay, so we already spoke about how we consume 401 million tons of paper each year, and how we use up to 42% of all harvested wood for making paper.
Now, in an ideal world, consumption wouldn’t be this bad. However, in the real world that we live in, we can still cut down our consumption by a little, and work toward cutting it down a lot.
Even if a few offices shift to paperless filing systems, or create a paperless office strategy, then we’ll see a big change in the future.
Your efforts alone might not help save a billion trees that are being cut every year, but you will reduce the paper demand by a little, and that is all that matters.
If you’re interested in finding out how paper is really made in factories, then this video might help put things into perspective.
How can PandaDoc help?
PandaDoc’s mission is to eliminate all your bottlenecks and to make your workflow simpler, smoother, and better.
We also care about reducing the impact of paper on the environment. Here’s how, working together, we can accomplish this:
- We can help you create and edit proposals, contracts, and templates online (head over to check out our free templates).
- We can help you save and backup all your data online (check out our storage integrations).
- We can help you migrate all your data with ease (read more about it here).
- We can help you collect payments and eSign documents on the internet (explore these tools here and here).
- We can help you work through any questions along the way (search any topic you want on our blog).
What are the benefits of going paperless?
Moral and ethical reasons aside, going paperless makes a lot of business sense as well. Let’s dive into this list and discuss the benefits of going paperless.
1. Access to all things at all times
Say you need a file saved in 2012, and you only have one keyword to remember that file by. Guess how much time would it take to retrieve the file if your office was full of reams and reams of paper only?
Or imagine that you’re a lawyer who forgot an important document before a hearing — are you going to ask the judge to wait up and halt their proceedings for the day? Sounds inconvenient, right?
Well, that kind of hassle does sound very 2012 (especially since PandaDoc was founded in 2013!).
If you were paperless in these hypothetical situations, you would’ve had easy accessibility to all the documents on your device — and yes, you would be able to pull them out by remembering just a keyword (if it’s a keyword you saved it by).
2. Cloud-based backup of files
Cloud, this. Cloud, that. There’s just so much buzz about cloud storage these days. But this computing system is more than a clever way of storing data digitally.
You can easily upload and save a hundred years’ worth of data on the seemingly never-ending cloud of storage.
Now, saving all your files makes sense for two reasons. The first one is you can access it anytime you need. The other (and the more important) reason is you can retrieve all the information in case of a security breach.
In the digital world, it is not only you who’s going online but hackers too. And they will hijack your data and ask for ransom (which you will have to pay) if you don’t have any backups.
Here are a few chilling stories of organizations that shelled big bucks just to get their data back: The largest ransomware payouts of all time.
3. Enhanced security
To balance out what we said in the aforementioned point, we’re here to clarify that good software with a secure network is indeed safe to store data on.
So, the other benefit of going paperless is you get access to enhanced security.
Take PandaDoc, for example. We are compliant with HIPAA, GDPR, and FERPA. We also have SOC 2 Type certification and are fortified with the added physical security of AWS and our third-party subprocessors.
If you happen to choose software that has the same or similar security measures, then you should sleep stress-free at night knowing that nothing will happen to your files and documents.
4. Streamlined workflows
Many businesses often shift to paperless operations to streamline workflows and to cut down on human error. In fact, sometimes these two things are their sole reason for shifting.
So here’s what operations at your office can look like with the right kind of automation:
- Team members staying aligned.
- Work can be done from anywhere.
- People can easily review and approve documentation.
- Overall time management improves.
- Documents can be sent and signed off faster.
- All data is available in one place.
Learn more about how you can automate your entire workflow by watching this video.
5. Lesser costs
Going paperless has turned out to be an economically variable option, because so much money that was lost on paper, and time spent chasing paper, can now be allocated to doing better things.
You can now keep all your operations online, save up on storage, save up on costs, save up on time spent with tasks, reduce errors, systemize your documents, improve your workflows, improve customer experience, access documents anywhere, and work from anywhere you want, all at a minimal cost.
Going paperless in the office? Here’s how to do it effectively
The most important thing to know about going paperless is that it is not a shift that will happen in a day or two, or perhaps even a week.
You’ll need some time to adapt to this philosophy (and even then, you might occasionally use paper here and there).
The goal of going paperless is to reduce paper consumption and to shift your operations online as much as you can.
Before you even begin to make the shift, know that all stakeholders of your organization might require some time adapting to it.
In other words, the initial journey may have a few bumps in the road is all we’re saying. But one thing we can guarantee is that it’ll be a change for the better.
So here are our few tips and tricks that will help you adapt swiftly to a paperless organization, and with minimal effort.
1. Use software that has a mobile application
Like it or not, most of our operations happen on phones. Even during a workday, people are often accustomed to checking everything on their phones.
So, even though using software that can be accessed on a laptop or a computer is good, you must strive to use one that is operational on mobiles too.
The key is in accessibility and convenience. The more accessible and convenient you make software for your stakeholders to use, the more they’ll use it. So, our top advice is to use software that can be accessed on multiple devices.
2. Keep your stakeholders in the loop
When you shift to digital operations, you and your employees should not be the only ones who make the shift.
Instead, keep all your stakeholders in the loop, including your vendors, suppliers, current clientele, prospective customers, etc.
Doing this will allow your vendors to email invoices, instead of sending you a printed copy. You can send bills to your customers on their phones instead of creating a paper trail.
Marketing and sales can shift to online channels, instead of printing ads on billboards.
3. Begin by shifting all your old data to online storage
We spoke of how accessibility and convenience are the keys to creating a paperless organization.
Well, your employees are not going to like it very much if you ask them to go paperless and half of their data is stored on paper and the other half online.
So, before you even begin to adapt to a paperless policy, make sure to upload all your data so it’s stored and accessible online.
Here’s a guide that can help you get started: How to go paperless – untold secrets about going paperless.
4. Understand why the “go paperless at work” philosophy works for you
To stay on track with your goals of being paperless, you must first find out and understand why the “go paperless at work” philosophy is the logical choice for your company.
The reason could be moralistic, or economical, or it could be that you made the shift because it made business sense.
Whatever the reason is, make sure that it is valid enough to convince you to make the shift for the long term.
While we’re discussing effective ways to go paperless at work, there is an important resource that we should mention, and that is the Paperless Movement podcast by Dr. Thomas Roedl.
What else can you do?
To make this paperless movement truly the star of your office, we have a few more tricks up our sleeve that can help you transform into the creme-de-la-creme of the paperless world.
Let’s take a look at what more can you do.
1. Launch an office-wide green effort
No, we’re not reaching for the stars here. Launching an office-wide green effort is indeed doable and quite possible.
For example, say you’ve crossed the first bridge and have started using the services of software like PandaDoc (kudos, btw!), the next step would be to launch an office-wide green effort.
Here are a few ways you can do this.
Make office supplies reusable
We’ve all heard of the three big Rs (reuse, reduce, recycle). Well, if you don’t know about them, then make sure you learn all about them because reducing, reusing, and recycling would be your mantra if you wish to go green.
In terms of what you can do to go green at the office, make sure to purchase reusable and recyclable stationery.
There are pens and books on the market that are made of stone, compost, and recycled materials. Some parts of stationary can also easily be turned into plants (yes, we’re hinting at Sprout).
If you are still printing (which we don’t recommend that you do), you can adapt to using software that eliminates waste in printing, and if you are still using paper (which, again, you know where our recommendation lies), you can use reusable or recycled paper.
Build a culture that prioritizes saving energy
Saving energy and power-saving are two initiatives you should get behind because they will do nothing but help you save money in the long (and the short) run.
The advantages of conserving energy are numerous, so while we might not be able to mention everything in this article, we sure can highlight some of its benefits:
- You help protect the environment (this one’s a biggie).
- You save costs (we already touched upon this).
- In the grand scheme of things, by reducing carbon emissions, you also protect your health.
- You become a conscious consumer (by making one shift, you effectively take a step in the right direction, and that one step alone can help you become more conscious of your choices).
To follow through with this advice, you don’t need to get solar panels or anything (although it’s beneficial if you do), but you can begin with smaller steps in the right direction, like switching from traditional bulbs to LED bulbs, or shutting down power any time it is not in use, and other similar measures.
Add natural light to your office
According to a study by Dr. Alan Hedge of Cornell University, natural light can greatly affect how you and your team function. In the office, by adding more natural light, you help reduce eye strain, drowsiness, and headaches.
The study also reported that you make fewer mistakes and that you’re overall in a better mood, in the presence of natural lights.
Now, that’s just one study. There are many other studies that attest to the advantages of having natural lighting in your office.
While at it, we also recommend that you install more plants in your office — this will help with a dose of fresh air.
What we mean by reducing consumption is that you should perhaps consider replacing paper towels with cloth napkins, normal flushes with half-flush toilets, and original products with second-hand purchases when possible. As we mentioned, the three Rs should be your motto.
If you’re interested in learning about other ways in which you can go green, then this guide might be helpful: 11 easy ways to go green at work.
And if you’re looking for some inspiration, then check out companies like Facebook, Home Depot, and Universal Orlando Resort, who have taken considerable steps to go green.
2. Create an improvement strategy
Make a strategy to improve the overall workflow of your business. What do we mean by this, you ask? Often, when people think about going paperless, they plan to remove bottlenecks from only one place of their workflow.
Say, for example, if storage is a big reason for you to go paperless — you would buy some kind of storage software, right?
If your answer was yes to that question, we’re sorry to inform you, that you’re wrong (yes, this was a setup).
Where are we going with this? Let’s get to the point: there is a lot of software on the market to choose from.
Some are there to help you with your current needs (for example, storage). The rest can help you with your current and future needs and will help you future-proof your business.
How do I know what my future needs are? Well, you don’t. But you do know that having an improvement strategy that levels up your workflow will help, so look at the software that can help you achieve that at a price that suits your budget.
PandaDoc and Evernote are stellar examples of automation software. With them, you can create contracts, upload documents, eSign documents, edit paperwork, keep your team in the loop, get instant notifications, get a bird’s eye view on all tasks, and do so much more.
All these things combined will improve your processes.
And we’ve got the facts to prove it: PandaDoc’s eSignature tool has helped businesses save 12 hours/week; our payment solution tool has increased close rates by 36%, and our software has been ranked as “most likely to recommend.”
We are not gloating here (although it might seem like it) — rather, we’re trying to let you know that if you opt for software that has multiple solutions, you will improve your workflow.
So, getting software like this might be Step 1 of your improvement strategy.
Read our ebook to learn how to automate parts of your business and go paperless. Get it here.
3. Listen to your staff members from different generations
As the way the world would have it, the previous generation will leave the workforce and move on, and the younger generation will soon take over. In this case, the generation is Gen Z, and this is what they want from their employers:
- According to the Center for Generational Kinetics, Gen Z is more likely to stay at a job that has a good workplace culture.
- The National Society of High School said that Gen Z would prefer to work for organizations who focus on social justice missions.
- And a report by First Insight said Gen Z is now focusing on a sustainability mission.
So, if you wish to keep your employees happy, going green and learning everything about going paperless is clearly a step in the right direction.
The priorities of the incoming generation are shifting, and we, as organizations, should align with those priorities.
In fact, just as a social experiment, why not ask the different generations of your workforce what is their biggest driving factor to staying in a place of work?
4. Plan a recycling strategy
To plan a recycling strategy in your office, begin by asking your coworkers and teammates what kind of stuff they throw in the trash.
From there, you may benefit from hosting a small presentation that demonstrates the nitty gritty of recycling in the office.
There are certain apps on the market that tell you what should be recycled and what should not be.
The most important step to make recycling a sustainable move in your office is to audit the spacing and position of these recycling bins in your office — make sure they’re accessible and easy to use at all times. You can also set monthly targets to help incentivize your employees!
Inspiring examples of companies adopting paperless office solutions
InstaCart is one of the most popular grocery delivery services in the USA and Canada. However, when the company began, it used classic paper and pen to write down customer information.
Fast forward a few years later, the company grew exponentially and couldn’t manage to keep paper-based operations running.
Instead, it shifted to the paperless approach and began using eSignature software to onboard new clients. Co-founder of InstaCart, Max Mullen, said that there’s no chance of them going back to paper ever.
2. Carbogen Amcis
Carbogen Amcis is one of the biggest names in the drug development market.
Simon Brem, Head Laboratory Systems & Standards and Project Lead at Carbogen Amcis, wanted to digitize the company’s operations.
When adapting to the paperless movement, the company noticed that they had reduced data redundancies, data clutters were much easier to understand, and they were able to have a global harmony when it came to business processes.
3. Existing conditions (a PandaDoc customer)
This example is one of our favorites when it comes to companies going paperless. We spoke to Jared Curtis, president of Existing Conditions (a customer of PandaDoc), and this is what he had to say:
“Existing Conditions creates laser-accurate digital twins of buildings and provides as-built 3D models and drawings to architects, building owners, and real estate professionals.
Before using PandaDoc, our sales proposal volume was limited by the number of hours in the day. Creation, review, submission, and approval processes had not evolved as quickly as our company had, and as a result, our growth was starting to become limited by our ability to quickly and accurately create sales proposals.
By championing our use of PandaDoc within the firm, we were able to scale up our sales staff 5x over the course of 12 months. PandaDoc allowed us to maintain a consistent brand throughout all of our proposals and ensured that the company was dependably presenting itself in the best possible light.
It also allowed us to systematize and templatize our proposal process, giving us the peace of mind that the company was properly protected by including the correct legal language where appropriate.
We selected PandaDoc because of its smooth integration into our existing HubSpot-driven marketing and sales workflow. It just works – simple as that.
Now, we can easily see which proposals are tied to which deals, and know which types of content are the most effective in the sales process.
Given the flexibility of the PandaDoc platform and its ability to represent our portfolio beautifully and intuitively, we’ve even built out case studies and marketing resources in PandaDoc.
PandaDoc has reduced the amount of time to produce a proposal by approximately 35% from our pre-PandaDoc baseline, and has increased our sales win rate by over 15%.
By being able to present our world-class portfolio in a simple and clean way, clients can quickly grasp who we are and what we stand for, as well as how we are proposing to add value to their particular project.
As a result of using PandaDoc, we were able to provide our clients with rapid response times, no matter where their project is located.
It also allows our team to live the lives they truly want to live, unburdened by soul-crushing commutes or stressful relocations.
Fully-remote work is the way of the future, and it’s already here today. Tools like PandaDoc are a critical part of any remote workforce’s success story.”
Going paperless is on the mind of many business owners these days, as it should be.
But you can’t expect to automatically succeed in the paperless journey if you don’t have the right tools and software by your side.
In the wise words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.”
So, to make your paperless journey as smooth as possible, consider exploring PandaDoc — it’s software that is trusted by 40,000+ businesses and will help you remove the work from document workflows.
We’ve got all the integrations you love, all the tools you need, and it’s all available at an affordable price. Explore PandaDoc for free for 14 days to see if it’s the right fit for you and your business.
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