The dream of a paperless office

Since digitalisation has had a decisive influence on our everyday work and countless things can be done online or from a smartphone, the idea of paperless work has also been haunting offices and the media. But can this idea be implemented at all?

According to a survey by bitkom, every second company in Germany wants to invest more in digitization and clearly sees the added value of a paperless office. But as is so often the case, theory and practice diverge widely. The idea sounds good at first.

Advantages of a paperless office:

  • Time saving
  • Mobile and flexible working, the working day becomes more productive
  • Environmentally friendly, sustainable
  • Savings on printing costs
  • Saves space and material
  • By filing in digital form, every employee can access/edit from anywhere
  • Fast retrieval through electronic search possible

But why are very few companies really able to consistently implement the idea of a paperless office? Here we come to the disadvantages and problems of implementation:

  • The introduction is more difficult than expected, every employee/chief must be convinced and pull along – many still shy away from it.
  • The existing structures can only be dismantled slowly and with difficulty and stand in the way of the paperless office – know-how and corresponding equipment are lacking.
  • AND: If business partners and customers still work a lot with paper, there can be difficulties when working together – examples that everyone knows from everyday work: time and again you come to a point where it is unavoidable to scan in or print. Even in 2018, there will still be enquiries as to whether it is possible to send a fax or whether PDFs or e-mails have to be printed out in order to send them back by post…

At this point, of course, perseverance is required. One would have to consistently go through it here, i.e. send back invoices and letter post with the hint that everything only runs digitally if one makes the decision as a company to switch completely to digital.

Safety first – Better in black and white

In summary, one can say: Where there is a will, there is a way. Although a paperless office is possible, there is still a huge lack of implementation. Most companies recognize the added value and want to switch to the digital office. Nevertheless, paper consumption has surprisingly remained relatively constant since 2000. Paper continues to play an important role and many employees are deliberately sticking to it. Especially when it comes to delivery notes or invoices, the good old principle applies: “Better in black and white…”.

But: Certainly the use of digital media, which are available today, also depends strongly on the industry in which it is used. A team in a media agency or software company is more likely to use paperless media than a team of people who have little IT experience and are not computer-savvy. Here also the employees of the upper levels shy away from the enforcement of the paperless office, since one would have to use training courses, in order to be able to convert the digitization. Authorities and agencies in particular are slowing down complete digitization and expressing security concerns. Fear of data loss is one of the strongest arguments against the paperless office, although this is unfounded if long-term archiving is carried out consistently and reasonably.

Bye bye paper chaos – At least partially..

To implement a paperless office would therefore definitely require courage and a clear strategy and a responsible person who sets the direction. Since the implementation of the digital office encounters many obstacles, you can also try your hand at an interim solution. So: an office with as little paper as possible. Here you can speak of a partial conversion to a paperless office.

The motto should always be here: To abolish the use of paper as best as possible. Two good approaches that one should think about privately or in the office are: Avoid any print you can avoid and switch to digital payroll accounting. Start creating the basis for a paperless office: Communication should only be digital, this also applies to every form of data and document transfer. Also extremely important: a really well thought-out folder structure and a consistent form of naming all documents.

More about this topic:

Digitize invoices

Data archiving with SAP and webPDF

The format for long-term archiving: PDF/A