The paperless office has been a dream of managers, workers and business owners for decades, but most organizations are still a long way from experiencing a complete shift away from paper. Is it even possible to stop using paper completely and rely solely on digital means of recording and communicating information?
According to Forbes, modern technologies can be used to create an almost paperless office. While the use of paper is unlikely to be completely eliminated, technologies such as electronic records, cloud-based document sharing services, and sophisticated electronic means of communication can substantially reduce the amount of paper that the average office worker has to handle on a daily basis.
The days of having to print a document in order to share it with colleagues are long gone. Google Documents allows multiple authors to collaborate on a report or other document without a single page needing to be printed. Unlike changes that are marked up on paper, the changes made in Google Documents are automatically saved, while version control helps to prevent important work from being accidentally lost. Microsoft Office 365 also offers document sharing for organizations that desire a paperless office but prefer to stick with the familiar Word and Excel software.
For most organizations, the biggest source of paper isn't the office printer but the incoming mail. Fortunately, an ever-growing number of companies are offering paperless billing, which allows organizations to manage their accounts online, with no need to ever receive a paper bill. Similarly, organizations are cutting down on paperwork by sending their own customers virtual receipts, rather than relying on paper.
Meetings still hold some organizations back from achieving the paperless office scenario. Even organizations that have embraced meeting-scheduling software still often print handouts for the meeting attendants. An alternative method of getting everyone at the meeting on the same page is to send the meeting agenda and any additional resources to each attendee's smartphone or tablet. For example, rather than handing out paper copies of the slides of a presentation to everyone so they can take notes, a presenter can use TeamViewer to digitally share the presentation with everyone present.
Some industries are harnessing specific technologies to move toward the goal of a paperless office. For example, electronic medical-record systems and medical-billing software are reducing paperwork for both health care facilities and insurance companies. As more industries join the digital trend, the shift toward a paperless office could speed up.
A paperless office is not only better for the environment but also more convenient and easier to manage. While paper may never disappear from office workers' lives forever, new technologies for document sharing and information storage are making it much easier to significantly reduce the use of paper.
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