The concept of a paperless office is more of a dream than a reality for most businesses. Because the technology has not existed to allow for a paperless environment businesses have file cabinets, attics or closets, and offsite storage units all overflowing with paper. Professional practices with regulatory guidelines for document storage often require the retention of client documents for years after the work is completed. For these businesses the files begin to pile up, become unorganized, and in most cases the files are not disposed of after the retention period because they are not organized for disposal. The lack of organization means the document retention process has a direct adverse effect on a company’s bottom line.
Any service business typically has a minimum operating expense of 50%. With margins already thin the need to eliminate costs is crucial. Paper documents not only cause immediate expenses but also residual expenses which erode profit margins even after work is completed. The cost to print a sheet of paper is typically $.08-$.10 with toner, ink, power, etc. This cost is the immediate upfront cost, the storage costs then begin with 1) the folder the document is placed inside of, 2) the banker’s box or file cabinet the folder is placed inside of, 3) the storage space where the file cabinet or banker’s box is located. File cabinets and bankers boxes occupy square footage which the business is paying monthly rental fees for.
We did the calculation for 1GB of storage of word processing documents is approximately 61,440 sheets of paper. This would require 25.60 banker’s boxes, or 5 file cabinets which would occupy approximately 12.5 square feet. Multiply that square footage by your monthly rental payment and the numbers can start to add up quickly. The equivalent document storage online would be $2.50 per month and the documents could be easily deleted after the retention period preventing additional expenses and profit erosion.
The hurdle for going paperless is overcoming the employees’ comfort with paper. Many people feel the need to print every document so they can read and review them. However, with the advancement in computer and tablet interfacing for documents there is nothing you cannot do to a document electronically that you can physically. The hurdle for employers is to implement policies, provide adequate equipment, and begin the transition to a paperless environment. The capital expenditures required to build the proper IT infrastructure are greatly outweighed by the long term cost benefit of a paperless office.