Reports about the death of paper have been greatly exaggerated since a 1975 Business Week articledeclared offices would be largely paperless by 1980. And although weaning ourselves off paper has proved stubbornly slow, office technology has helped pick up the pace.

In fact, small and medium-sized businesses have made sustainability a much greater priority as consumers expect companies to be more responsible environmental citizens. A 2015 study found that millennials are more loyal to companies who value sustainability. Going paperless also offers some obvious cost-savings benefits on stationery and printing.

Is your office ready to help save trees?

Paperless technology

It’s odd when you think about it: we persist in printing and storing paper even though we rarely produce work on paper. However, there is no shortage of technologies available to office managers to migrate to a paperless office.

Online spreadsheets, word processing documents, presentation tools and a host of other day-to-day documents can now be safely stored on cloud technology. This data can then be accessed remotely and shared for editing – helping with the pesky problem of version control.

The push to paperless

It seems the paper-heavy industries are leading the way when it comes to office sustainability. The Real Estate Institute of NSW is encouraging real estate agents to significantly reduce paper use with a move to digital signatures. This means no more wasteful printing just to quickly sign a letter before scanning it back onto the computer.

The Federal Court of Australia also announced ambitious plans to go paperless in a move it says can save up to $1 million in storage alone. As another big offender of excessive paper use, law firms are being encouraged to follow suit.

The paperless trend is also being nudged by new technologies such as wearables and smart sensors which circumnavigate the need for paper and communicate all data digitally. For instance, Perth-based aged care provider Aegis says its paperless push is being driven by embracing cloud and smart technology.

Global professional services company JLL’s Adelaide office is almost completely paperless – using iPads, touchscreens and e-filing to remove excessive paper clutter. With so many businesses leading the charge when it comes to sustainable offices, we can expect to see more managers looking to implement paperless practices.

Paperless practices

Sustainability doesn’t stop at the office either. One of the biggest trends for Australian businesses of late has been offering clients the choice of opting into electronic billing, saving businesses huge amounts of money in printing, paper and post in the process.

This trend looks set to continue as some businesses offer discounts for customers who opt out of paper billing. Electronic billing typically notifies you via text or email with a link that takes you directly to the payment system for added convenience.

Get ahead of the pack

There are numerous strategic reasons to consider moving to soft copy. Cost savings mean your business can keep more of the paper that matters in your pocket. Going paperless also reduces clutter in workplaces that are increasingly shared spaces.

Using cloud technology as an alternative to physical document storage and sharing needs to be embraced by more businesses to not only cut down on paper use, but also realise the potential such tools offer workplace collaboration. The shift towards the paperless office has never been more possible, but breaking bad habits may prove challenging.

Which paperless practices can you begin rolling out in your office today?