It's estimated that four billion trees are cut down each year to keep the world supplied with paper. With the average office worker using more than 10,000 pieces of paper annually, it's clearly time for a rethink on using paper at work if we want to do something positive for the environment.

The paperless office isn't a new concept; it was first coined back in 1978. While many businesses might have struggled with the idea of going paperless, it's now much easier than before, thanks to improvements in technology and security.

Even legal or financial documents that were once kept in a physical format can be stored digitally, showing that all areas of business admin are now suitable for going paperless. But, as well as saving the world's trees, why should firms strive for a paperless office?

Improved efficiency

By shunning paper documentation and turning to digital systems instead, you can make big gains in workplace efficiency. Think about it - if you've got piles of paperwork in your office, you're going to spend a decent portion of your time looking for the information you need.

In fact, researchers suggest that 30-40% of an average worker's time is spent searching through a filing cabinet to find the right document. Even once you've located what you need, you can then waste time reading the document to find the relevant bit of information - not ideal if it's several pages long!

And then you might not even find what you're looking for in the first place. Studies have found that large companies lose some paperwork every 12 seconds, which is bad news for the efficient running of your business. It also won't do your reputation any favours if you lose important client or customer information.

By storing your paperwork online using secure and reliable digital file systems, it's much easier to retrieve the information you require. You can also use the 'find' function to search for keywords or terms within a large document, to enable you to locate any relevant sections, without needing to manually browse through the whole lot.

This all helps to save time, which means you can put your skills and expertise to better use, focusing on more creative tasks that actually matter to your work.

Safe and secure

Going paperless and storing your documentation on digital systems gives you peace of mind that your business administration is safe and secure. By regularly backing up files and systems, you don't need to worry about lost data. Setting up secure passwords also prevents your documents from getting into the wrong hands. Crucially, you can control who is authorised access to your documents, enabling different workers to either view files or edit them accordingly.

Switching to digital documentation in a bid to become a paperless office is also good news from a risk point of view. Even if a business is ravished by a flood or fire, backed-up documentation stored in the cloud won't be lost, unlike those held in paper format. This can have serious implications for a company, where it's been suggested that more than 70% of firms would go bust within three weeks if a fire or flood destroyed its paper documentation.

Greater collaboration

The beauty of going paperless and keeping your documentation stored online is that it promotes increased collaboration between your teams, especially for those who work remotely. By enabling instant access to files, and allowing for sharing and editing of documents, this also speeds up communication, encourages more creative thinking and improved productivity.

At a time when more people are being encouraged to work from home, being able to access remote files fosters business continuity during pandemic restrictions. Plus, there's no need to worry about handling physical documents that may have been touched by many people, thus reducing the risk of coming into contact with any germs or viruses.

Versatile application

Transforming to a paperless office is much easier than you might think, and with a wide range of digital systems available to cover a variety of different functions, there's something for every aspect of a business. There are systems that let you share and collaborate on a wide range of files, manage projects with tasks, calendars and reminders, take notes, as well as organise and manage payments.

With a plethora of features and functions, such digitalised systems can improve how you work, and may even bolster creativity by encouraging you to think differently about how you store or use your online documentation.

Find out which areas of your business generate the most paperwork, and look to switch these to a digital storage system that suits your needs the most. Take one area of your business at a time and make the change to paperless, so that it's more manageable. This will also give you time to train staff on new procedures and slowly get them out of the habit of using the printer.

Cost savings

It goes without saying, that once you make the move towards becoming a paperless office, you can save money in a variety of different ways. Less space needed for filing cabinets means you can utilise your premises better, perhaps even downsizing. You'll also save on printing costs, ink cartridges, toners and other associated equipment, as well as the indirect cost savings of becoming more efficient at what you do.