What Does Going Paperless Mean for Businesses in 2024?

Investing in a paperless office could help streamline your workflow, better satisfy your customers, and protect the environment.

What does paperless mean for your business? While every company will have a somewhat different answer to that question, there are a few benefits that just about every organization can expect. Going paperless can be good for your staff, good for your customers, and good for the environment.

That said, it can present challenges as well, especially when it comes to data security and legal compliance. Armed with relevant information and the right tools, however, you can fully digitize your office, saving valuable time and resources in the process. First and foremost, what is "paperless?"

Ready to ditch paper clutter and embrace a digital workflow? Read this guide to going paperless to learn the benefits of swapping, plus the strategies and tools you need to streamline your work life.

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What does paperless mean?

The term "paperless" refers to any workflow, organization, or process that involves no printed materials. A paperless office manages its communications and records electronically rather than physically. Depending on what your business does, this might mean:

  • Communicating by email, chat apps, or text rather than traditional postage
  • Keeping records in a digital database rather than a filing cabinet
  • Asking clients to fill out online forms rather than physical paperwork
  • Referencing documents on laptops or tablets rather than printing them out
  • Digitizing older information by scanning and uploading it

A "paperless" office does not have to eliminate physical papers completely. From jotted notes on a legal pad to waiting room magazines, it's hard to digitize every last document. Eco-conscious organizations such as GreenBiz recommend aiming to be a "less-paper" office instead.

Did You Know?: Digitizing documents instead of duplicating them is a great way to cut down on paper use. The fi-800R is an excellent fit for front-desk scanning, thanks to its compact size, durable construction, and versatile capabilities for digitizing a range of documents. Click here to learn more.

Benefits of a paperless office

Paperless offices can help businesses run more efficiently. Why? Creating, storing, and sharing digital documents is much faster than paper.

Need to register a new client? You don't have to mail them an intake form and wait for them to mail it back. Nor must a single employee sift through a locked filing cabinet every time you need to access that form. Instead, the client can submit online, straight into your automated records management system. The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act even allows e-signatures on legally binding paperwork. From there, any employee with the proper permissions can access and share.

A 2019 case study of EpiBone, a Brooklyn-based medical company, demonstrates these benefits. The organization replaced its paper records with an electronic system. This automated tedious tasks and allowed employees to collaborate more easily. The company's record revisions process now takes about one week of work rather than one month.

Tech magazine’s CIO has also pointed out how going paperless can go hand-in-hand with green business. Paper production plays a key role in deforestation worldwide. Furthermore, deforestation itself requires massive quantities of fossil fuels and water to function. Less paper means more trees, which means better air quality and stronger natural ecosystems. Just be aware that electronic communications exact an environmental toll as well, so you'll want to maintain your equipment and keep it from becoming e-waste for as long as possible.

Did You Know?: PC Magazine awarded the fi-800R four out of five stars, as well as an Editor's Choice accolade, citing the scanner's small profile, quick operations, and accurate text recognition. Read the full review here.

Challenges of a paperless office

The process of going paperless doesn't happen by itself. What does going paperless mean for training, security, privacy, and compliance? The answers will vary from business to business.

The first challenge is to train employees on paperless protocols and best practices. Teach them the records management software you choose, and ensure responsible data handling. The reduction of busywork alone is often enough to open employees up to the idea.

You'll also need to digitize all (or at least most) of your company's existing physical records. This process is not as arduous as it may sound. Business scanners, such as the fi-800R, can scan hundreds of pages per day and transcribe their text. Going forward, you'll want to set up electronic forms for new clients to fill out. Services such as DocuSign facilitate this process.

Another potential sticking point is data security and privacy. Just like physical records, electronic records can contain private information. Your organization is both legally and ethically responsible for their safekeeping. There's no one-size-fits-all solution for data security. Yet common safeguards include password-protecting sensitive folders, encrypting files, and limiting employee access. Be sure to update both software and firmware frequently and delete disused records.

If you go paperless, you'll also have to meet certain legal standards. These standards vary depending on what your business does. The Federal Trade Commission provides information on how to safeguard digital data. Its requirements differ for financial institutions, healthcare providers, and tech manufacturers. Individual states may impose additional restrictions, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act. If you have a legal department, consult with it to ensure compliance; if not, consider hiring an outside contractor.

Our recommendation: fi-800R

If you're wondering "what does paperless mean?" and searching for solutions, you have no shortage of options. We take great pride in having spent the last 50+ years researching, designing, and developing some of the most advanced and powerful electronics in the world, including our professional grade fi Series scanners.

Built to purpose for the most demanding document handling jobs, fi and SP scanners are capable of processing tens of thousands of pages per day at the highest levels of accuracy. Their intuitive integration capabilities with all existing work suites can minimize time-to-value for businesses looking to invest in tools that will pay dividends for years to come.

The fi-800R is the ideal fit for front offices. Its compact design saves valuable desktop space. Its fast, double-sided scanner and dedicated front feeder tackle a range of documents. The fi-800R’s TWAIN compatibility means it’s well-equipped to work with your choice of scanning software solutions. Additionally, its skew correction and active separation technology allow it to work with minimal rescans or jams. Click here to learn more or shop the rest of our production scanner line.

Note: Information and external links are provided for your convenience and for educational purposes only, and shall not be construed, or relied upon, as legal advice. PFU America, Inc. makes no representations about the contents, features, or specifications on such third-party sites, software, and/or offerings (collectively “Third-Party Offerings”) and shall not be responsible for any loss or damage that may arise from your use of such Third-Party Offerings. Please consult with a licensed attorney regarding your specific situation as regulations may be subject to change.