Paperless Office is a concept, which I am very attracted to; where in every document in the office is in digital format and paper is eliminated or greatly reduced. In general, in the developing countries like India, every office will have lot of paper work involved and especially in Government offices. Today we are in the age of computerisation and rapid communication techniques have been developed in the recent past. We can send the information in digital format to the other side of the globe within seconds. Still, we use lot of paper in our offices. In this article we shall see the benefits and possibilities of paperless office.
Paperless offices are eco-friendly. Paper production involves signification deforestation. Worldwide consumption of paper has risen by 400% in the past 40 years, with 35% of harvested trees being used for paper manufacture. At present, Paper manufacturing is the third largest user of fossil fuels worldwide. Paper production leads to air pollution and produces greenhouse gasses (CO2), Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and Sulphur dioxide (SO2). These are responsible for climate change and acid rains. Due to processing of paper pulp, waste water from paper industries contains solids and dissolved organic materials that are classified as pollutants. Paper work involves printing, where in the ink used in toners and cartridges contain heavy metals and environment damaging volatile organic compounds although standards for components in the ink used are set by some regulatory authorities. Even paper recycling can be a source of pollution due to the sludge produced during de-inking. Hence, paperless offices are eco-friendly and they are the need of the hour keeping in view of alarming rise of pollution levels in the atmosphere worldwide.
The data in the paperless office is more secure. Only few fraudulent professionals can leak the data and not possible for everyone as in the case of paper involved offices. Now a days, data encryption and password encryption techniques are developed and the content is more secure that many financial transactions are going on daily without any data theft. Further, cloud storage techniques are also improved offering more server space at affordable prices to store data with real-time syncing facility. This enables to retrieve data anywhere and anytime even when there is physical damage to the systems or hard disc failures in the offices. Further, cloud syncing technique avoids carrying lot of data physically to where ever we go and eliminates the possibility of losing, theft, forgetting and leaking of data etc.
In every office storage is a very big problem. It involves more space and offices will be less tidy. Everyone would have seen piles of office files and papers on every desk in Government offices and many of the employees know what papers are there in the heaped stuff. Retrieving the data or certain document is very hard as the years pass by and work will be processed without proper reference to the previous work. This reduces the efficiency of the work and standard procedures of work can be conveniently modified as and one wishes. In a paperless office, digital storing is a great advantage and volumes of data can be easily stored without involving space. Further, the data stored in digital formats can be retrieved very easily and can be easily sorted, filtered and communicated.
Today, life is so busy that everyone hates waiting and delay. Paperless offices can process the work very fast with proper intimation about the status of work to the customer at every level. This will greatly improve the work efficiency and reduces the fatigue of employees and more work can be done with less people and there the least possibility of opinion differences and communication gap in the office. Paperless office facilitates the communication and sharing of data with in no time and helps to take quick decisions in right time.
Every office document must be authentic and should be properly endorsed with competent authority. The sanctity of document often lies with the signature and stamp of the organisation on the document which is possible only on paper documents. But, nowadays, digital signatures and individual personal login facilities, barcode generators have come up to the rescue and one can use them to properly authenticate the document.
In fact, I believe that many scams and fraudulent practises in offices happen because the procedures and connected documentation are not computerised. Generally, favouritism and prioritisation to a certain person ignoring the eligible person is the most common form of corruption that happens today because the decision on the subject matter is dealt by humans but not a computer generated one. The more you involve computer with perfect programmes and Algorithms in your work, the most general and equalised priority work will happen. Paperless transactions happen more transparently and in a more secured way. In developed countries, 90% bank transactions do not involve money transfer physically which greatly reduces the illegal transfer of money and circulation of fake notes. Further, every transaction will be official and properly taxable in paperless money transactions.
People may argue that, corruption happens even in computerised transactions and passwords may be hacked. But, my opinion is that, it is far less than that happens through paper. Further, the mistake happened can also be traced out easily by running special queries on the data. The only difference is that, any fraudulent activity can be easily brought into lime light in paperless transactions than with paper transactions. This makes us feel that there is more scope for corruption in digitisation and not secure which is only a popular myth.
I do not say that mere paperless transactions will completely eradicate corruption, but, it is the first foremost step to be adapted in offices to increase transparency and accountability.
Creating a Paperless office is not simple although it is not impossible. There are many difficulties, which are listed below, in changing to paperless office and implement it.
- Employees must be computer literates, if not; they may feel the work as uninteresting.
- Proper training must be given to the employees about the appropriate software modules that are used in the work at the desk.
- Implementation is costlier to purchase computers and modems to facilitate Internet (or Intranet) for data communication and sharing.
- Proper data storing methods, security measures and backup facilities are to be provided.
- Uninterrupted power supply is to be maintained.
- Even after implementing paperless office, some important documents like highly confidential reports, sealed cover deeds, Signed contract agreements, Tax filings etc. should be maintained on paper to avoid financial and legal complications in the organisation. Paperless office often refers to an office with less paper.
- Paperless office cannot be created overnight.
There are many ways to start implementing paperless office but it varies from company to company basing on their requirements and resources. Before adapting to new work environment, management should coordinate and make aware about the changes that are going to take in the company in implementing paperless office.
For more please refer this link where in Microsoft Business has given some tips on the implementation of paperless office on its website.
Paperless office is still remained as only a conceptual idea in many offices. Even after complete digitisation, many feel comfortable with paper document for ready reference. Many younger generations are now computer literates and hence the change is gradually taking place with positive mind set. Many banks, ticket travelling agencies and many daily utility services already started communicating and sharing the information with customers using SMS and emails. One can contribute for paperless office implementation at their own level by avoiding printing of unnecessary documents, avoiding usage of fax, encouraging emails and SMS communication etc.
Hope everyone contributes for implementing paperless office and save trees. Let us try to create eco- friendly work environment in our offices.