A workplace cannot transition into a paperless system overnight. Too many people use paper and see physical documents as necessary for certain work processes, even when they are not. However, by getting rid of some workplace habits, companies can gradually reduce—or even eliminate—unnecessary usage of paper.
To start, here are common habits that unnecessarily increase paper waste in the workplace:
1. Printing everything
Some businesses do not necessarily need to have physical documents, while some do. For example, an immigration bail bonds agent cannot do away with physical documents critical for court proceedings. At the same time, a tech business can easily go paperless and produce most of its documents digitally. Either way, not every document needs to be on paper, although some employees feel the need to print everything.
A good way to kick this habit is to have a good file-sharing system in place so that employees can easily share digital files over the Internet or the cloud. Employees will then find it easier to send files instead of printing them out and handing them to intended recipients, which will gradually foster a more paperless system in the workplace.
2. Using sticky notes
Sticky notes are great for reminders and important memos. Still, they are essentially a waste of paper since they will eventually get thrown away after only a short amount of time. To combat this wastage, the management should encourage employees to use the digital sticky notes on their desktops instead, which would function just as well as physical sticky notes.
Better yet, workplaces should remove sticky notes from their office supplies entirely. If they are not free at the office, it will discourage employees from using them, and the workstations will also look less cluttered.
3. Drinking from paper cups every day
Paper cups are a staple at many workplaces, especially ones that provide free coffee to employees. Unfortunately, these disposable containers amount to 6.5 million trees felled and 4 billion gallons of water wasted every year—not to mention the hundreds of thousands of tons that they contribute to the country’s solid waste.
The easiest way to reduce paper cup wastage in the workplace is to distribute reusable water bottles and/or coffee cups to employees and then removing the disposable cups from the pantry. Paper cups should only be available to clients or visitors, and employees should use reusable containers for drinking coffee or water at work.
4. Not using digital signatures
Many people are reluctant to use digital signatures because they seem untrustworthy, but contrary to popular belief, digital signatures are more secure than one may think. To illustrate, digital signatures have multiple layers of security and authentication, as well as a court-admissible proof of transaction. In fact, digital signatures are often more secure than wet signatures, which can easily be forged or tampered with.
However, a digital signature is not the same as a regular electronic signature. Individuals can easily create an electronic signature by scanning their signature or signing on a digital pad. On the other hand, digital signatures require regulation and follow a set of standards to make them as infallible as possible. If someone tries to tamper with the digitally signed document, the document will let one know, unlike an electronically signed one.
Printing documents that require signatures is often a waste of paper when digital signatures are available. By using a digital signature system, companies can reduce paper waste and make document transference much easier.
5. Taking notes on paper
During meetings, many employees like to take notes on paper. Most of the time, employees transfer their notes on digital documents to avoid losing information. This renders the paper notes useless after some time—thus contributing to the workplace’s paper waste.
A great way to combat this habit is by encouraging employees to bring their laptops, phones, or tablets into meetings and use them to take notes instead of paper (or distributing the presentation slides beforehand so that they can take notes on the file itself). Aside from reducing paper waste, taking notes digitally is much easier and faster than writing on paper. More than that, it also reduces the risk of employees losing information if they happen to misplace their physical notes.
Transitioning to a paperless workplace may not be easy, but changing the habits that increase paper wastage is a great start. By avoiding these workplace habits, companies can not only improve their sustainability and reduce their carbon footprint, but they can also enhance productivity and employee engagement in many ways.
What other paperless strategies can you recommend? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.