Following the recent extreme heatwave, climate change is at the forefront of a lot of our minds. We’ve all got better at doing our bit for the environment over the years, whether that’s eating less meat, using less electricity, only driving when necessary, or avoiding single use plastic, but there is still so much more that we can do, especially businesses.
Scientists have been telling us for some time that things need to change drastically to reverse some of the damage we’ve spent years doing to our planet. While the world may only be 1 degree hotter now than it was in 1880, the impact of that 1 degree is catastrophic. If the temperature keeps going up, we’re going to find ourselves in hot water. Literally.
What are businesses doing to help?
There are several things that environmentally conscious businesses are doing in a bid to be as green as possible. Many offer cycle to work incentives, work with green suppliers or partners, offer hybrid working to avoid unnecessary travel and some are downsizing to smaller offices or moving to eco-friendly schemes to become more energy efficient and responsible. Another big change many companies are attempting is to go paperless.
What is a paperless office?
A paperless office is exactly what it sounds like (although some companies prefer the term “paper light”) but essentially, it’s an office that uses a minimal amount of paper. Fairly easy in theory, but you’d be surprised at how much we still rely on paper despite living in a digital world. It’s not as easy as you might think to eradicate the use of paper altogether, and the change takes time to implement.
What are the challenges?
For as long as we can remember, and certainly probably since the inception of your company, paper has been used for record keeping, important documents, office memos, client contracts, and a myriad of other things that are now completely do-able digitally.
However, we’re creatures of habit, and making big changes is hard for us all. If you do decide to go paperless, there’s also the delightful task of transferring everything over to your new digital system which sounds about as much fun as… well, as fun as digitising years’ worth of filed paperwork!
Other challenges you might face include:
- Making sure you have the right tools to allow for such a big change such as software to sign paperwork – people might argue that grabbing a pen and signing the bottom of a document is quicker and easier than doing it digitally but once staff are used to using e-signatures, speed won’t be an issue.
- Implementing an archive or filing system that is easy to access and simple to use – again, popping a document in a filing cabinet is what we’re all used to, so simplifying your digital filing system means your staff will use it properly, and be able to access what they need to easily.
- Working with partners to ensure they aren’t sending paper to your company – this is a little trickier as it’s pretty much out of your control. However, talk to your partners and see if they’d be willing to support your paperless office and only send things electronically where possible. Not only will it help your business with its objectives, but it will save your partner/supplier money and could even inspire them to go paper free too.
- Supporting staff who find it easier to consume information in paper form – you may find that some employees prefer to read from a piece of paper, just as they may prefer a paper book rather than use a Kindle. This is a change that might take a little longer, so be patient, give everyone time to adjust and ensure they are aware of why you’re making this change in your business and the benefits it can bring.
- Ensuring you’re legally compliant – this is particularly important when it comes to staff and client contracts so double check with your HR department that you don’t need hard copies of anything.
- Getting everyone on board – some people will probably dig their heels in and resist change but as long as you are setting an example, the rest should follow. Perhaps consider rewarding those who are accepting your new digital-only world as an incentive for everyone?
How are businesses making the change?
So, you’ve considered the challenges, now it’s time to make a plan. What are some of the steps you can take to begin the transition to becoming a paperless or paper light organisation?
Firstly, you’ll need to demonstrate the advantages of going paperless to your team, and you’ll need to lead by example. Set achievable goals each week and reward your staff when they hit them. You could also set fun forfeits for those who “break the rules” adding an almost gamification-like feel to the process, ultimately making it enjoyable.
Online learning is a fantastic way to get your team motivated about being part of a paperless company. Select a platform that will excite them – one that allows them to design a learning journey that they want to go on. Giving your team access to a world of online content that they will find relevant to them and that they can apply to their current and any future roles is the perfect way to ensure they’re progressing by reskilling (learning new skills) and upskilling (improving and enhancing existing ones) and getting involved in the paperless revolution.
You’ll also need to provide company-wide training on the new processes you’re putting in place and make sure that everyone is aware and understands. Check-in with staff, especially during the early stages of the transition, and make sure they’re happy and comfortable with the changes.
You should also shout about all of the good you’re doing online. Make your employees proud of your company, champion those doing well, highlight all of the positive aspects of a paperless office, offer tips and tricks you’ve found useful, talk about the challenges. You will be doing a great thing and sharing this will be a great motivator and earn you and your team some well-deserved recognition.
The recent extreme weather we’ve experienced truly is a wakeup call to each and every one of us. We simply cannot continue to live the way we have been and expect there to be no consequences. Changes that we make today matter, and moving your organisation to be paperless is exactly the kind of change that, collectively, will make a big difference. It’s also a process you can begin now, so get out there and let your staff know you’re going green!