Do You Really Need Paper?

In an era dominated by screens, certain practices of the past seem obsolete as the world embraces a swifter and more efficient way of functioning—technology. Virtual classrooms have become the norm for educators, who now instruct students to submit assignments electronically. Businesses collaborate via virtual platforms, irrespective of geographical boundaries, all working towards a shared goal.

Imagine the frustrations of an operations manager sitting in an office juggling endless paper trails and struggling with inefficient processes. But there is a solution to this paper nightmare — entering the world of paperless document management systems, a powerful tool to streamline your workflow and reduce your environmental footprint.

Given this shift, one might question the relevance of paper in our lives. However, there are undeniable reasons why physical paper continues to hold significance. Legal contracts, employment agreements, and consent forms all carry greater weight when signed on paper. Moreover, situations arise where access to electricity or digital devices is limited, common in remote areas or during power outages.

The Inefficiencies of Paper Documentation

One of the most significant issues with paper-based processes is the negative impact on efficiency and productivity. The time spent printing, organizing, and searching for documents can quickly add up, wasting hours and resources. According to a Gartner report, businesses waste an average of four weeks each year waiting on misfiled, mislabelled, untracked, or misplaced documents. Furthermore, Nigerian trading economics reports that every year, US$688.06 Million is spent in Nigeria on filing, storing, and retrieving paper. 

Traditional paper processes are inherently slow, often requiring manual handling, signatures, and approvals. The need for physical signatures alone can add days to most operations. This sluggishness can lead to delays and additional costs, affecting an organization’s overall performance.

Within educational settings, specific exams or assessments necessitate hard copy submissions. Similarly, specific official processes require physical documents for various purposes. The paper provides tangible evidence, such as receipts, proof of purchase, and completed service forms, as some argue that digital proofs can be easily falsified. Additionally, the presence of a physical copy often brings a sense of reassurance.

Even with the importance of paper, the question of reducing its usage arises due to environmental concerns and a push for sustainability. Despite their long-standing presence, printed paper copies come with numerous challenges that hinder their effectiveness.

A major challenge lies in the high cost of producing printed paper copies. Materials, ink, and maintenance expenses contribute to the overall burden on businesses, significantly impacting budgets. As the volume of paper copies increases, so does the expense, making it an unsustainable and costly option for organizations with extensive information management needs.

Another setback is that printed paper copies rapidly become outdated in an age of constantly evolving information. Hard copies require the creation of new versions to accommodate updates and revisions, leading to waste and inefficiency. Updating information on paper is inconvenient, limiting its relevance and reliability as a current and accurate information source. In contrast, digital alternatives allow swift dissemination of information to a vast audience, proving to be a more sustainable approach.

The Impact of Using Paper

Using paper is cumbersome as it takes a lot of space and requires huge costs, especially for machines such as faxes, printers, photocopying, machines, etc. Moreover, printed paper copies demand substantial storage space. Large organizations, especially in fields like law, medicine, and education, must allocate dedicated space for storing and organizing documents, incurring additional expenses and logistical challenges.

Furthermore, there is the constant risk of damage or loss associated with physical copies. Accidents like fires, floods, or spills can turn valuable papers into a chaotic mess in moments. Misplacing essential documents amidst countless folders further exacerbates the situation.

On top of all these challenges, finding specific information within printed reports can be a laborious process. Manually sifting through pages, hoping to stumble upon the required data, can test even the most patient individuals. Digital formats, with their search functionality and indexing features, offer the convenience of quick and precise information retrieval, making them a superior option.

The digital age presents numerous opportunities to reduce paper usage. Embracing electronic communication channels like emails, instant messaging, and video conferences minimizes the need for physical correspondence. Encouraging online collaboration tools and document-sharing platforms also minimizes the necessity of printing documents.

Shifting towards electronic documentation, implementing electronic signatures, digital invoices, and online forms, is essential to reduce paper usage further. Software solutions like Adobe Sign, DocuSign, or similar tools streamline paperwork and diminish the need for physical copies, leading to cost savings and increased efficiency.

The contemporary world poses a fundamental question to us all: “Do you need a hard copy?”. With forecasts showing that the demand for printing and writing paper steadily declines over the next decade, the answer already shows itself and by recognizing the environmental impact and the challenges associated with printed paper copies, we can collectively move towards embracing digital alternatives, fostering a sustainable and efficient future. With Flowmono, eliminate the need to go through the stress of using paper and its process. Go paperless today by getting started on Flowmono.

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