Are legal compliance fears holding you back from going paperless?

More than three-quarters of Australian offices still rely on paper for record-keeping and processing. And, despite an apparent trend towards digitisation, some workplaces are reporting paper use has actually increased in the past five years.

These eye-opening statistics come from the Australian Workplace Digital Outlook report, commissioned by Forum Group. Forum Group Chief Operating Officer, Peter Burr, said the idea of a paperless office is looking like a pipe dream for many businesses, despite 10 years of digital transformation around the world.

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“Workers are telling us that only a handful of offices (11 per cent) have ceased using paper in the past five years,” he said.” “Workers in one in five businesses say paper use is unchanged, and 8 per cent are saying paper has increased, which suggests some businesses attempts to digitise are failing.”

Who Are The Worst Culprits For Paper?

According to the research, the most paper-reliant departments are Human Resources (35 per cent), Finance (33 per cent) and Sales and Marketing (22 per cent). Interestingly, nearly half of those surveyed report that they’re keeping paper records for legal reasons (48 per cent), or they’re keeping them because they believe physical signatures must be retained (43 per cent).

However, despite these concerns, Australia has recognised the use of electronic documents and signatures since 1999, under the Electronic Transactions Act. As stated by FindLaw Australia, “according to Australian and international law, electronic signatures are a valid way of executing agreements.”

How Much Are Paper Workflows Costing Australian Businesses?

So, what impact are paper workflows continuing to have on the bottom line for Australian businesses? Let’s look at a practical example.

A single 4-drawer filing cabinet can cost almost $2,000 a year to maintain. Assuming your HR, Finance and Sales and Marketing teams all have several filing cabinets, you can see how these costs quickly add up. It’s clear that traditional paper storage solutions cost significant amounts of money, but they also often require additional staff and unique workloads to support them.

There’s also an opportunity cost: Removing rows of filing cabinets can free up space for more mission-critical components of your business, like desks or computers.

There are also risks and potential security-related costs when it comes to paper-based offices. Respondents in the Australian Workplace Digital Outlook report are correct in identifying that important documents are critical for legal and compliance. However well-meaning though, their belief in the safety of paper-based systems is misguided.

Paper is, in fact, a very real security and compliance risk. If your paper documents catch fire or get damaged in a flood, you could lose years of valuable business information for good. Paper also introduces security risks outside of disasters. Think about how easy it is for someone to simply pick up a piece of paper and read the information. There’s no password or user identification. Anyone can pick a paper document up from your desk or printer tray and read it.

Other Business Costs Associated With Paper Workflows:

Time

Consider how much time is spent on paper workflows. The average worker spends four weeks a year on misfiled and mismanaged physical documents. And, most workers take a trip to a copy machine, fax machine, or printer 61 times per week. This doesn’t even take into account all of the time spent signing, filing, and maintaining all of those physical copies.

And, did you know that 8 in 10 UK businesses print papers for the sole purpose of getting them signed? That number is just as true right here in Australia – especially when we’re talking about finance, legal, and HR departments, who are the top users of paper.

Money

Not only is your business losing money through ineffective and wasted employee time, paper offices also incur other costs. It costs around $6 to handle and distribute paper per $1 spent and impacts profit in other, more subtle, ways. Think about the cost of simply storing and filing paper and also calculate how much you’re spending on paper products such as notepads and post-it notes. The average worker uses 10,000 pieces of paper annually and depending on how much paper you’re using, printing costs also contribute to your paper spend. Talk to us today about how Forum Group’s printer leasing Sydney or printer leasing Melbourne could save you money.

Collaboration

Sharing documents digitally is a breeze. But, sharing documents physically can be a serious barrier to collaboration. Hours spent waiting for documents, trying to find lost documents, and transferring documents across the workplace can be instantly eradicated using digital methods. Cloud collaboration, in particular, reduces hours of effort consolidating documents and eliminates the headache of version control.

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Space

Paper takes up space. Filing cabinets, waste bins, and desk papers can quickly clutter an office. Each square foot is an area of cost reduction. What else could you put in that space? Could you potentially downsize your office?

It’s evident that despite fears to the contrary, paper-based workflows are no longer required for legal compliance. In reality, they are more vulnerable than paperless systems. Not only that, your paper office is affecting your profitability in other – easily avoidable – ways.

How Can You Go Paperless and Remain Legally Compliant?

Documents with signatures for legal purposes are likely a major source of paper in your business, so introducing eSignatures and digital eForms can help you immediately reduce this paper flow. This will allow your clients and employees to complete and sign documents digitally and provide the same level of legality for almost all documents as hand-written signatures.

Adding eForms and eSignatures into your workflow is easy, especially if you’re already digitising your office. Your vendor can introduce systems to deal with security, identification and user access. Security features are usually embedded in your cloud service, but you may require a network security or license upgrade on your existing software. However, this is a one-off process – once they’re set up, you can look forward to a faster, smoother, more secure system.

It’s also important to alert clients as you roll out a new digitised workflow. You can do this by sending out a simple email communication once it’s implemented, or you can choose to involve them from the start of your digitisation project. However, you do it, it’s crucial to communicate the benefits of digitisation to them to reduce any potential friction. This will also prepare them for eForms, eSignatures and other changes that will impact them and their relationship with your business.

What is The Best Process for Moving to a Paperless Office

The first step is to engage with a trusted vendor, such as Forum Group, who can advise you on how best to convert to a digital workplace and which systems to use. Next is to create awareness among staff of the benefits of going paperless, while reassuring them that a transition to a digital office will eliminate many of their pain points. Expect questions around legal compliance, which you can resolve by introducing eForms and eSignatures.

A Summary of Key Steps:

  1. Create a transition plan

  2. Engage with staff on the changes

  3. Start with the easiest processes to convert

  4. Digitise paper-based forms, creating eForms

  5. Set up eSignatures

  6. Set up access and permissions

  7. Communicate process changes with clients

  8. Automate the digital approval process

  9. Migrate your systems to the cloud

  10. Empower your staff with digital technology

  11. Measure the changes and adjust where necessary

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At Forum Group, we offer many of the tools and solutions that make it easy for your sales team to handle those important daily tasks, whether they're in the office or out on the road.

If you're ready to make it easier for your sales team to handle all the details, let’s talk.

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