Paperless Life May Help You in Multiple Ways

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By S.Z. Berg

Tamara Hill works as a child and adolescent therapist in a fast-paced, residential and clinical setting. There's a lot of paper involved –- copies, printing, notes, documentation for calls to health insurance providers and worksheets for her clients.

"My entire office is full of paper, and many days I feel completely trapped by paper," she says. "However, as a therapist who is constantly in a vulnerable position to be sued, paper forms make me feel more secure when signed and filed. Anything can happen in an electronic system and paperwork is often lost or hard to get to."

Yet companies are touting the benefits of going paperless. Swingline, an office products company, recently released a survey on the risks of having paper documents in the workplace. The study found that 89 percent of employers use paper for record-keeping. Although 66 percent knew that shredding documents is important to protecting sensitive business information, 26 percent admitted they had thrown them out without shredding them.

All Those Copies Take Up Space, Time

When documents have been printed out, scanning them into the computer system can save money, according to Christopher Zybert, spokesman for NEdocs, who says, "The average document is copied 11 [to] 19 times throughout its lifetime, immediately increasing the cost associated with each printed page." In addition, he said, "The ability to electronically store, access, share and track files greatly reduces the time employees spend filing, searching for, copying, and/or mailing physical documents."

"Imagine that a company produces just 50 critical documents each day for filing," he added. "If it takes five minutes to file each document, you are paying for 250 minutes of filing each day, or roughly four hours. If you are paying your staff $15 an hour, you are looking at $60 a day, or $15,000 each year in filing costs alone. Additionally, being able to access and share these documents electronically enhances productivity and process efficiency."

Zybert also noted that office space used for paper storage will be freed up, saving more money. "A regular four-drawer file cabinet occupies about 15 square feet of space -- including the cabinet itself and the space needed to access it. If you are paying $40 [per square foot], one cabinet is costing you $600 a month."

Exemplar of Efficiency

"I no longer need to pay for paper, ink, filing cabinets, notebooks, staplers, printer/fax machines or space for storage," says Lark Ismail, a virtual assistant at Lark's Virtual Solutions, who's gone completely paperless.

Going paperless also allows Ismail to work more efficiently. "Now that it's all online, I can search for documents by their title or a keyword they contain, and I get the right one instantly," Ismail says. "I can also search for something specific in long documents and get to the right section instantly without having to scan through all of the pages." That leads to a doubly advantageous scenario. "In the long run, saving time saves me the most money," she says.
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