Rethinking office space: going paper-lite


The modern digital workplace is revolutionising work processes with new technologies enabling employees to work from anywhere.

Despite the power of digital solutions, Australian workplaces are still largely reliant on paper. Research shows that 56 per cent of workers are still printing and 50 per cent are still scanning while working from home.

In the age of the digital transformation, reliance on paper records could determine if your business thrives or survives. The difference between sorting through 500 paper files to find a crucial piece of information versus making a quick query on easily accessible digital data, can save essential time and costs by allowing employees to focus on high-value tasks.

As workers return to the office, SMEs have an opportunity to reduce physical data and information storage by re-evaluating their use of space and introducing workflows that are less reliant on paper documentation.

This is called moving to a “paper-lite” working environment, and Iron Mountain research has shown that 86 per cent of small businesses are planning on making this transition.

Driving towards paper-lite

In preparing for the future, organisations are taking lessons from the environment COVID-19 ushered in. When asked what would have enabled them to be better prepared for sudden changes in workplace and employee needs, business leaders named digitising documents as their top choice.

The majority of business leaders go “paper-lite” to help improve productivity and the employee experience. Employees become more engaged in a collaborative and innovative work environment resulting from less time spent on admin tasks, and there’s a reduced risk of documentation loss.

The removal of paper storage to an offsite facility also not only helps to reduce costs, but also frees up space that can be repurposed for higher-value and alternative uses. And most importantly, information locked away in paper documents cannot be analysed to drive insights and data-driven strategies.

Strategies to promote digital uptake

Despite the clear benefits of a paper-lite strategy, businesses are confused and concerned about how to handle the hybrid paper-digital information landscape.

However, a shift to digital records does not have to be overwhelming. Simple strategies can reduce reliance on paper records and promote digital uptake.

  • Know your goal: Be clear about your business objectives to better define your digitisation strategy and extract the greatest possible value from your information.
  • Declutter for a change mindset: Engagement in a paper-liteless office can be encouraged by decluttering work areas of filing cabinets and printers, and understanding what needs to be retained, stored elsewhere or disposed of.
  • Know what to store and where: Determine the confidentiality level, accessibility and retention period for each document. Make sure everything is consistently indexed so you know exactly where documents are stored.
  • Use your team: Setting up a working group will help to build employee engagement around new processes. Create initiatives that will help to support broad implementation and company-wide adoption.
  • Consider legal and compliance requirements: A paper-lite program will help to ensure the latest legal and regulatory requirements are built across the document lifecycle, from capture through to transformation to storage and disposal.
  • Consider big data: The volume of information is increasing and document management processes need to be able to accommodate this. Ensuring a reliable, efficient and achievable strategy in plan is the most important step. An information management plan includes a reliable, long-term storage solution that allows businesses to easily extract insights from archived data.

As Australian businesses move to a hybrid-working model, digital accessibility has never been more important. The transition to a paper-lite office will take time, but allow you to implement new procedures properly and give your employees time to adjust.