Few businesses prioritised sustainability a decade ago. Most professional people recycled at home and tried to save energy when they could, but it wasn’t something that particularly affected business life. The concept of a paperless office therefore seemed a long way off.

Times have changed, however. These days sustainability tops many business agendas. Research shows that customers prefer buying from sustainable and responsible companies. Therefore, swathes of businesses started hastily composing those obligatory sustainability statements.

Businesses have also begun to realise that sustainability isn’t necessarily about hugging trees. There are hard-headed business reasons for adopting a sustainable approach. After all, sustainability is inextricably linked to making efficiencies and reducing waste. It’s therefore an excellent way to increase productivity and improve your bottom line.

Research by Oxford University, for example, has found that sustainable companies enjoy better operational performance. What’s more, sustainable initiatives provide an excellent return on investment.

But how can your company take advantage too? Fortunately there’s one relatively simple change you can make straight away: transitioning to a paperless office by adopting cloud-based integrated communication and collaboration tools.

Paper talk

Creating a paperless office isn’t just about paper. It’s actually about changing the way you work for the better. Indeed, many companies unconsciously made the first step when they took measures to support remote working when Covid-19 arrived. Just look at the increased use of video conferencing during the pandemic.

The superb cloud-computing tools available make saying goodbye to unnecessary printing, and saying hello to a cleaner and more efficient digital future, incredibly simple. All these packages, including the now ubiquitous Microsoft Teams and Google Workspace, make digital office concepts like file sharing and collaboration available to all.

Furthermore, even familiar technologies can be harnessed to expedite your transition to a paperless office. For example, why not use emails and digital brochures rather than printing out and posting promotional literature? Another idea would be to invoice digitally, send digital memos, and also rely on e-contracts and electronic signatures.

Storage and file sharing

One of the most obvious ways to cut down paper-use is to share and store documents in the cloud. The days when physical filing cabinets were necessary for office admin are fading fast because digital replacements are faster and more convenient.

Not only do applications like Google Drive prevent the need to store paper documents; they also have practical advantages too. For example, e-documents cannot get lost, they don’t clutter your desk, plus they can easily be opened and edited live 24/7 from any location.

Furthermore, digital fire sharing is an excellent way to save time and resources. For example, you won’t need to print out agendas ahead of meetings. You can simply share them in the cloud where participants can open up the document on any device, and add comments or additions if they need to.

Communication and collaboration

Next on our agenda is communications — both internal and external. Cloud-based communication tools are an excellent way to enhance the way your team collaborates. This is achieved through a combination of instant messaging, plus audio and video calls.

Most cloud-computing packages include these facilities. However, dedicated platforms like Slack specialise in bringing your team closer together. They provide one central, user-friendly interface from which you can send messages or chat one-to-one with co-workers. You can also create dedicated channels that reach specific groups or your whole organisation.

Digital project management tools like Asana also make business life faster and simpler. You can share files within specific groups, send private messages, create workflow schedules, and track the progress of projects in one digital location that everyone can access. This expedites the decision-making process without the need for regular meetings or printed materials.

Cut travel, save time

Cloud-based integrated communications are also extremely sustainable. It’s not just about improving the way you coordinate your employees; it can also open up new communication channels with your clients / suppliers and reduce the need for face-to-face meetings. And face-to-face meetings, of course, require extensive travel.

Unnecessary journeys not only have an environmental impact; they also take valuable time out of your day. This is a big reason why video conferencing — an integral part of any paperless office — will further increase in prevalence during the coming years. No wonder Zoom is so popular.

Go green, stay ahead

For many years it seemed that new technologies only increased our carbon footprint. Cars and factories produced damaging emissions and cell phones, whilst incredibly useful, have also become highly disposable. Did you know that 130 million devices are discarded every year and 85% of these end up in landfills?

Consequently, it’s good to know that the cloud-based communication platforms are good for both your business and the planet. After all, they enable employees to access everything they need, and stay in touch, 24/7 from any location without the need for travelling.

So the next time your hear ‘paperless office’, don’t necessarily think about trees. Think better communications; think closer collaboration; and above all think about how digital applications will make your business more flexible and efficient.

It’s worth considering, as well, how the paperless office will enable your employees to work from home more often and improve their work-life balance. This will improve your bottom line and their wellbeing simultaneously. What’s more, all you need to achieve all this is fast and reliable business broadband. So why wait? There’s no time like the present to make a change.