How to go paperless at work and from home.

As the creator of the PDF, we like to keep our documents digital. But old habits die hard - and it’s not always easy to ditch the pens, paper and printers overnight. This guide is here to help. 

 

We’ll talk you through the benefits of going paperless (or at least nearly paperless) and give you some tips on how to do it. 

Paper consumption in UK offices.

 

We use paper so often, we hardly notice it. But if you look around your home or office, you’ll probably see it all over the place. Receipts, letters, documents, envelopes, printing paper, magazines, kitchen roll, junk mail, newspapers, you name it - there’s a lot. 

 

And we mean a lot. The average UK office worker uses around 10,000 sheets of A4 a year, with 75% of those ending up in the wastepaper bin1. The most common excuses for paper wastage in the office include printing errors (such as the wrong file or settings), printing duplicates or printing emails that don’t need to be printed.

 

This has a big impact - and not just on your annual stationery budget. As it takes five litres of water to make a single sheet of A4, each office worker’s paper usage adds up to 50,000 litres every year. Even a small business of 10 or so employees is looking at half a million litres annually.

 

Then, there’s the impact the pulp and paper industry - which is responsible for around a 30-40% share of industrial wood traded globally - has on the world’s forests. 200 million trees are cut down each day to make paper. That’s one every 2.5 seconds.

 

In an ever-digital world, it’s never been easier to go paperless - and that’s why businesses and homes across the UK are making the jump to reduce or replace physical documents with digital ones. In fact, according to The Future of Time, a global study by Adobe, 90% of workers and leaders are interested in embracing technology that can make document tasks and processes more efficient.

 

Working from home can help to reduce paper consumption.

Hybrid and remote working are becoming more common - and this is having benefits when it comes to paper consumption in the UK. 

 

According to the Adobe Paperless Study, the top industry to have reduced paper use through remote work is public administration, education and health. A total of 35 billion sheets - or 3.5 million pine trees - of paper have been saved from this industry alone. Stacked up, this is the equivalent height of 2.7m Big Bens.

How much paper have we saved by working from home?

Top Industry:

Public administration, education & health

35 billion sheets of paper saved

This is equivalent to:

= 3.5m Pine Trees
= 2.7m Big Bens worth of stacked paper

stacks of paper next to Big Ben

2.

Information & communication

12b sheets of paper saved

= 1.2m Pine Trees

= 937k Big Bens worth of stacked paper

3.

Professional, scientific & technical activities

11b sheets of paper saved

= 1.1m Pine Trees

= 859k Big Bens worth of stacked paper

4.

Financial & insurance activities

7b sheets of paper saved

= 700k Pine Trees

= 546k Big Bens worth of stacked paper

Adobe logo

Adobe

Source: 2023 Adobe Paperless Study

How much paper have we saved by working from home?

Top Industry:

Public administration, education & health

35 billion sheets of paper saved

This is equivalent to:

= 3.5m Pine Trees
= 2.7m Big Bens worth of stacked paper

stacks of paper next to Big Ben

2.

Information & communication

12b sheets of paper saved

= 1.2m Pine Trees

= 937k Big Bens worth of stacked paper

3.

Professional, scientific & technical activities

11b sheets of paper saved

= 1.1m Pine Trees

= 859k Big Bens worth of stacked paper

4.

Financial & insurance activities

7b sheets of paper saved

= 700k Pine Trees

= 546k Big Bens worth of stacked paper

Adobe logo

Adobe

Source: 2023 Adobe Paperless Study

The benefits of going paperless. 


Transitioning to a paperless office isn’t an overnight thing. But the change, however gradual, will be worth it. Here are some reasons why: 

 

Reduced costs. 

Ink, paper, toner and printer repairs all cost money. If you switch to a paperless office, you’ll see the difference in your budget. Even a partially paperless office with a centralised device for all printing and scanning can save money longer term. 

 

Eco-friendliness. 

Paper can waste energy, contribute to deforestation, release toxic ink and toner into the environment and also add to landfill. Cutting back on paper usage is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. 

 

Increased security. 

Cloud-based paperless document management and storage are widely considered to be more secure than their physical equivalents. Backups, passwords, security credentials and data encryption can all help to protect your documents more effectively than a filing cabinet. 

 

Efficient office space. 

With hybrid working bringing people back to office6, many designers are looking towards human-centred design principles to make their workspaces more appealing7. Lose the filing cabinets and clear the printer rooms to make your office about people, not paper. 

 

You can also learn more about the ways to boost productivity and collaboration in your team.

 

Automation. 

Losing a physical document can send you rooting through filing cabinets, wastepaper bins and rucksacks. According to The Future of Time research, 72% of enterprise workers feel that searching for, sharing and accessing files gets in the way of them doing their job effectively. With a digital version, you can let your computer do the hard work - and perform quick file searches, recover files and restore backups. 

 

Time efficiency. 

Let’s face it, organising folder systems, filing pages and leafing through a mass of paper to find documents is a poor use of your time. An efficient digital system can free up you and your staff for other tasks.

 

Faster transfer of information. 

Digital systems make everything faster - from sending a document via email to storing scans and images. Even acquiring digital signatures is easier than ever. With Adobe Acrobat, you can request, sign and authenticate digital signatures on a PDF and then convert or merge them into other documents seamlessly without a paperclip in sight. With 44% of enterprise workers feeling that awaiting signatures has an impact on their ability to work effectively, these types of tools can not only help save time but also increase productivity.

 

Top tips to help you to go paperless.

 

How to go paperless in the office.

With a few simple steps, you can cut paper without a pair of scissors in sight. Here are a few tips for going paperless in the office. 

 

Utilise online convertors. 

Adobe Acrobat online can do a lot of heavy lifting with converting, compressing and merging files. It’s a great way to get the files you need, save paper and reduce your carbon footprint.

Look to the cloud.

Cloud-based documents are easier to store, share and keep secure. With paperless document management tools like Dropbox, employees can collaborate and share files across the globe - which is perfect if you work with freelancers or remote staff. Google Docs can help users share and edit documents in real time using just a web browser. 

 

Use e-signatures.  

You don’t need a pen and paper to sign a document these days. With Adobe Acrobat Sign, you can sign, collect, track, send, integrate and brand your documents all from a single touchpoint. 

More than 500,000 organisations trust Adobe to drive speed & efficiency.

30%

faster transactions with Acrobat Sign*

47%

more efficient back-office work*

30%

saved in sustainability costs*

*Year 3 total time savings from using Acrobat Sign. Forrester TEI Total Economy Impact Study, January 2022.

Remember your backups.

Though digital documents can be more secure than physical ones, that doesn’t mean they’re failsafe. It’s surprisingly easy to forget to hit save or for a file to disappear from a server location. A solid backup system and saving protocol can help. Remember to switch on automatic backups and save your docs in at least two places. 

 

Make your system accessible.  

Embed accessibility measures into your systems from day one to ensure all your staff can use them effectively. When you’re brainstorming and designing your systems, include disabled people in your user testing. If you’re publishing new digital documents, make sure they’re in accessible formats and language.

“When digital documents - created with accessible applications and checked for accessibility using advanced built-in tools - replace their paper equivalents in every office, disabled people will benefit more than most.  
 
“From easy alteration of background colours to help those with dyslexia, to text enlargement or document reading mode for those with a vision impairment, to full screen reader access for someone like myself who is blind, digital documents win over dead trees every time.” 

 

  • Robin Christopherson MBE, Head of Digital Inclusion for UK tech and disability charity AbilityNet

 

Prioritise training. 

It’s not always easy to shake old habits, but providing clear guidelines, step-by-step instructions and regular training will help your staff make the jump.   

 

Reduce or remove your printers. 

You may need to keep a printer for some purposes, even in a largely paperless office. But centralising your devices into a single space and adding password authentication can help to deter unnecessary use. 

 

Create a paperless filing system. 

A simple, logical structure of networked folders and sub folders is an effective way to store your documents. When you design your system, ask for feedback from staff at all levels to make it inclusive and intuitive. 

 

You may need to organise by date, name, project or department - choose a system that works for everyone and create file-naming conventions that people understand10. Next, think about permissions, version control and everyday system maintenance.

 

Enable digital scanners. 

Many modern printers include digital scanning technology that copies documents and stores them in different file locations. Enabling this helps to keep your documents safe. 

 

Use tech to your advantage. 

Many people print documents for reference as they use their computers. Doubling up on monitors can help your staff keep their eyes on two pages at once without the need to use paper. 

 

How to go paperless at home.

 

Kicking the office paper habit is a big step, but there’s still more to do. Next up, lose the old receipts, newspapers and letters, too. Here are a few ways to do it:

 

Use e-readers. 

Book apps, tablets and e-readers are a great way to cut down on paper books and magazines. They’re also ideal for accessibility - helping users enlarge and reduce font size where necessary. 

 

Request paperless billing. 

Most gas, electricity, broadband and water companies offer paperless billing. You’ll most likely need to request this on your providers’ websites. From then, you can access your bills by logging into your account. Online banking services also offer digital statements.

 

Use workload managers. 

Online tools like Evernote and Trello are a useful alternative to paper to-do lists stuck to your fridge or a computer plastered with post-its. Use these intuitive, interactive platforms to take quick notes, set deadlines and progress everyday tasks.

 

Sign up to digital subscriptions. 

Picking up a Saturday paper or unwinding with an afternoon magazine is a treasured part of everyday life. But after you’ve finished, they normally go straight into the recycling bin. Instead, you can always try a digital subscription. Simply download your favourite magazine from an app or read on platforms like Readly, Apple News or Issuu. 

 

Want to know more paperless and digital document tips? Check out the Adobe Acrobat blog to read expert guides and community case studies. 

Ready to enhance your document management while helping the environment? Start your journey towards effortless, eco-friendly document conversion today.

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