The chances of being able to achieve a paperless office space remain remote. However, thanks to a range of innovative technologies businesses are now learning invaluable lessons on how to encourage members of their staff to print less.
While technical solutions that enable us to manage printing are relatively easy to find, managing our expectations can be a bit more challenging and requires sensitivity and clear objectives and outcomes, particularly when it comes to removing elements of equipment from our offices.
It’s all about working out what you want to save, most business offices start by trying to save on single pages and colour printing, since colour printing is more than twenty times the cost of mono printing. You also want to save some money on cartridges, paper and time. It might sound trivial, but simply ordering printer cartridges as well as paper can be time consuming. When paper arrives in large bundles it needs to be broken down and distributed – this is a process that obviously has an opportunity cost and can get in the way of employees doing their job.
You also need to raise awareness among members of your staff of the cost of printing. Simply because you print it at your office it does not mean that it’s free. Either way, the main goal should be to never get in the way of your employees doing their jobs, but to help change their views and eventually promote better practice. Many business owners think that no matter how many steps firms take toward the paperless office, there are still some employees who just don’t get with the program.
Is it really necessary?
When it comes to printing a document, first of all think if you truly need it printed. Do you actually need a hard copy of that document or email? Lowering the amount of excessive prints can have a positive impact on your revenue. Encourage your workers to ask themselves, before printing anything, if they truly need their email or document printed.
Outsource your printing
Another aspect to take into consideration is whether you should print your documents in-house or externalise it to a reliable printing professional. It is common to believe that managing printing in-house is the right route to take instead of partly or fully outsourcing printing activity. Think twice: most local printing providers will be able to offer you a good cost per printed page if you outsource them a large amount of work. You can find local, trustworthy providers of large format printing online trough a search engine or through your contacts, and these professional providers will not only have the right equipment but will also have a deep understanding on how to get the best quality for your prints. Printing equipment is very affordable nowadays and many of us have been printing off our PCs for years. It can lead to the same kind of rationale that led many of us to have our friend John design our online site or have an administrative worker with some IT skills build and set up our networks. This usually does not end very well and it can ultimately prove more costly than outsourcing in the long run.
What are the real costs of printing?
Large firms still look for different ways to discourage printing. There are many costs associated with printing. If you look at them individually they might seem small, but they can quickly add up:
- Energy for the printers and servers—can be as much as 3000 kWh each year
- Hiring specialists to maintain printers, keep them working with paper and ink, etc
- Storing and tracking usage of the paper used
- Printer wear & tear
- Disposing of the paper you want to get rid of
There are many steps you can follow to reduce your printing and start getting closer to the ROI of an actual paperless office:
- Digital processing: scanning paper into a DMS or document management system
- Eliminate manual work: automatically file scanned documents
- Go paperless: eliminate paper completely with digital forms
However, things are not so easy in real life: your employees are not as focused as you on this and they are busy. You can fill your office with all the signs you want, but your employees aren’t necessarily going change their behavior. Change is hard. You need to help them change. For those times when your employees feel like they need something printed, these are a few things you can do to reduce it.
- Remove personal printers: install shared printers
- Ask your employees to print their documents at the printer itself
- Implement printer policies
- Switch the default setting on your printers from “single-sided” to “double-sided”
- Track usage of printers
- Utilise chargeback programs or systems to account for costs
- Use fonts that consume less ink
- Try using thinner paper
“Please consider the impact on the environment before printing this document or email.” Having a “think first” message at the end of emails is a fantastic way to be environmentally responsible and make workers conscious of unnecessary printing.