HR Going Green - the Switch to a Paperless Office

2037 words (8 pages) Essay

16th Jul 2019 Environmental Studies Reference this

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Objectives

  • Investigation into successful and failed implementations of the paperless office idea.
  • To assess the cost savings for the HR department. How much can be saved? Will the costs outweigh the benefits?
  • SWOT analysis of paperless office software’s.
  • Analyse current practice

HR Going Green- Switch to Paperless Office

The term ‘paperless office,’ refers to an electronic documentation management environment which provides an alternative to the work flow and storage issues associated with paper files. It was initially used in 1975 as a concept of ‘The Office of the Future’. At that time organizations were anticipating the scenario in near future where offices will transform into a complete paperless environment. It is important for the management practices in present millennium to recognize the potential of a paperless office and its future implications. Multinational organizations around the world now realize that the major differential factor in the global competitive world is the technology innovation. Since the advent of new millennium, this dream of a ‘paperless office’ is partially realized by the usage of electronic documentation systems. However the practice of electronic applications is not utilized to the full extent and more advanced document management soft-wares are required for office management (Sellen and Harper, 2001).

Cost Effectiveness:

One of the major duties of HR department is to identify practices which save organization’s costs. With the implementation of a ‘paperless office’, HR and finance department will experience a visible reduced cost of printing, mailing, storing and shipping documents. Therefore the companies operating in the modern corporate environment will consider paperless office implementation. Time will be saved, which is generally wasted for searching lost files. Accessing information independent of one’s location and timing goes a long way in cutting the organizations costs (Farson, 1996). Bills and document generation will take less time. Departments can interact with each other by circulating e-memos. Officials can even operate from their homes if organizations develop satellite offices. In addition, the paperless office provides an opportunity for organization to realise some profit as the storage and retrieval of electronic documents is instantaneous. This is because; a substantial amount of time culminating into an average of $50 is lost where employees search for information from paper documents.

Outsourcing is one aspect that has saved a number of organizations from crumbling. With numerous workloads coupled with deadlines that are to be met, the incorporation of a paperless office has been the saviour of institutions as it reduces operational costs as well as other fundamental resources while able to meet their target within the stipulated time. This opportunity has been made available with the inception and operation of the paperless office in most organizations (Muto & Muraito, 1999).

Soft wares available for processing data and information provide a variety of tools as input sources (Gordon, 1998, p. 199). An example of this is the Voice Recognition Software which has a voice recognition tool sensitive to one’s voice. Information is thus effectively and easily processed saving on secretarial workload that translates into valuable time lost from typing. Typos errors are also minimised with the use of this tool.

Document Management Software-SWOT Analysis:

Strengths:

  1. They are less costly for HR than intensive labour management. Purchasing the available software for record entry, documentation as well as storage is cheaper. Furthermore, computers do not require intense supervision neither are they exposed to effects of huge workloads such as tiredness which is a common scenario in labour intensive institutions. They are able to process large amounts of data with little supervision thus cutting down on the number of employees while maintaining high quality and quantitative productivity (Ravens, 2002).
  2. These soft-wares efficiently and effectively manage e-documents. Such documents are easily processed, sent to and retrieved by individuals in need of them. This saves on paper as required documents such as forms can be filled electronically and sent to desired destinations. Such include; e -mails and e- memos (Alberto, 2007).
  3. They make sharing of files easy in organizations, better security of important document and proper maintenance of archives. Vital information lost in documents lost or misplaced due to poor handling by individuals is secured through available software. These soft wares are also able to copy information which can be easily accessed by various persons within the organization.
  4. Generates valuable office space. Renting office space has recently become an expensive undertaking. Designing mechanisms to generate valuable space has become a common trend by organizations with some opting to pull down walls. Embracing paperless office which is made available by various soft wares is one mechanism that organizations would use to address the aforementioned issue (Sellen and Harper, 2001).

Weaknesses:

  1. The document management soft-wares may lack certain features which may not be applicable for all kinds of documents. Different documents require different features for both their development and usage. Without such features, it may be difficult to develop a specific format necessary for a specific type of document (Alberto, 2007).
  2. HR should realize that it is not possible to become totally ‘paperless’. There may be some customers who will prefer ordering via memos. Attending to and satisfying a client’s needs, are goals that play vital roles in the continuity of entities. To achieve this, an organization hence needs to be flexible in its approaches. Considering giving memos to some clients should therefore be taken into account.
  3. The collapse of backing system of files may result in the loss of important data. Machines are prone to collapse due to various reasons. This is inevitable therefore the only option left is to take advantage of alternative strategies such as back up. The back up system is still not a viable option as it may still be affected hence increasing the susceptibility of information to loss (Gordon, 1998, 205).

Opportunities:

  1. These soft-wares are environmental friendly and can play a vital role in combating deforestation. Paperless office cuts down on the demand for paper which is mostly made available through deforestation. The effects of deforestation on the global environment have been adverse and consequently affected the survival of humans and other organisms on the planet. Reducing demand for paper is therefore a practical action towards reversing these effects with far reaching impacts on the survival of various species (Farson, 1996).
  2. The availability of optic fibre and satellite technologies would play fundamental roles in the paperless office industry. This would ease and fasten transmission of relevant documents to larger populations including those in remote locales.
  3. The fact that computing is taught in academic institutions is an encouragement. This would reduce training expenditures on new employees hence saving on costs. The new generation is also exposed to other electronic tools with computer features. This would play a big role in changing their perception of ‘super paper’ (Alberto, 2007).
  4. Currently, it is easier to obtain computers and soft wares due to the mushrooming of computer and software manufacturing industries in the world over. The initial capital of investing in these machines would therefore reduce owing to their increased supply. This would cater for large institutions with a high turnover of employees as most or all would be able to access computers for their needed functions (Muto & Maurito, 1999).
  5. Sharing ideas through e-mails and e-memos is one aspect that would contribute to the growth of organizations.
  6. The implementation of laws and regulations on digitized information is a stepping stone towards increased adoption of the paperless office. This is supported by the Implementation of the Government Paperwork Elimination Act in the United States (Alan, 2003).

Threats

  1. Increased manufacturing of upgraded computers which replace obsolete ones result in increase in e-waste. Little research has been done on disposal mechanisms of this non-degradable waste which would further affect the state of the environment.
  2. The human perception on paper. Despite reducing the utility of paper, most individuals still perceive the legality of paper documents. This is due to the fact that features such as original signatures define the legality of certain documents.
  3. Computer hacking and the effects of computer related viruses are setbacks of the paperless office. These contribute to increased vulnerability of documents to loss as well as reduced confidentiality of information (Weighright, 2000, pp.6-10).

In order to analyse the current scenario, Canada is taken as one of the case studies. Despite most Canadians thinking green, working green has been a bitter pill to swallow. From a recent survey, paperless workplace to them is still pulp fiction. Workers print on average 30 copies, with approximately 10 pages (39%) finding their way to the waste bin. In addition, their printing habits were surveyed and shown to have increased over the past five years. Notably, workplace printing accounted for all printing activity despite the availability of technological tools that emphasize on use and storage of digital data. The ‘blue bin’ paper recycling program was a common policy in most companies. However, encouraging information from the survey shows that most firms were concerned about the impact of their practices on the environment and thus practices such as using electronic versions of documents were employed by companies (Ravens, 2002).

In the United States, the courts of Utah are currently adopting the paperless office for purposes of storing vital information, increasing the accessibility to information including those remotely stored and saving on space (Alan, 2003). Hospitals have also embraced this following the adoption of the Health Information Systems to assist both the staff and patients. To ensure that this is successfully achieved, organizational structural changes, leadership, training and technical support, and usability have been the main focal points of these institutions.

The Paperless Office despite being compared to the resource use paradox is an achievable option that would result in a complete overhaul of the negative effects of the use of paper. This however requires the incorporation of time as well as a change in the perception and behavioural patterns of people regarding the use of paper (Gordon, 1998, p.209). As evidenced from the above information, the accruing benefits far outweigh the pitfalls.

References

Sellen, A., & Harper, R. (2001). The Myth of Paperless Offices. Boston: MIT Press.

Alan, A. (2003). Utah Courts: towards paperless. USA: Sage.

Alberto, B. (2007). Desktop Publishing: things not taught. London: McMillan Publishers.

Farson, T. (1996). Progressive Technological Applications. London: Oxford University Press.

Gordon, C. (1998). Paperless Office. Aslib Proceedings, 39, 197-210.

Muto, P., & Maurito, P. (1999). Computer Screens: the paperless office. London: Penguin.

Ravens, K. (2002). Managing the Absurd. USA: McGraw Hill.

Weighright, J. (2000). The Design, Implementation and Impact of Office Automation. Personnel Review, 13, 2-12

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