The Business World Can’t Afford to Drown in Paper Anymore. Can You?

April 3, 2020

3 min read

If you have been in the business world for any length of time, you have probably heard the expression,  “I can’t do that right now. I am drowning in paperwork.” While this is obviously a metaphor, it’s not far off target. No one knows for sure how many pieces of paper are stored in offices, warehouses, desks and other locations, globally.

What we do know is that despite the growth of digital technologies over the past 20 years, paper consumption in the U.S. has increased from 92 million tons to 208 million tons yearly, per the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA has also determined that printed, copied, and written paper — like the paper in your office — is the most heavily consumed paper product category. With 100 sheets of office paper weighing approximately one pound, that’s 20 billion pieces of paper — 68 million trees.

At this point, I’ve illustrated that using and storing paper is wasteful, but not necessarily that it’s financially unsound. So let’s go over the evidence that supports this blog’s title.

A typical employee spends 30-40% of their time storing, seeking or retrieving information kept in filing cabinets.

Furthermore, every four-drawer file cabinet consumes an average of 7-9 square feet (0.84 m²) (sf) of office floor space. In addition, the average U.S. office worker uses around 10,000 sheets of paper — or two cases — each year. “Copy” grade paper runs $20 – $32 a case.

Let’s Do the Math

Following are some rough (and, honestly, conservative) calculations of what “office paperwork” is really costing you. We will assume:

  • A firm with 50 office/clerical personnel who are paid $30,000 per year, on average
  • Each worker spends 30% of his or her time storing or retrieving filed documents
  • Each case of copy paper costs $25
  • The office location costs the firm $25 per square foot
  • The office has 24 office cabinets to hold all of its paper, each of which consumes 7 square feet (0.65 m²)

Average Annual Cost to Store Documents in Your Office:

Paper Cost: $1,250
Filing Cabinet Space Cost: $350
Personnel Cost: $450,000

Total Per Year: $451,600

Now, consider that this figure doesn’t include the price tag of hiring a staffer (or assigning an in-house resource) to act as a “file manager,” to ensure that document protocols are being followed and obsolete documents — either outdated or not required for compliance — are purged to free up space on a regular basis. That could easily add $40,000 to the tab.

Digital Conversion Saves Time and Money

We won’t mislead you. Converting your paper documents can be time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Furthermore, every minute you or your staff spends filing and retrieving documents is time and money lost forever.

To facilitate the process of digital conversion, most organizations partner with a company, like Novatech, that has powerful, advanced document scanning and conversation capabilities. With these solutions, not only do you digitize your documents quickly, with minimal effort, but you also gain access to them in a searchable archive. The next time you want to cite the language from a contract or retrieve documents relating to a specific event or plan within your firm, the process of locating what you need will take seconds, not days.

You and your team will also gain access to documents anytime, anywhere and on any device, and you’ll reap the benefits of going green. Both benefits lead to happier workers and clients — and can support you in many other ways.

To learn more about digital document storage and request a personalized estimate of how much it could benefit your organization, we invite you to contact our Managed Print Specialists for a no-obligation discussion at 

Written By: Editorial Team

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