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Going Paperless

According to environmental group Clean Up Australia, Australians use more than 4.2 million tonnes of paper annually AND each office worker
throws away an average of 50 kilos of paper every year

How can we help make our offices less reliant on using paper?

Walk into any office in Cairns or anywhere in Australia and you will most likely see desks stacked with paper and filing cabinets bursting with files.

While a paperless office seemed probable when computers revolutionised the office, it hasn’t quite come to fruition yet. However, it’s actually easier than we think to help make our offices less reliant on paper.

Miller Harris Lawyers is one of the first offices in Cairns to considerably reduce their paper use, and in doing so have noticed vast improvements in their efficiencies and procedures.

“We have been substantially paperless now for over 10 years,” Partner Melissa Nielsen says. “We’re not completely paperless simply because sometimes we need to have physical files for court, but we have substantially reduced paper usage and associated archiving.

“There are many benefits to reducing the use of paper. It’s environmentally friendly, is certainly more efficient and having less clutter provides for a cleaner office. It also allows us to work remotely and work flexible hours because we can access our files from any computer at any time.”

Thanks to the digital world, paperless document storage allows people to securely store and back up important files and documents. The majority of today’s correspondence, documents and contracts are produced electronically, and files are available at your fingertips. Gone are the days when you need to search through filing cabinets for documents.

“My desk used to be piled high with files and now I don’t have a single file sitting on my desk at all,” says Melissa, who has been with Miller Harris Lawyers for 14 years. “The whole practice freed itself of around 30 or so filing cabinets, so there’s a lot more office space now.”

Melissa says offices need to be properly prepared before implementing changes to cut down on their paper use.

“To reduce the use of paper, you need to have procedures in place to ensure you can adequately keep complete files so nothing is lost,” she says. “We implemented a new practice management system in 2007 which enabled us to change our procedures and which we’ve modified over time. Now, every piece of paper that enters or leaves our office is scanned and staff are trained on our practice management system.”

Having a number of computer back-ups is essential, as is having a cyber security policy in place.

“Our firm has a robust Information Technology Disaster Recovery & Continuity Plan to ensure sufficient security, technical protection and robust controls are maintained,” Melissa says. “It includes a two-tiered network authentication system, active firewall, secured control room housing the firm’s computer systems, secure storage of data at secure off-site location and robust password management.”

Cutting down on paper use also reduces the use of printers and their associated costs and the expense of paper, files and stationery.

“I highly recommend offices take steps to reduce their paperwork,” Melissa adds. “I can’t find one negative thing about it!”

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