If Legal Compliance Fears Are Holding You Back from Going Paperless, Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Worry

With each year that passes, we become ever more aware of the increasing strain that human activities place upon the environment. And the response to those challenges has been encouraging. Consumers and businesses alike are taking measures to be more environmentally friendly and responsible in their use of resources.

As we strive for sustainability, one practice that has been widely adopted is transitioning to paperless operations in the workplace. With the advances in technology, much of our interactions have shifted online. Many people can even work from home on a full-time basis. Who needs paper when you can do everything over the internet?

Still, some businesses have been reluctant to embrace the paperless office concept. Not because they don’t want to save the environment, but often out of legal concerns. If your company uses scanners and cloud-based solutions, but still resorts to paper out of compliance fears, here’s how that can change.

Exploring the resistance

Every business will have its particular legal worries when it comes to leaping paperless. The specific regulations will vary with each industry, and your business litigation attorney can fill you in on those. But there are some common areas of concern across companies.

Studies have shown that among workplaces resisting the digitization trend, human resources, finance, and sales and marketing teams are the most paper-reliant. All of these departments tend to work with a lot of data, and much of what they do has to fall within the bounds of a complex set of rules. Those rules can be more challenging to observe and enforce when data is stored and accessed in the virtual realm.

HR teams, for instance, are required by the EEOC to retain personnel records, including application data, performance evaluations, and disciplinary actions, for one year. But medical records about disability accommodations or family and medical leave requests must be kept separately, and the retention period can be up to three years.

Paper files can lead to cumbersome or messy office systems, but they are easy to understand and work with. You write down what a folder contains and the date of the records, and even a trainee knows not to send it to the shredder. With a digital system, you risk an employee making a mistake due to oversight or lack of familiarity. One accidental click, and you might be facing a costly compliance violation.

Concerns with digital security

The security of digital records is another common objection to the paperless office. We frequently hear stories about large-scale data breaches. And the threat of cybercrime has risen dramatically as the pandemic has forced people to take their work and social interactions online.

When sensitive data is confined to paper records, there’s no way for a hacker or social engineer to gain access to that information. On the other hand, put that data in the cloud, and your security is only as good as the weakest link in the chain: your employees. One leaked password or ill-advised opening of a suspicious email, and your system can instantly be compromised.

Changing opinions

office paper

Any change a business makes will have its potential downsides; nothing comes without a cost, even if that’s just a matter of price. Indeed, knowing more about these issues is a sign that your company is being diligent.

For a company to embrace the paperless transition, it has to make sense from a business standpoint. And that means overcoming the various objections that might be raised by different stakeholders.

Thus, evaluating the move to paperless isn’t merely about weighing the cost of a high-resolution scanner and cloud storage versus bulk purchase of paper, ink, and other office supplies. You have to think in terms of risk, accessibility, user interface, and training resources.

Fortunately, the rapid pace of technological developments is increasingly favorable to the paperless office. Modern onboarding and CRM software, for instance, can be developed according to bespoke specifications. This means your HR, finance, and sales people can customize data entry as much as they want. It becomes easier to search for the exact records they need. They can tell at a glance what the information contains and what to do with it.

Cybersecurity can be addressed through frequent and regular refreshers. Your IT personnel can coordinate with remote workers to ensure that passwords are strong and frequently changed, and their devices always updated with the latest security patches.

And if that still doesn’t convince, you can ask your lawyer about how valuable technology is when it comes to e-discovery for legal proceedings. When even legal professionals are going digital to improve their processes, it’s time for companies to revisit their objections and leave the paper in the past.

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