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What’s the Real Cost of Paper Files?

Recruitment tech solutions like digital employee management are gaining popularity across industries. With electronic medical records and electronic health records already implemented in many healthcare facilities, healthcare administrators and HR departments may be considering going paperless across the board. Healthcare administrators might sense that digital employee management will save time and money—but what do the numbers say? We review the major expenses involved with analog employee files, from the cost of paper all the way through wasted time. 

Cost of Paper and Printing Supplies

On average, an American office worker will go through about 10,000 pages of paper in a year. That amounts to around $120 worth of paper alone. In healthcare, lengthy admissions packets and onboarding packets add to this total—but remember, paper isn’t the end of your printing supplies.

The amount of printing you can get from a single ink cartridge varies widely, but PCMag estimates the average cartridge can turn out around 220 pages. That means that each office worker, printing their average 10,000 pages, will need over 45 cartridges per year. If those cartridges cost around $50, that’s an extra $2,250 per employee.

You’ll also want to consider less frequently recurring expenses, like filing cabinets and office printers. Even small expenses like paperclips and staples, which may only cost a few dollars per box, add up over time.

Expensive Storage

Maintaining paper files comes with its own hefty bill. Large filing cabinets take up valuable storage space, which is significant if you’re dealing with high office rent. 

To estimate the cost of paper storage, you’ll first need a few pieces of information. Calculate how many file cabinets you need to store by estimating that each drawer holds about 5,000 sheets of paper. For each cabinet, budget around 7.1 square feet of space (enough room for a person to actually open those drawers). Then multiply this number by the cost of your office rent per square foot—which you can calculate by dividing the total rent by square footage. 

If, for example, your office charges a rent of $9.95 per square foot of space, storing one five-drawer cabinet will cost about $70.65 per year. For every 10 file cabinets, that’s $706.50.

There’s more to storage than the price tag. Files moved to outside storage can also be difficult to retrieve, and may suffer damage if the storage facility isn’t climate-controlled. 

Environmental Toll

We’d be remiss not to acknowledge the environmental cost of paper files. The demand for pulp and paper products is forecasted to double between 2010 and 2060. That’s a tremendous toll on the world’s forests. 

On average, it takes about 8 trees to produce 1,000 pounds of paper. To understand the amount of paper that offices go through, however, we need to factor in waste. It’s estimated that about half the paper in American offices gets thrown away. Office workers only ever retrieve about 30% of documents from the printer. 

The good news is that most Americans want to protect the environment, and expect businesses to do the same. According to the 2017 Cone Communications CSR Study, 76% of Americans expect businesses to advocate for environmental issues. Another 87% reported that they would support a company specifically because it advocated for social and environmental issues. When you take steps toward sustainability, you also drive support from a large portion of consumers. 

Citations and Fines

It’s important to treat paper files with great care to prevent security breaches. Unfortunately, this isn’t always attainable. Studies have found that healthcare workers can dispose of paper files carelessly, exposing sensitive information. Documentation might also get lost on busy desks, which can result in personal information being accidentally displayed.

Violating the HIPAA Privacy Rule through negligence can come with massive consequences. Depending on the class of violation, citation fines can range anywhere from $100 to $50,000 per occurrence. No one wants to imagine exposing private information, but it’s ultimately a risk you take with paper documents. 

Securely transitioning to a paperless HR system can be tricky, since employees may need to dispose of large amounts of sensitive paperwork. Learn how to protect your employees’ sensitive information before diving into digitization. In general, encrypted digital files are less vulnerable to interception and physical damage, hugely reducing your chance of citation. 

Hours of Productivity 

Digging through stacks of paperwork is tedious, time-consuming, and often frustrating. In one study of small and mid-sized businesses, 46% of workers said they wasted significant time every day going through paper files. 

Wasting employee time is essentially wasting money—after all, you’re paying your workers for the time they spend elbows-deep in paper records. A strong digital process saves time and money, all while making it easier for team members to collaborate across locations.

How to Cut Paper From Your Office and Go Paperless

Going paperless is a multi-step process that takes a little bit of planning and a lot of internal support. Get your team on board and develop a strategic plan. Tackle the work of actually digitizing documents either with the help of your HR department, a team of temps, or an external scanning service. Want a more in-depth look at the process of digitizing employee documentation? We’ve got a guide for that.

One of the most important parts of going paperless is choosing the right digital platform to adopt. A good digital employee management platform is secure, easy to use, and responds to the needs of your industry. Ideally, it should also make it easy to maintain, update, and create new digital files in the future. 

Conclusion: A Solution to the High Cost of Paper

Apploi is built to simplify hiring and onboarding healthcare employees, even if your teams are hundreds of miles apart. We automatically collect important documentation at the time of hire, so you will never need to digitize documents retroactively again. From recruitment marketing to secure documentation storage, we offer a robust, customizable platform that helps you manage the employee lifecycle.

Interested in learning more about bringing your HR process online? Contact us today for a free demo of our end-to-end solution.

Melanie Boroosan

Melanie Boroosan

Over her six years in healthcare administration, Melanie has managed human resources, legal, compliance, payroll, and recruitment efforts at a corporate level. This oversight granted her a deep appreciation for the unique needs of healthcare managers, and for the direct ways that business operations affect the wellbeing of each employee. As Apploi’s Director of Healthcare Innovation, Melanie draws from her experience in healthcare HR and ancillary long-term care to pursue a vision of holistic healthcare staffing. Her work is rooted in the knowledge that great care begins with improving quality of life for all healthcare workers.