HR and Finance named the worst for paper dependency

Human Resources and Finance departments are the worst offenders in Australian companies when it comes to relying on paper files, according to a new study of Australian workers.

The Australian Workplace Digital Outlook report commissioned by Forum Group has found almost three quarters of offices (73 percent) still rely on paper for record keeping and processing, and some workplaces are reporting paper use has actually increased in the past five years.

According to the research, the most paper-dependent departments are Human Resources (35 per cent), Finance (33 per cent) and Sales and Marketing (22 per cent).

“Human Resources and Finance are supposed to make work easier and efficient, but these departments are by far the worst offenders when it comes to relying on paper,” Forum Chief Operating Officer Peter Burr said.

“This financial year companies need to take a closer look at how to reduce paper use if we are ever going to digitise Australian business and end this longstanding addiction to paper.”

Mr Burr said the idea of a paperless office appeared to be moving out of reach for many businesses, despite 10 years of digital transformation efforts around the world.

In the past five years, only a handful of offices (11 per cent) have ceased using paper. Only 16 per cent of workers report their offices are paperless.

“Workers in one in five businesses say paper use is unchanged, and 8 per cent are saying paper has increased, which suggests some businesses attempts to digitise are failing,” Mr Burr said.

Employees believe paper records need to be kept for legal purposes (48 per cent), or that physical signatures must be retained (43 per cent). Other reasons include:

  • Approvals (24 percent)
  • Old systems (22 per cent)
  • Suppliers / customers requirement (20 per cent)
  • Staff preference for paper (15 percent)


Mr Burr said there was confusion among businesses about how records are required to be kept.

“Good financial and customer records are fundamental to a successful business, but most records can be electronic as long as they are convertible to paper if required,” Mr Burr said.

“Even sophisticated businesses have to deal with lost invoices, duplicated data and misplaced records when they rely on manual systems to keep their operations running.

“Moving from paper to digital forms eliminates the risk of losing paperwork, illegible handwriting, or the intentional destruction of records.

“Cutting out manual data entry also reduces risk of costly human error, such as a misplaced decimal place, additional digits in payable amounts, or incorrect banking information.”