The Real Cost of Paper: 15 Facts That Show What Your Business Spends (and Where it Can Save)

Doing as much of your business as possible in a paperless way isn’t necessarily about being “green.” Paper is expensive – and not just the cost of the paper itself.

document management

document management

A number of studies have looked at the cost of working with paper, and the results may be surprising. The numbers don’t lie: working with paper costs you time and money, impacts your productivity, and just plain serves as an anchor dragging your business down.

Take a look:

• Industry studies show that it costs companies $20 on average to a file a paper document. (This includes labor and salary costs, storage, office supplies, and other factors.)

• Gartner Research found that those in professional fields working with paper spend 50 percent of their time looking for information.

• That same study revealed that on average, professionals take 18 minutes to locate each document.

• On average, it costs American companies $120 to find a misfiled paper document.

• Lost documents become even more expensive, costing $220 on average to reproduce.

• On average, companies misfile about 20 percent of their documents. When coupled with the numbers cited above, those errors can get costly.

• Paper documents impact productivity. Studies show that upwards of $14,000 of productivity is lost per worker each year as a result of difficulties in finding data needed to complete their job.

• Paper costs add up. Citigroup conducted a study and found that if each employee saved just one sheet of paper per week, the company could save $700,000.

• The labor associated with paper usage adds up, too. One study showed that a $5 ream of paper ends up costing the average business $155 in labor costs associated with what is done with that paper.

• In terms of labor cost, your standard four-drawer filing cabinet will cost about $25,000 in man hours to fill with documents.

• That same four-drawer filing cabinet will cost about $2,000 per year to maintain. Again, this factors in storage space, labor, and other factors.

• Even today, office workers use a lot of paper. The average office worker uses about 10,000 sheets of paper per year. That’s two full cases of paper per employee.

• While this is changing, at the moment some 90 percent of business information exists only on paper. One fire, one accident, one flood, one theft and it’s gone.

• A study by Cooper & Lybrand found that 70 percent of businesses existing today would fail within three weeks if they had a catastrophic loss of their paper records.

• Cutting waste is easy. Industry studies show that the average business can cut paper usage by 25 percent by increasing the use of email and online services, and doing double-sided copying.


At this point, the facts speak for themselves. The traditional way of conducting business – on paper – is a relic that smart businesses are leaving behind.

What kind of business is yours?