Did you know that using less paper in your organisation could potentially improve the health and wellbeing of your staff? Find out how going paperless can improve the health of your team...

Could going paperless improve health and wellbeing?

Bacteria may live outside of the body on paper for up to one week.

More and more workplaces are embracing paperless, enjoying less clutter, greater opportunities for collaboration and improved environmental­ friendliness as a result. But did you know that using less paper in your organisation could potentially improve the health and wellbeing of your staff?

Research published in the American Journal of Nursing in 2011 revealed that bacteria can live outside of the body on paper for up to seven days ­ something that is particularly concerning in the health service industry, where illnesses could be festering on medical records for a whole week, infecting doctors, nurses and other patients.

With the NHS setting itself the challenge of going paperless over the next few years, this problem should be eradicated from the UK's health service, but too much paper may still be causing wellbeing issues elsewhere.

Tidy desk, tidy mind

In the average office, bacteria on paper can also be an issue, especially during the winter months when more employees are likely to be suffering from colds. Although the area where people eat their lunch or take tea breaks may be home to the highest levels of bacteria, desks and piles of paper files can be a potential health hazard too.

Charles Gerba of the University of Arizona conducted research into the cleanliness of workspaces, finding that it was through the greeting of colleagues where the largest amounts of bacteria were spread, with these germs possibly surviving on nearby documents for up to a week.

Dr Gerba explained: "You'd be better off kissing each other than shaking hands because people cough or sneeze into their hands and transfer the germs when shaking."

Image: iStock/Izabela Habur

What's more, a study carried out at Brigham Young University in 2008 found that 88 per cent of people found being in an unclean or untidy environment distracting to their ability to complete tasks, with an additional 78 per cent reporting that such a setting had adversely impacted on their health in the past.

Moreover, a cluttered working environment was found to increase people's stress levels, while it also triggered the onset of allergic reactions in those with weaker immune systems, highlighting the importance of a clean and tidy workspace in protecting the health and wellbeing of staff.

Yet taking the time to get rid of paper and other clutter can significantly boost wellbeing, as well as productivity.

Scientists at the University of Minnesota conducted research into this in 2013, finding that people who are provided with a tidy place to work with minimal levels of clutter are more likely to be courteous to others and not inflict mess on other areas of the office.

Kathleen Vohs, lead author of the study, stated: "We are all exposed to various kinds of settings, such as in our office space, our homes, our cars, even on the internet. Whether you have control over the tidiness of the environment or not, you are exposed to it and our research shows it can affect you."

Tidy desk, tidy body

Having a tidy workspace is not just good for the mind, as research suggests it could also have benefits for a person's physical wellbeing.

Image: iStock/tab1962

In 2010, Indiana University carried out an investigation that found people who regularly tidy up are physically fitter than their messy counterparts. Thanks to the lifting, carrying and moving around that is involved in cleaning up, tidier people were more active and therefore healthier than those who did not regularly spring clean the space around them.

Furthermore, going paperless can help to improve the health and safety of a workspace, as significantly less clutter and fewer pieces of storage equipment can assist in reducing the number of accidents.

Piles of paper can be a hazard, causing obstructions to corridors or to light, both of which can be dangerous to employees. Yet scanning documents in electronically and using the cloud to view them can help to boost collaboration and productivity, and according to the

research that we've drawn on here, these small steps may assist in improving workers' health and wellbeing as well.

Get in touch with Storetec today to learn more about how you can improve your organisation by making the move to paperless.

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