Advantages — Disadvantages of a Paperless Office, Bizfluent

Advantages & Disadvantages of a Paperless Office

Contents

Importance of Record Management

With the continuing advance of technology, one of the more recent trends of the 21st century has been the so-called paperless office. A paperless office is not actually completely paperless, but rather uses a minimum of paper and converts as much documentation as possible to digital form. A paperless office has both advantages and disadvantages, both of which should be considered by an organization considering a transition from conventional record keeping.

More Compact and Efficient

Digital files require much less physical space than paper files, and are much easier to keep organized. In addition, archived digital files are much easier to access than archived paper files. Digital files can be readily shared among many users at once, and accessed from remote locations, enhancing work efficiency.

Envionmentally Conscious

Fewer paper files means less paper used for duplicate copies and for general record keeping. This factor makes a paperless office more environmentally conscious in most instances. For online magazines and other publications, publishing digitally means the elimination of inks which contain heavy metals, solvents and other substances that are harmful to the environment.

Software and Hardware Concerns

A paperless office is only as efficient as the software and hardware used to store the records allow the workers to be. Software bugs and equipment breakdowns can cause major disruptions to the workings of a paperless office. The maintenance of the software and hardware of a paperless office is also a concern; information technology (IT) staff or consultants are often a necessity, as well as technicians to service the hardware on a regular basis.

Data Entry Errors and Learning Curves

As with any transition, the transition to a paperless office often involves a learning curve, especially in an office environment where employees are not already computer savvy. Data entry errors can be costly and can result in major problems. In addition, data entry and filing errors can result in mis-categorizing records, making it difficult or impossible to find them at a later date.

Security Concerns

Digital records can be vulnerable to unauthorized access, either by hacking or by lax security on the part of staff. Especially with sensitive legal and medical records, data loss can result in significant liability for the company involved, especially if negligence is implicated. Disposing of digital records presents a special difficulty, especially in a shared network environment. Simply erasing a file does not completely delete a digital record, just as tossing a document into a trash can does not prevent someone else from retrieving the paper later.

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10 Advantages and Disadvantages of Questionnaires (Updated 2019)

Have you ever wondered if conducting a questionnaire is a viable option for your research?

There are tons of options you can use for your research.

In this article, we will focus on the one we know best: questionnaires.

As with every research method, there are pros and cons. We’ve gathered the biggest treasures and pitfalls so you can make the best possible decision.

Get ready to discover the 10 biggest advantages like cost efficiency, scalability and quick results.

But also disadvantages such as respondents with their own agenda and a possible lack of personalization.

First things first:

What is a questionnaire?

We define a questionnaire as an instrument for collecting data, which almost always involves asking a given subject to respond to a set of oral or written questions.

So it’s like a survey then?

Well, yes and no.

A questionnaire and survey are not the same.

A survey is a process of gathering data that could involve a wide variety of data collection methods, including a questionnaire.

In essence, every questionnaire is a survey, but not every survey is a questionnaire.

But what makes questionnaires such a great tool for research and data collection?

There are many reasons for that, here are the ten biggest advantages.

10 Advantages of Questionnaires

What are the 10 biggest strengths of a questionnaire?

1. Questionnaires are inexpensive

First of all, questionnaires are one of the most affordable ways to gather quantitative data.

Especially self-administered questionnaires, where you don’t have to hire surveyors to perform face-to-face interviews, are a cost-efficient way to quickly collect massive amounts of information from a large number of people in a relatively short period of time.

A questionnaire can be placed on your website or emailed to your customers. These methods have little to no cost, though strong targeting is necessary if you want to have the highest possible response rate receive the most accurate results.

Still, no matter what type of questionnaires you pick, it will be more affordable than outsourcing to a market research company.

2. Questionnaires are practical

Apart from being inexpensive, questionnaires are also a practical way to gather data. They can be targeted to groups of your choosing and managed in various ways. You can pick and choose the questions asked as well as the format ( open-ended or multiple choice ). They offer a way to gather vast amounts of data on any subject. They can be used in a wide variety of ways.

For example, KBC Group learned just how practical surveys are . They were able to spread their quizzes, polls, and questionnaires during a three-day event. This made collecting real-time feedback almost effortlessly.

3. Questionnaires offer a quick way to get results

It’s quick and easy to collect results with online and mobile tools. This means that you can gain insights in as little as 24 hours (or less!), depending on the scale and reach of your questionnaire.

You don’t need to wait for another company to deliver the answers you need.

Dajo Associates needed quality feedback fast. The South African consulting firm needed a way to make informed decisions quickly. An online questionnaire allowed them to collect the data they needed in the shortest time frame possible.

4. Scalability

Questionnaires and surveys allow you to gather information from a large audience.

Online, you can literally distribute your questions to anyone, anywhere in the world (provided they have an internet connection). All you have to do is send them a link to your survey page. And you don’t even need to do this manually. This could be done through an automated email in your customer onboarding or lead nurturing campaigns.

This means that for a relatively low cost, you can target a city or a country.

You can use multiple data collection points, for example via multiple tablets in kiosk mode .

Geography no longer stands in the way of market research either, thanks to the internet. But be aware of cultural differences between people and countries when conducting worldwide research. Thanks to Survey Anyplace’s multiple languages feature , you can easily create a single questionnaire available in multiple languages .

5. Comparability

When data has been quantified, it can be used to compare and contrast other research and may be used to measure change. This makes monthly or yearly questionnaire more and more valuable over time.

Improving comparability implies that errors due to translation have to be minimized. In terms of questionnaire translation for multi-national, multi-cultural and multi-regional surveys the aim is to achieve a level of comparability across all local versions.

6. Easy Analysis and visualization

Most survey and questionnaire providers are quantitative in nature and allow easy analysis of results. With built-in tools, it’s easy to analyze your results without a background in statistics or scientific research.

Tools like Survey Anyplace offer easy to interpret reports and visualizations, meaning that you’ll quickly be turning your data into results. These results can be put in a wide variety of charts and tables to present them to your boss, colleagues, clients or customers.

7. Questionnaires offer actionable data

Look at research as a blank canvas.

The more data you gather, the clearer the painting becomes. All this information gives marketers the capability to create new strategies and to follow trends in your audience. Analyzing data and building reports can be used to generate predictions and even create benchmarks for follow-up questions or questionnaires.

You don’t need any additional statistical software.

8. Respondent anonymity

Online and email surveys allow respondents to maintain their anonymity .

Mail-in questionnaires also allow for complete invisibility, which maximizes comfort for those answering. Even phone interviews are not face-to-face, thereby making it a more private communication. This concealment puts respondents at ease and encourages them to answer truthfully; however, there is still a human touch to these phone interviews.

Digital questionnaires give the best sense of anonymity and privacy. This type of questionnaire is great for all sorts of businesses and subject matter and results in the most honest answers.

You can be sure your results will be much more accurate when you have the opportunity to complete it anonymously.

9. Questionnaires don’t have time constraints

When using mail-in, online or email questionnaires, there’s no time limit and there is no one on the other end waiting for an answer. Respondents can take their time to complete the questionnaire at their own leisure.

As a bonus, they will often answer more truthfully, as research has shown that having a researcher present can lead to less honest and more social desirable answers.

10. Questionnaires can cover every aspect of a topic

One of the biggest advantages is being able to ask as many questions as you like. Of course, it benefits the marketer to keep each individual questionnaire short, since respondents may find a long questionnaire frustrating. We suggest a limit of 10 questions for online surveys.

However, since they are efficient, cost-effective in nature and have an easy mode of delivery, there is no harm in creating multiple questionnaires, each covering a subtopic of the main subject, that build upon one another.

10 Disadvantages of Questionnaires

We’ve gathered 10 disadvantages, so you can outweigh both the pros and cons of a questionnaire to make an informed decision.

1. Dishonest answers

While there are many positives to questionnaires, dishonesty can be an issue .

Respondents may not be 100% truthful with their answers.

This can happen for a variety of reasons, including social desirability bias and attempting to protect privacy. Stop dishonesty in its tracks by assuring respondents that their privacy is valued and that the process prevents personal identification.

2. Unanswered questions

When using questionnaires, there is a chance that some questions will be ignored or left unanswered .

If questions are not required, there is always that risk they won’t be answered. Online questionnaires offer a simple solution to this issue: make answering the question required.

Otherwise, make your survey short and your questions uncomplicated and you will avoid question skipping and get better completion rates.

3. Differences in understanding and interpretation

The trouble with not presenting questions to users face-to-face is that each may have different interpretations of your questions.

Without someone to explain the questionnaire fully and ensure each individual has the same understanding, results can be subjective.

Respondents may have trouble grasping the meaning of some questions that may seem clear to the creator.

This miscommunication can lead to skewed results. The best way to combat this situation is to create simple questions that are easy to answer.

4. Hard to convey feelings and emotions

A survey or questionnaire cannot fully capture emotional responses or feelings of respondents. Without administering the questionnaire face-to-face, there is no way to observe facial expression, reactions or body language.

Without these subtleties, useful data can go unnoticed.

Don’t get stuck trying to interpret emotion in data, instead go for a Likert scale , the response scale that often uses a rating scale from “slightly agree” to “strongly disagree.” This allows for strength and assertion in responses rather than multiple choice.

5. Some questions are difficult to analyze

Questionnaires produce a lot of data. Multiple choice questions can be tabulated and graphed, but open-ended questions are different.

Open-ended questions allow for individualized answers which cannot be quantified and must be reviewed by a human.

Too many open-ended questions can produce a flood of data, that can take forever to analyze. Fix this pitfall but choosing your question types carefully. If you have ten questions, you probably don’t want more than one to be open-ended since these have no way to be quantified.

That’s why it’s important to select the right type of question as a questionnaire is only as effective as its questions.

The survey questions need to be evaluated quickly and they need to produce data that can be acted upon.

If you make questions too difficult or confusing to answer, you may end up with meaningless data.

Choosing the wrong type of question can also lead to incomplete results or data that is hard to interpret.

The main question types are open-ended , closed-ended and semi-closed ended questions. Within these types, there is an abundance of ways to present your query from ratings to yes/no question.

Learn how to select the right types of survey questions for your needs in our essential guide.

6. Respondents may have a hidden agenda

As with any sort of research, respondent bias can be an issue .

Participants in your survey may have an interest in your product, idea or service. Others may be influenced to participate based on the subject of your questionnaire. These proclivities can lead to inaccuracies in your data, generated from an imbalance of respondents who see your topic in an overly positive or negative light.

Filter out a hidden agenda with a pre-screening. Come up with a few indirect questions that will remove those results wreckers.

7. Lack of personalization

Customization is the prevailing marketing theme.

Any piece of marketing material is at risk of seeming impersonal unless time and care are taken to personalize it. If you’re unable to add touches of personalization, some potential respondents may be put off and ignore it.

This can be particularly difficult when the questionnaire or survey is taken voluntarily on a website, regardless of purchase or email.

Fix this by always sending emails containing respondents names. Use dynamic content on websites, and strive to use names, personal data and personalized content in all communication.

8. Unconscientious responses

Every administrator hopes for conscientious responses, but there’s no way to know if the respondent has really understood the question or read it thoroughly before answering.

At times, answers will be chosen before fully reading the question or the potential answers. Sometimes respondents will skip through questions, or split-second choices may be made, affecting the validity of your data.

This drawback is tough to defeat, but if you make your survey short and your questions simple you’re likely to get the most accurate responses.

9. Accessibility issues

No matter what form of delivery is used, lack of accessibility is a threat . Surveys may be unsuitable for users with a visual or hearing impairment, or other impediments such as illiteracy. This should be considered when choosing to do research in this manner.

Always choose a questionnaire platform that has accessibility options built in.

10. Questionnaire or survey fatigue

We’ve all received survey invitations and the trend of companies using customer feedback surveys is up. This means that some level of survey fatigue is setting in with respondents .

In general, we can identify two types of survey fatigue:

Survey Response Fatigue: This occurs before the survey begins. Overwhelmed by the growing number of surveys, respondents will be less inclined to take part in your survey. As a result, you’ll suffer from a low response rate.

Survey Taking Fatigue: This type of respondent fatigue happens during the survey. It’s the result of surveys that are perceived as too long and include questions irrelevant to the respondent. An indicator of survey taking fatigue can be found in a low completion rate.

How much survey fatigue affects your questionnaire depends on you. If you make it easy for respondents to answer and you actually do something with the information then fatigue will be lower.

Why Use an Online Questionnaire

There are numerous advantages to using online questionnaires.

Firstly, as mentioned, they can be sent out quickly and turnaround can be relatively short. You’re able to reach your audience in the moments that matter – while they’re browsing your products, as they read your content, as soon as they’ve made a purchase.

Online questionnaires allow users time to consider responses – a distinct advantage over face-to-face or telephone methods. Besides these great perks, the cost of online questionnaires is low and actionable items produced by the data can produce a high return on investment.

There are additional benefits as well.

User responses can be precoded, eliminating transcription errors. The data is already in an electronic format, allowing for easy analysis without the hassle of digitizing data.

Lastly, guidance and/or software is available through providers such as Survey Anyplace at an affordable cost and with a wide range of possibilities to make it fit your brand and your requirements.

How to Motivate Respondents to Participate

Questionnaires have a bad rep and over the past years, many researchers saw their response rate decline due to their unpopularity. That’s why we’ve compiled an extensive list of tips that can help you boost your response rate.

The most obvious way to do this is to reward respondents for their time through gifts, credits or payment. Survey Anyplace even offers fun reward tools like a digital scratch card or slot machine.

Rewarding a respondent is just one means of getting responses. Respondents also want to make sure their privacy is protected, make it clear that answers are confidential and make sure your privacy policy is up-to-date. Emphasize how the data will be useful to the user experience or helpful to society. People like to feel like they’re doing a good thing.

They also want to know that they can complete your questionnaire without the hassle of dinner time calls. Respecting the respondent’s time goes a long way towards showing you appreciate their participation.

Be sure to send reminders as well – many people forget anything that isn’t at the top of their minds.

Find inspiration for your Questionnaire Design

Designing a questionnaire may sound simple until you sit down to write the questions. Planning, content creation and graphic design are all important. Not everyone has the time or professional design skills to create a questionnaire.

That’s why some software companies like Survey Anyplace offer templates to create questions in minutes.

Now that you know how helpful and effective questionnaires and surveys can be, get a free Survey Anyplace account!

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Greentumble

According to the latest calculations, the world is currently producing about 1.3 billion tons of garbage on a yearly basis [1] . To put that in perspective, if we took all the human beings on the planet and placed them on an impossibly gigantic scale, their combined weight would only be one-quarter of that amount [2] .

Unfortunately—or perhaps ominously is the better word—about 60 percent of this garbage will end up in landfills, which are multiplying globally as a pace that nearly matches the reproduction rate of the rat populations that live in them [3] .

Dumping and burying everything in landfills is not a viable solution to our collective garbage disposal problems. There simply isn’t enough usable space, horizontally or vertically, to safely deposit billions of tons of this heavily contaminated material on an annual basis.

Other solutions are needed, and may people believe incineration facilities offer a cleaner, tidier, and less land-consuming alternative. Even though they are not as common as landfills, municipal incineration plants have been around for a while, so there is nothing experimental or theoretical about this option.

But is incineration truly a legitimate or desirable alternative?

That is a question with no definitive answer.

Municipal solid waste incineration process

In the 21st century, incineration methodology has advanced far beyond its crude origins. In just the past few decades, large-scale municipal incinerators have become far more efficient in their capacity to reduce waste to manageable quantities, and to do so in a way that releases miniscule quantities of contaminants (toxic gases and/or particulate matter) into the air.

Modern incineration facilities can generate combustion temperatures of more than 850 degrees Celsius, which is the minimal level necessary for maximum efficiency in the destruction of potentially hazardous organic materials [4] .

High-temperature, mass-scale incineration of solid waste produces ash, flue gases, and heat, and at the end of the burning cycle the total mass of solid waste left behind will be dramatically reduced.

Even at these higher temperatures, large-scale municipal incineration plants still produce poisonous byproducts, including dioxin (a cancer-causing agent) and heavy metals, which can be highly toxic even in minute traces.

However, scrubbing technology eliminates most of the contamination in flue gases before it is released, and only trace amounts of dioxin will exit smokestacks (most is removed or accumulates on the inside of the smokestack, where it can be removed later).

Large-scale modern solid waste incineration plants can process 250 tons or more of garbage per day, with emissions that are significantly less toxic than what incineration plants were producing a couple of decades ago.

Advantages of incineration

As an alternative to landfills, incineration offers the following advantages:

#1 Far more efficient use of space

After the incineration process is complete, the total mass of the remaining garbage can be reduced by up to 85 percent, while its volume may shrink by as much as 95 percent [5] .

In small countries, or in municipalities where landfills are full and additional space is scarce, this type of mass and volume reduction can be a godsend.

#2 Elimination of groundwater contamination

Leachate is thick pea-soup-like slurry of liquid garbage, which is formed every time precipitation falls on landfill.

It is this contaminated mixture that can penetrate underground aquifers and pollute them with unsafe quantities of salts, heavy metals and volatile organic compounds, plus other toxic or corrosive chemicals or substances found in household trash.

#3 Energy generation

As of 2016, there were approximately 2,200 waste-to-energy power plants in operation around the planet [6] . These facilities burn garbage at a high temperature to boil water and power steam generators, which then produces electricity that can be distributed on the power grid.

On average, one such facility can burn up to 300 million tons of garbage per year, converting it into power that reduces the load on coal-fired power plants, which of course are a disaster for the environment.

#4 Lower carbon footprint

The bad news is that when organic matter (the combustible part of garbage) is burned, it still emits significant quantities of carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas produced by human activity.

But this is still an improvement over landfills. When organic matter biodegrades in landfills it gives off methane, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the Earth’s atmosphere far more efficiently than carbon dioxide.

Calculations show that letting organic matter break down in landfills will contribute about 30 percent more to global warming than burning the equivalent matter in an incinerator—which is far from zero emissions, but still a step in the right direction [7] .

Additional advantage is that waste incineration plants can be located near where waste is generated, which decreases the costs, energy and emissions associated with transporting waste.

Disadvantages of incineration

While incineration has its advantages, it is not a perfect solution. The disadvantages of solid waste incineration include:

#1 High expense

Incineration facilities accrue significant costs for site studies, permits, construction materials, labor, and local infrastructure modification (providing water, power, road access, etc.).

In the long run, they may save cities, counties or societies money by reducing the need for landfills and by helping reduce the environmental impact of garbage disposal.

But that is small consolation for local or state governments with tight budgets, or for the taxpayers who that are expected to foot the bill for all new waste incinerator facilities costs.

#2 Continued emission of toxic or otherwise hazardous pollutants

Modern incineration plants have cut their emissions of heavy metals and toxic poisons like dioxin to a minimum, in comparison to older incineration facilities that were lax in this area. But emissions still do occur, and substances like dioxin, mercury and arsenic are not completely safe for humans or animals at any level.

Fear of toxic pollution is one of the main reasons incineration projects tend to stall. Those who decry the influence of NIMBY—motivated opposition to municipal incineration plants overlook the fact that people’s concern about air quality are at least somewhat justified.

And even when using the best technologies, incineration plants remain prodigious emitters of carbon dioxide, the gas that is most responsible for anthropogenic climate change.

#3 Opportunity costs

Perhaps the most important objection to incineration of solid waste arises from the concept of opportunity costs—that is, the idea that the actions we take automatically preclude other actions, which might be more effective if we gave them the chance.

Some critics of incineration claim that incineration ultimately encourages more waste production because incinerators require large volumes of waste to keep the fires burning, and local authorities may opt for incineration over recycling and waste reduction programs.

If we exploited every available opportunity to recycle the plastic, metal, glass, rubber and other non-organic waste that gets discarded, and if we composted as much of our excess organic matter as we conceivably could, zero waste supporters say we could cut our garbage production by as much as 80 percent [8] .

Through reuse and repurposing, and detailed planning to reduce our creation of waste from the get-go, we could get rid of most of the rest, they argue—and for the most part they do so persuasively.

From a cost-efficiency standpoint, embracing the zero-waste philosophy would make a tremendous amount of sense, whether we could reach its most ambitious goals or not. It would change our collective mindset from reactionary to proactive, altering the fundamental practices and assumptions of our throw-away society—which incineration does not do.

Is incineration better than landfills?

In terms of their overall impact on the environment, and compared to landfills, incineration plants have much to recommend them. Nevertheless, incineration still seems to be a classic example of a “second-best” solution: better than the worst, but a long way from the best we can do.

The four ‘Rs’—reusing, recycling, repurposing and reducing—offer a more effective answer to our ongoing garbage disposal dilemma. An ounce of prevention, as has often been said, is worth a pound of cure—and an ounce of incinerated trash is certainly easier to handle than a pound of raw garbage.

Recycling and waste reduction must be considered as our first line of defense to reduce our overall waste stream, and this also must include composting our organic waste instead of throwing it away. When we think about it, there truly is no “away,” as all waste must go somewhere. Many of the materials that are thrown away have the potential to be used to produce new items, and not reusing these materials is a large waste of resources.

But there may still be good uses for incineration, even in a mostly “post-garbage” world. There might be some things we can’t reuse or recycle no matter how hard we try, and incineration might be the most sensible choice when disposing of these products.

In locations where space is at a premium and the money is available to invest in state-of-the-art technology, municipal waste incineration plants are undoubtedly a superior alternative to landfills, and that may keep them relevant for a long time.

On the other hand, waste incineration in developing countries is not as practical neither economical as in developed countries, since a high proportion of waste in developing countries is composed of kitchen scraps. Such organic waste is composed of higher moisture content (40 to 70 percent) than waste in industrialized countries (20 to 40 percent), making it more difficult to burn. Ideally, this waste should be composted and used to enrich soil in sustainable agriculture systems.

Waste not, want not: flexible solutions to our garbage dilemma

In the short-term, flexibility is essential method for effective waste management, as the situation in Sweden so aptly reveals.

In Sweden, only seven-tenths of one percent of the garbage they produce ends up in landfills (in the United States the percentage is 53 percent) [9] .

Slightly more than half of the remainder is recycled (in the United States the percentage is 34.6 percent), and the rest is consumed by the 33 waste-to-energy incineration plants that supply heat and/or electric power to more than two million Swedish households [10] .

In the Swedish example, garbage is actually viewed as an exploitable resource rather than a burden, and that attitude has led the country’s citizens and political leaders to embrace both recycling and incineration.

The issue of waste incineration may not simply be a matter of “to incinerate” or “not to incinerate,” but perhaps we should instead be considering where it is appropriate to use incineration, where it is not appropriate to use, and how incineration technology can be a part of how we manage our waste disposal in the future. Even if it isn’t the ultimate answer, large-scale incineration of waste could function as an intermediate step on our path to a more viable and sustainable future.

We also need to ensure that there are strict regulations concerning emissions from incinerators, and seek to implement the most effective technologies to eliminate as many of these pollutants as possible.

Our current reliance on landfills is highly unfortunate and leading us into a heaping, stinking mass of misfortune, and the sooner we can phase them out the better off we will be.

The ideal scenario, of course, is to not produce any waste that endures, but to have an entire system where materials are returned and utilized again in some way. That is what nature does, and that is what we also must learn to do.

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