It’s almost thirty years since the term “paperless office” was first introduced to the world. Ten of those thirty years have been in the glorious twenty first century. And yet we still haven’t truly gone paperless. To be completely honest, it’s unlikely that any office will go 100% paperless in the foreseeable future. This isn’t just due to learnt habits and processes; Legal requirements are a factor too. With the law, the prevalence of paper is more a matter of historical precedence than any relevance of the paper to the law. While we’re waiting for the law to catch up though, we can make a few efforts to eliminate as much paper as we can from the office.
There are numerous benefits of going paperless. Here are some of them:
- You can access your documents more easily. Sometimes it’s as simple as searching in a specific file using a keyword.
- Office space is saved up. The free office space can now be used for other things, thereby increasing the overall productivity of the company.
- You also save time. This valuable time can be used by employees to perform more productive tasks.
- Sharing becomes easier with a digitalised office. Employees can now share documents with each other via email or sharing services like Google Drive. This also saves valuable time and frees it up for other tasks.
The question you might be asking right now is: how do I go paperless? It might seem daunting at first, especially considering you might have a large amount of paper documents in the office and scanning and digitizing them isn’t the most exciting task in the world. Easy does it, however, and it’s the little steps you take that add up in the long run. Here are 8 tips on how to go paperless.
Switch to e-Statements and Bills
A significant portion of the paper your office receives every month consists of bills and statements from your bank and other institutions. Most of these offer the option to have such statements sent to your email. This will greatly reduce the bulk of paper you have to deal with.
Digitize Internal Documents
Undoubtedly, this will be extremely difficult, especially for an office that has been around for many years. The mountain of documents needing digitizing will be tall, to say the least. But don’t forget that this is not a one day activity. It is a transition that will occur over time. You can start by ensuring that going forward, all internal documents are stored and shared digitally via email or services like Dropbox, One Drive or Google Docs.
Get Rid of The Fax Machine
You don’t need your fax machine. If there is any correspondence to be sent to you it can be via email and other media. In case some third parties still prefer to send faxes, you can simply use the online faxing service that takes all your faxes on your behalf and then forwards them to you via email.
Use Your Smartphone and Tablet More
One of the arguments raised in protest to going completely paperless is that some things are simply unavoidable, like receipts. Well, you can invest in a good scanner with OCR (Optical Character Recognition) functionality, or simply purchase an MFD (Multi-Functional Device) with scanning capabilities. If this is too much, use your phone or tablet. Just download scanning software and use your phone to scan all your bill and receipts. You can save them as either images or PDF files and later sort them on the computer.
Make It Inconvenient to Print
Sometimes a little negative feedback is necessary when trying to change a habit. Instead of having handy printers well distributed throughout the office, have one printer in a centralised location so that employees feel discouraged to leave their work stations to get to the printer. Encourage them to use email instead. An alternative approach would be to reward the employees who print the least in the course of the month. For example, you could have a system to track each employee’s total page count for the month. Whoever has the least page count wins a small reward. This can be shockingly effective.
There is a whole host of software out there that has been designed to aid an office in going paperless. OneDrive will store your documents online. CamScanner will turn your phone into a scanner. CamCard CamCard will scan your business cards. OneNote will help you take your notes. Quickbooks will handle your accounting. Powerpoint will take care of your presentations in meetings. The list is endless! There are even services that allow you to back up your data using cloud storage. Once you do go digital, remember to back up all your documents. Store them in an external hard drive onsite, another external hard drive offsite, and on cloud storage with a reputable storage firm.
Digitise Your Signature
Signatures are an important part of businesses as a lot of documents need authorisation in order to be considered legally valid. By scanning your handwritten signature and converting it into either PDF or image format, you can simply add it to soft copies of important documents and send them to the relevant people via email. Pretty neat!
Paper Isn’t Just Documents!
Toilet paper, paper towels, wet wipes… All these are made of paper and you can change your approach to them in your paperless campaign. For example, you could opt to purchase Toilet paper made from recycled paper instead of virgin-fibre paper. Encourage your employees to use handkerchiefs instead of Kleenex or fabric instead of paper towels.
All these small acts ultimately pay off and, over time, your office could reduce its use of paper by over 90%. Remember, it’s not just about being a smart office and reducing your costs. Going paperless has real and tangible effects on the environment. If all offices and households decided to reduce their use of paper, millions of trees would not be cut and the world would be a better place.