It’s easy for busy offices to overflow with paperwork. Access to endless digital file
storage applications, showcases how useless paperwork is today. Paperwork
dramatically decreases your businesses productivity, and creates extra costs. Here,
highlighted are some steps you could take to reduce your paper usage.
LESS PAPER = BETTER BUSINESS
We often forget to acknowledge that paper is all around us. Businesses put a lot of
money and effort into organising and actively moving paperwork around. Two decades
ago analysts had forecasted that offices would be completely paperless by now,
however every year there’s more paper being generated.
Paper isn’t necessary and could be completely removed from within most business
sectors. Digital files and documents are more efficient, simpler, manageable and can be
stored without taking up any physical space.
It is a challenge for businesses to become completely paperless. This guide will
introduce tools that could help you reduce your paper usage and also incorporate digital
WHY IS PAPER STILL BEING USED?
Before leaping into the positives of a paperless business, it’s important to note why
paper is still being used heavily. Here are some factors of why paper is still being used:
- Government regulations
Government organisations often suggest that you hold onto paper files, and there isn’t much you can do about that. However, Government departments are changing with the digital times and have begun accepting electronic documents.
Signed paperwork is often used for loan applications, or selling a business. Lawyers are also making the shift to paperless offices and this practise has become less common.
- The convenient hardcopy
Paper documents have been stored for centuries and are accessible today. Whereas, almost every 20 year old electronic document can’t be accessed anymore. Paper for permanence can seem like a better option. Electronic storage systems have improved, and are still being upgraded. PDFs and JPEGs can now outlive their own creators or businesses.
- Haptic Perception
People often choose paper over digital storage due to the physical feel of paper. Data stored on computers or cloud can at times feel unreal. Though with generations growing more accustomed to computers, paper becomes less relevant.
Paper is easy to share amongst employees and cheap. However, it’s the printers, toners, servicing, maintenance, cabling, connectivity, user support and all other miscellaneous costs that make paper usage expensive. Not to mention the cost of storing files.
POSITIVES OF A PAPERLESS OFFICE
A paperless office is easier than most think. Here are some benefits of operating as a
- Less jumble
Paperwork can easily become a mess, which can decrease your office productivity. Organising electronic documents is effortless and overall makes your office tidier – helping your head stay clearer to focus on work.
Digital files can be retrieved faster, managed and stored; compared to physically doing the same with paper.
- Disaster recovery
An entire business’ documents can be kept on one laptop versus a storage room filled with endless shelves with paperwork. If a disaster occurred, a fire or flooding, repossessing digital documents would only take a push of a button.
- Cost efficiency
Going paperless will mean saving on printing, postage and miscellaneous expenses in receiving the paper. Rent could also become cheaper after clearing out that one room used for document storage.
- Moving forward
As your business grows, so might your staff and you might require bigger space. A paperless business would make it simpler to move locations, rather than dragging heavy filing cabinets along with you.
- Environmentally friendly
To put it quite simply, printing less means a decreased demand for logging, transportation of paper and less power used to create paper.
- Speedy communication
Posting letters takes a minimum of 3 days to arrive at an intended destination. Whereas emailing takes no time at all. A paperless office would help your business reach productivity much faster.
10 WAYS TO ACHIEVE A PAPERLESS OFFICE
It’s not realistic to go completely paperless overnight, you should consider planning the steps you’ll need to take in order to function without paper. Here are some steps that could help.
- What’s your printer mostly used for?
Create a system to audit what’s currently being printing, and who is in need of the printer. By taking note of your printing jobs, you’ll be able to plan ahead of what will need adjusting or replacing with a new paperless system.
- How much will you save?
Utilise an accounting software that will calculate your internal and external printing expenses. In this calculation include printers, ink, paper, services, storage and technical support. Then calculate how much would be saved if for example, you began sending out electronic newsletters, rather than printed ones.
- Make the move to online platforms
Cloudbased applications will help you share data to your clients and suppliers, without having to use different file formats. Find out whether the companies you mainly interact with are happy to use cloud too. Examples of some easy cloud based applications:
Google Docs (collaborative documents)
Dropbox or Box (sharing files)
Basecamp (project management)
Evernote (digital notes)
PayPal (funds transfer)
The more you use cloud applications, for payroll and accounts, the less time and money you’ll have to invest in technical support and file formatting concerns.
- Train staff
Ensure that your staff understanding the paperless changes you’re going to go ahead with. Making sure that your staff know how to use electronic applications such as documents and invoices is vital.
- Bring your staff aboard
Introduce a printing allowance for your staff and offer rewards for printing less.
- Scan, scan, scan
If you receive hard copy documents from others, just scan them. Scanners are wonderful, as they are cheap and can be stored as a PDF. If there’s too much to scan you can always rely on scanning companies to do the work for you.
- Digital signatures
Signing documents electronically has become a reality. Most countries have made digital signatures legal and binding.
- Online banking
Always ask for paperless banking statements and documents. It’s now possible to set up notifications to remind you when bills or other important invoices are due. It’s also very accessible to pay bills and suppliers online.
- Reshuffle your office
By cutting down on paper storage, you’ll soon realise the extra space you have. It’s your opportunity to improve the office. Look into investing in larger monitors or dual monitor setups for your staff to better view documents.
- Update old technology
Various organisations still use fax machines to send or receive documents. There are options to fax electronically. Less paperwork and expenses.
After the decision has been made, to dramatically reduce paper usage it’s up to you to
set a timeline for the transition.
There is the option of going ‘cold turkey’ – by going completely without paperwork. However, you would need to act fast and move everything to cloud, reduce office printing dramatically and store all of your documents electronically.
Though, that would be taxing on you and your staff whilst you’re trying to also run a business. Strategically it would be better to start the paperless process at a department at a time. You’ll also be able to see what works and doesn’t after your first try, and then improve your approach with the other departments.
Going paperless in the office will all depend on how experienced you are with technology. If you’re not so comfortable with electronics, here are some ways to make it less stressful:
- Secure your documents
Encrypt all your documents to ensure the safety of your business.
- Schedule backups
Digital files are easy to save but also very easy to delete. Make sure you regularly backup your files online. Services such as blackblaze.com or carbonite.com can help you with storage. There are offline options also, such as USB memory sticks, external hard drives, CDs and even DVDs.
- Create indexes
It’s easy for electronic documents to linger in various locations so make sure you index them. It will make it easier for you to find, and search for them when needed. For searchable scanned documents use OCR (optical character recognition) software. Scanning service companies can arrange this for you.
- Don’t be over ambitious
Always remember that going paperless is only a goal and a tough one. There are various industries such as real estate that heavily rely on paperwork. So be realistic with the industry you’re in and how much you can achieve.
- Go easy
Try as much as you can to go paperless, but take small achievable steps. If you need to print a document, make sure you use both sides of the paper to reduce the amount of sheets you use. If you’re printing a PowerPoint document, squeeze as many readable slides onto a page. Going paperless is about becoming more conscious of unnecessary paper usage or storage.
PAPER IS HISTORY
We have never been closer to having all the utensils to become a paperless society. We have technology such as cloud based applications to thank for the progress. There are numerous positive examples of how a paperless office can offer you and your staff more freedom. From saving money, to flexibility of moving your business to various locations and still being able to function.
A paperless office eliminates any physical aspects of organising documents. Also, allowing you to have more office space and store all your business documents securely in one place (using cloud), and takes no time at all.
Say goodbye to cluttered paperwork and hello to organised digital documents!