There has never been a better time to go paperless. It’s a great way to reduce your company’s impact on the environment and improve your office’s overall organization. Tools like document management software, cloud storage and electronic invoicing platforms are also widely available now, which means that going paperless has never been easier or more accessible. Here’s how to go paperless.
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Here are a few easy steps to setting up a paperless office.
Don’t assume people will discover (and implement) ways of minimizing their paper usage. They need clear instructions they can understand. Create written guidelines and operations they can follow to ensure a paperless office.
The paperless process needs to be easy and deliver tangible benefits — save time, save effort and save the environment. Benefits should include easier filing and retrieval of scanned and sensitive documents via cloud storage and the ability to share them without relying on copying or scanning.
If printers are still easy to access by your team, they will continue to be used. But if you remove them from desktops and replace them with centralized network printers relegated to dedicated areas within the office, you can limit their use.
In addition, enable logging and password access to make printing secure when it’s necessary. That also allows management to track usage and address abuses. You can institute policies that restrict purchases of ink and toner for only approved devices. That can curtail further the use of any printers that remain on employees’ desks.
Going paperless optimizes space that would have otherwise been used for storage, fax machines and printers/copiers.
Invest in modern document management software to replace filing cabinets. Evernote, for example, digitally organizes notes and tasks and archives them without the need to scan them first.
There are a variety of top document management solutions available. Pricing starts at around $15 per user, per month.
The four below are representative of the best examples. Some applications offer a free evaluation periods so that you can find the right package for your business. Learn more about some of the top options in our:
As part of the switch, you’ll need to add networked disk storage capacity, backup systems and automated online backup and cloud computing systems. Your digital filing system can be more secure than paper because it can be accessed even in the event of a disaster and scanned documents uploaded to your paperless system cannot be accessed without a password. [Read more about document storage strategies.]
Modern shared copiers include a document scanner that is capable of scanning paper documents and then storing them in many digital storage and cloud computing systems. Work with your office copier vendor to make your copier and document scanner part of your paperless office. Additionally, ask your copier vendor (or a copier service) about setting up a digital scanner on the copier to integrate with an online faxing service.
Employees should be able to file their original documents directly within the software they use to create your company’s documents. Connect their Microsoft Office account, or whatever other software you use, to the document management software you implement for both saving and retrieving files. This way, you can automate your company’s workflow, store paperless documents easily and implement digital signature tools from within the same platform.
Use online fax services to avoid the print-then-fax process. These solutions can be attached to your office’s software to enable direct inbound and outbound faxing from users’ computers, easing the transition to paperless statements and digital signature tools.
In business, there are many documents that require a signature, whether the signee is an assistant or CEO. There are a great many options for software that allows you to create and use legal, valid signatures on contracts or legal documents. This option is not only more secure but drastically reduces the amount of storage you’d need if you were to keep physical copies of signed documents in the office.
Paper documents are wasteful and can pose a potential security risk. There are many digital, cloud-based systems available to use for analytics, tracking and invoicing as well as some software platforms that can be shared across financial and human resources departments, which would help your business’s paperless efforts even more.
If you’re convinced going paperless is right for you, implement these additional methods to establish your paperless office.
Chances are that the same platform that manages your company’s emails has cloud storage options too. By ensuring that all digital documents are uploaded to these built-in cloud storage tools, you and your colleagues can access all your documents digitally securely and safely — no matter where you are.
If your company primarily uses desktop computers, going paperless is more arduous. Employees with desktop computers cannot bring their devices into company meetings, which means they have to print any documents they need to show during the meeting. With laptops and tablets, however, your employees can connect to projectors or other displays that everyone in attendance can see without distributing printed copies.
Lay out a timetable for your office’s transition to a paperless arrangement and set a date for converting to your target reduction in paper use. It’s unlikely that your company will eliminate all paper in the office, so set an initial goal to reduce printing and paper use by some percentage. A 50% reduction is a good starting place and a final goal of an 80% reduction in paper use is a realistic final goal. Check your progress and adjust operations as needed.
There are many strategies you can use to make your office paperless. To make it happen, set goals and timelines for change. Going paperless is not an overnight process; you must plan accordingly.
Although transitioning to a paperless office might not happen overnight, the change can be well worth the effort. The benefits of going paperless include, but are certainly not limited to:
Max Freedman and Scott Koegler contributed to this article.