Green Machines: How Going Paperless Increases Productivity / Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Here's how to go paperless and boost productivity at the same time—more green for your business and more green for the environment.

Almost 50 years ago, the idea of running a business with less paper began to emerge.

But only since the beginning of the 21st century has the idea come to fruition with the adoption of digital office equipment - long gone are the days of the typewriter, filing cabinets and Rolodexes. Although running a business without any paper may not be entirely possible, with the right tools and a plan, your business can do it. 

According to Caroline Kimbell, head of licensing for the UK national archives, it would cost around $400 million to convert the UK national archives into digital archives. And though there are costs associated with switching to a paperless business, the benefits include: saving money, better utilizing space, boosting productivity, keeping confidential information more secure, making documentation and information sharing easier and helping the environment. Here are some helpful ways to make your business paperless.

Scan, Shred and Recycle

One of the first steps you need to take in order for your business to go paperless, is to go through all of the papers you have and pull out any documents which need to be kept. Keep only important documents, and get rid of the rest. Scan the documents you plan on keeping so that you can archive them digitally, and shred any sensitive documents before recycling them. If your business is relatively small, you can probably get away with purchasing a shredder for the office. But if you run a bigger business, a shredding and recycling service is your best bet.

Related Article: What’s Your Plan B? Richard Branson's Take on Planet & People

Convert to an Online Fax Service

Instead of using a traditional fax machine to communicate with your vendors and clients, it's preferable to switch to an online fax service. There are many online fax providers, like eFax, available in the market, and using this service will increase productivity and lower costs – think about all of that ink and paper you won't be buying, not to mention all of the time you'll be saving by not walking to the fax machine.

Change Key Business Processes

Instead of printing reports, generate them directly to PDF format. These can easily be read from a PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone. Stop physically signing documents. The ESIGN Act of 2000 makes electronically signed documents and contracts just as valid, and legally binding, as hard copies that are signed.

Switch to Digital Data Platforms

Even if you are running a non-tech business, you can still make efforts to make your office as paperless as possible. Similarly, you can cut down the number of pages printed by requiring the use of apps such as Google Docs or Evernote to save your data on digital platforms. Make your online system more user-friendly and interesting so that employees tend to perform their tasks on digital platforms. 

Related Article: Two Green Business Moves to Attract and Retain Talent

Digital Communication

All businesses regularly deal with banks and service providers. Instead of receiving monthly paper statements and notices, request statements and notices to be available on-line. Most service providers give their customers the option of paying online – take advantage of this and reduce the amount of mail you send and receive. If you bill customers or send notices, switch to sending these via email, saving time and money. Instead of having piles of forms lying around on desks or taking up room in file cabinets, use a service like JotForm to generate forms online.

Provide Better Hardware

Go for a multiple-monitor set up at work stations. Many business tasks require cross-referencing documents, which are often printed. Have more than one monitor at a work station for easy access to numerous documents at the same time. If you invest a little bit more into a high-quality printer or copy machine, you can save money by using features such as double-sided printing.

If you're not already implimenting these simple techniques, you get to be. You'll take yourself and your business into the modern age; making things easier, faster and the bottom line world of business less expensive. This means more "green" for you and more green for the enviroment. 

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