Going “paperless” is the latest effort towards going lean and green in the business world. In addition to saving money on paper, ink, storage space, photo copiers, fax machines and postage, many businesses have noticed an enormous increase in employee efficiency as well. With all files available at the touch of a button, gone are the days of fumbling through paperwork in a filing cabinet, making copies, or standing by a fax machine waiting to receive or send a document.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your paperless office won’t be either. Because old habits die hard, it will likely take some time for employees to clear their paper clutter and switch from manila folders to digital documents. Here are six steps to help any office stop wasting valuable trees, ink, money and time.
1. Start Simple
Begin clearing the paper clutter. Get your office warmed up to the idea of becoming paperless by going through old files and documents to determine what can be tossed, shredded and recycled today. Next, cancel any unwanted subscriptions to newsletters and magazines.
2. Get Scanning
To get moving in your efforts to achieve a paperless office, you will need to make digital copies of all current papers on file. Assign scanning duties to an employee or hire an intern to create archives of all current paper documents. In addition to scanning old documents, scan any new documents that enter the office such as purchase orders, bills, letters, etc. Save the digital copies and shred and recycle the originals.
3. Create Back-Ups
Keep a computer crash from becoming a nightmare. Safe and proper storage of all electronic files is essential for a paperless office to run smoothly. Back up all digital copies in an external hard-drive, an online backup service or a cloud-based filing system. When all electronic files are stored together, there is no need to store any paper originals, and all documents can easily be retrieved and organized using document management software.
4. Bank Statements and Bill Pay
Many banks offer online statements and often give additional perks for customers who manage their accounts online. Taking care of your office finances online makes your payments much faster and simpler to track. Most banks offer an online bill pay service. By using it, you will spend less money on envelopes, postage and checks.
5. Bill Customers and Pay Staff Electronically
Many online systems allow companies of any size to create e-invoices and collect payments. Several mobile apps even allow you to accept customer’s credit card payments with a mobile device. Email receipts for payment instead of printing them.
There is no longer any need to use paper checks when taking care of the payroll. Pay your employees automatically with direct deposit and complete payroll tax forms using a secure online service.
6. Limit the use of Printers and Fax Machines
New technologies are constantly being developed to limit the need for printers, scanners and fax machines. Email documents as PDF attachments instead of printing and faxing. Avoid making printouts for meetings. Instead, utilize a screen sharing program or email copies of documents as an attachment in PDF form prior to the meeting. PDF files can easily be viewed on any smartphone, tablet or computer with the right software.
Printers and fax machines are largely used for obtaining authorization and approval signatures. Unless you are using an online fax like UTBox fax to send and receive fax messages, you may refrain from using it. Switching to an e signature program will allow you to get the signatures you need without ever having to print the document. Depending on the program, approval signatures can be given through any computer or mobile device.
Additionally, programs such as Adobe Echosign will automatically save and archive each signed document making retrieval simple and ensuring you never lose a document. Technology today has made great strides towards improving the way companies conduct business, including the ability to be paperless. Remember, any baby step taken towards going paperless today means a greener tomorrow.
Jared Jaureguy is an Independent Technology Consultant and freelance writer specializing in technology, business, and the digital world. He enjoys watching the Chargers, exploring new technology, and writing with his feet in the sand.