Transitioning to a paperless office isn’t just a great way to reduce your impact on the environment, it’s also one of the best business decisions you can make. It can drastically improve your organization and save you a fortune in the process. It’s also relatively easy to accomplish thanks to the proliferation of office software.
Here are a few easy ways to start transitioning into a paperless office:
1. Assess all your current uses of paper
Before you can successfully change anything, you need to understand how it’s currently working. What are you using paper for? How long does it take to retrieve or otherwise work with these paper files? Are there legal documents you 100% have to keep paper copies of? During this process you’ll also end up organizing your paper files, which will be really handy when we get to step 4.
2. Start with one department
Switching to a paperless office often means changing everything about how you do business, and that can throw your business into temporary chaos. Avoid the unpleasantness altogether by making it a gradual process.
3. Choose your software carefully
There are hundreds of business administration programs and tools available for a reason. They all do some things better than others, and therefore work more effectively for some industries than for others. And the customer service available also varies dramatically from one company to the next. Research your options before settling on something, and consider doing a free trial of any software before purchasing it.
4. Digitize all past files
This may take a long time if you’ve been in business for a while, but it’s absolutely essential to making the switch. Once you’ve settled on a document management software, start scanning in all your old files. Do one or two boxes of old files a day and you’ll have them all scanned before you know it.
5. Scan your business cards
Any entrepreneur who frequents conferences or networking events is familiar with the endless pile of business cards that quickly develops. Many people keep every single business card they ever receive, often in a giant, disorganized folder. You can get rid of this folder—and make those contacts more accessible—by scanning all your business cards. You can also get a phone app to scan new business cards when you meet people, so they’re automatically added to your phone book.
6. Create a work space that discourages paper
The main reason so many offices still use large amounts of paper is that it’s convenient. Make it more convenient to use technology instead. Set up dual-monitor workstations so people can easily cross reference documents. Get easy-to-use software for administrative tasks. Reduce the number of printers in the office. These little environmental changes will remind your employees to keep everything paper-free.
7. Stop incoming paper
In some industries it may not be possible to completely stop incoming paper, but most processes can now be automated to minimize incoming paper. There are several services that will let you do things like send and receive invoices, and your service providers should all offer a paperless billing option. You can even get an online fax machine if you work with businesses who still rely on faxes.
8. Get all your employees on board
You can have the best intentions and best laid plans in the world, but if you can’t get employees on board, switching to a paperless office will be impossible. Make sure everyone in the company understands why this transition is important, and offer incentives for employees who actively help you go paperless. Include a message reminding people not to print anything at the bottom of all emails and company files.