There are a lot of companies who take care of business using little more than a laptop, a smartphone and a printer. To reach this point, office life has come a long way, from noisy typewriters to complicated fax equipment.
But this doesn’t mean we’ve come to the end of this process. How much paper goes through your office every day? Do you send out billing and pay bills by mail? Do you usually print important documents and file them by hand? Do you print out reports or presentations and edit them with a pen? Do you collect signatures and file contracts in filing cabinets for more than one year?
If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, you are still a major consumer of paper. Yet do not worry, you are in the average globally.
Approximately 300 million tons of paper are produced annually. That is a lot of trees. When you add the carbon footprint associated the reduction, manufacturing and transport of end products (not to mention the impacts of deforestation), each sheet of paper has a high environmental cost. Doing your part to preserve forests and fight climate changes is clearly the main benefit of reducing or eliminating the use of paper at your company.
And of course there are also quite convincing business arguments. Some of them are:
1. Save time
Print copies of documents require management and maintenance. If you keep paper records, filing and looking for files can take longer and sap more mental energy than you imagine.
2. Make better use of your space
Space is also money. Whether at your company or at a third-party storage facility, each square meter has a cost. Money and space saved could be used for something more important.
3. Save money
Paper can cost just pennies per sheet, but paper accessories add up to much more. A good quality printer, costly ink cartridges, and storage receptacles, such as filing cabinets and file boxes, can cost hundreds of dollars a year.
4. Be agile
In today’s world, you can’t tell a customer: “Sorry, the file is at the office.” You need to be able to answer an e-mail, pick up a document and send a bill anytime and anywhere. If you work based on paper, this is simply not possible.
5. Consider the security factor
If your important documents are paper-based, you will have a big problem if your office is hit by a fire, flooding, theft or another disaster. Security is one of the main reasons many companies are adopting cloud-based solutions. Everything can be encrypted for protection and backups are made regularly, making documents practically untouchable and infinitely secure.
How to go paperless?
What can really be done for you to eliminate paper from your day-to-day operations? Here are some tips.
Convert paper files to digital
Create a strategy to digitalize your entire “stock” of paper files. Simple digitalization can be merely a photograph; however, since you need to index some information, perhaps you will need additional technology for support in this area. Next, destroy confidential documents and keep old PowerPoint documents and reports for use as scratch paper for notes, lists and scribbling.
Structure your new digital organization system
You are only as efficient as your electronic filing system. Think about how you intuitively access files. You can configure folders for each customer or each project type, with subfolders by project, for instance. Be consistent when it comes to maintaining your filing system.
Use the cloud
From accounting to project management to payments, there is nothing more convenient than cloud-based software. Your data is secure and easy to access. There are a variety of useful apps available on the market. Look for a solution that broadly meets your needs, allowing for possible expansions to other business areas in the future.
Assess your internal and external processes
Evaluate everything you receive on paper over a month’s time. When possible, switch to the option of receiving notifications by e-mail or through online systems. Also look at all of your internal processes Find digital alternatives for processes that are still done by paper (software solutions can also help here).
Sign documents digitally
Most countries have laws making electronically-signed contracts as legally valid as those signed using pen and paper. There are several easy ways to create a digital signature on your computer (such as DocuSign, for example). Look for an available digital signature service and guarantee that it is compatible with the software you have chosen to store and manage your documents.
Want more information on how to stop using paper at your company? Read the eBook “The complete guide to going paperless,” created just to help you with this task.