10 Actionable Tips For The Paperless Office
The average person uses over 700 pounds of paper every year.
With this huge amount of paper used and wasted, many businesses are trying to take drastic measures to reduce the amount that is used in the office every day. Some are even trying to completely paperless.
Going paperless is great for the environment, and can also save you a lot of money on supplies. Most businesses want to use less paper but aren’t sure where to start.
1.Set a Goal 🥅
Set paper-saving goals for everyone. One of the big struggles of going paperless is getting started.
Most employees would probably agree that going paperless is a good idea, but they won’t take action until they’re told to.
You need a strong leader to come up with plans and policies.
Create a set of goals and targets on paper saving for everyone to reach within a specific time. This gives your team something to work towards and increases the likelihood that they will be successful at using less paper.
As time goes on, alter the targets until no paper is being used at all in your company.
Targets to start you off could include things like keeping the amount of printing done under a maximum amount, or the number of packs of paper ordered under a set amount.
Start small to get people used to using less paper, before gradually moving the goalposts to decrease the amount of paper that gets used around the office.
Offer rewards for reaching these new targets, such as a Friday happy hour in the office, or other incentives to encourage everyone to get involved.
2.Think Digital 💻
Go digital with document management. It seems like a simple solution, but the best way to go paperless is to find a digital approach to document management.
There are plenty of options for pieces of software to help you store and manage all of your documents digitally very easily.
Taking documents online means they will be accessed with secure passwords, with the majority of your data stored in the cloud.
This means that you can access all your documents from different devices, which is a more convenient method of document management as well as using a lot less paper.
Documents in the cloud make it much easier to allow your team to work remotely, or for you to access documents while on-site with a client or during meetings.
Cloud storage is also easy to back-up, protecting your important data in the case of computer failure, or the loss of physical documents thanks to fire or water damage.
If your documents are still stored in filing cabinets, it’s time for a more modern upgrade.
This will save space in the office, use less paper and be a lot more convenient and user-friendly for you and your team.
3.Learn How to Organize 🗄
Organize your existing paper documents. If you are putting new client information into a digital database, you will still likely have some paper documents in the office from previous or historical clients.
Start by organizing this paperwork into different piles.
Get all the documents neatly lined up so you can see what you have, and get ready to copy the information across to the new digital platform.
This is one of the most time-consuming methods for going paperless but is one of the most worthwhile.
Don’t waste hours of time typing everything up. Instead, scan in all the documents and save them to your new system of data management.
When you have digital copies of everything, you can recycle the paper copies, and make your business practically free of any paper.
Scanning in all the documents can be delegated to interns, or you can hire a document scanning service to get it in a digital format without taking up as much time from your business.
Once everything has been recycled, you can get rid of the filing cabinets and free up a lot more space in the office.
4. Digitize Everything 💽
Send emails instead of letters. Most businesses send letters out from time to time, but this is usually not as necessary as you might think.
You might have important letters that your customers need to receive.
This could be a notice about an outstanding payment, or information about an important change in your company.
Whatever you’re sending letters for, change the letters into emails. Send people any information in a digital format instead of using paper, to greatly reduce the amount of paper that you use.
Even if what you’re sending needs to be signed, there are ways to get an electronic signature instead of wasting more paper.
All of your marketing materials should be paperless too. You don’t need to send out leaflets or brochures.
Instead, create an email marketing list to send out marketing materials too.
Send out any marketing materials via email instead of creating paper products that most people will just throw out anyway.
If you are sending important emails that are replacing tracked letters, use read receipts so you know for sure that the mail has been received and read by the person you’re sending it too.
5. No More Paper 📃❌
When you’re thinking about reducing your paper waste, you are probably focusing mostly on actual sheets of paper.
Your business is also generating a lot of paper use through things like checks and invoices as well.
If you still send out paper checks to pay your team, then your business is doing things in a very old-fashioned way.
Sending out physical invoices to clients is also pretty out of date. Checks and invoices make up a huge portion of the paper that a company uses. Instead, switch to an electronic method of running your payroll.
There are lots of different options for accounting software that your business can use. With these, you can manage payroll, send out digital paychecks, electronic invoices and more.
With all your payments handled electronically, there’s no paper generated by invoices, checks, bills or receipts. Electronic accounts are also easy to keep track of your everything, without generating a lot of paper that nobody needs.
6. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle ♻️
Switch to digital bank statements. While you’re thinking about the paper that is generated by the handling of company money, you should reach out to your bank for further help.
If you are getting a paper letter or bank statement through the mail on a regular basis, then this needs to change.
All that paper is a real waste and takes up a lot of storage space around the office that you could be using for something much more useful.
It’s very easy to reduce the amount of paper that your bank sends you in the mail. All you need to do is contact your bank and ask them to switch to sending you digital statements and communication instead of paperless.
Many banks are starting to automatically make this switch anyway.
If you’re still getting paper statements, then make sure you switch right away to drastically cut the amount of paper that comes into your business.
In the event you still have paper stacking up in the office (or simply have some pizza boxes to recycle after a team lunch), you can always do your best to recycle when possible. It's definitely one of the most useful habits to build in the office.
7. Collaborate With Your Team, Digitally 📠
Use apps to share things amongst your team. If you’re trying to go paperless, you might be concerned about what will happen when your team are working on a project together and need someone from another department to see something.
Usually, they will print out the work they have done and take it to the person as a physical document.
This method is completely unnecessary in the modern office. You don’t need to physically share anything when they are lots of solutions to share things digitally via the clouds. Storage apps like Dropbox or Google Drive are useful to let you share documents and other kinds of files with lots of other members of the team or even your Xero accountant.
With these tools, you can work on the documents together too, at the same time, but from different locations. Not only does it reduce the total amount of paper waste your team produces, but it also significantly positively impacts productivity.
This change prevents people from working on multiple versions of the same document without realizing it.
By using an app to create these work documents, then there is only one version which can then be shared with all the different members of the team, and all without needing to use paper at all.
8. Printing = Bad 🙅🏽♂️
Make it harder to print things. Most offices have multiple printers in them, and if you’re trying to reduce the amount of paper that your office uses, then you’re probably watching these printers very closely.
Unfortunately, lots of people will print things just out of habit, or because they feel they need a physical copy of something.
To reduce the amount of printing that goes on in your office, make printing a much harder thing to do.
Get rid of all but one printer. If you’re going paperless, you don’t need more than one printer. Ideally, you want no printers, but leave one during the transition.
Next, put in place some rules in place that turn printing into something that people will see as a last resort.
You could put a printing fee in place, so people have to pay to print. This money can be saved and go into a pot for staff parties or donated to charity. Whatever you decide, people will be discouraged from printing.
9. E-signatures - Good Call! 🔏
Start using digital signatures. One of the first challenges that businesses face when they go paperless is working out how to manage signatures. A signature might be needed from you or a client.
When this happens, it’s easy to automatically assume that the only way to do this is to send out a paper document to get a physical signature.
In fact, there is a simple way around this. You can use digital signatures that offer a secure way for people to sign documents online.
All you need to do is send the contract or other documents via email or a secure folder in the cloud. This can then be signed digitally, with no need to use any paper at all. Check out this great article on DocuSign Alternatives in 2021 to get you started.
10. Offer Something in Return 👏🏼
Provide incentives. You’ll be able to reach your paperless goals much faster if your whole team is eager to participate.
If half your employees aren’t interested in this goal and don’t make an effort to help out, you’re going to find it very hard to reach your paperless goal.
To counteract this, give them a reason to go paperless and join in your paper-free drive.
Offer incentives and rewards for staff that is making the most effort to reduce their paper use.
This can create an air of friendly competition between members of different teams as they all try to become the most eco-friendly employee and earn those rewards.
You could offer incentives like gift vouchers, extra vacation days, or anything else you think would appeal to people in your office.
Despite what you might think, it isn’t hard to go paperless in the more modern office.
With these tips in this guide, you can make easy changes to the way you manage things around the office, staff attitudes, and standard practices to make the switch and get rid of all the paper in the office.
By going paper-free, you can make the switch to more modern, collaborative ways of working, both in the office and with clients.
You will also spend a lot less on paper and other paper-based supplies, and by using less or no paper, you can make your organization a lot kinder to the environment.
Some offices may not be able to get rid of all the paper that they use, especially if you are working in a more traditional industry or with more old-fashioned clients.
Even if you can’t go entirely paper-free, you can do a lot to drastically cut the amount of paper that gets used, and still enjoy the benefits of being greener, saving money, and using online tools to work.
If you’re struggling to get clients on board with your new paper-free initiatives, then share with them how the change is benefitting your business, such as the savings you are making, to try and encourage them to make the switch to a more paper-free office as well.