Can you believe it’s been over 50 years since the phrase ‘paperless office’ was coined? It’s amazing to think that this idea was being bandied about so far back, especially when the average business is still very far from eliminating its paper. In fact, the average office is practically spilling over with various papers!
Despite this, the paperless office is certainly a good idea and something that the average business owner should aspire to, not only because it is much better for the environment, but also because it saves money and increases efficiency in the workplace too. Really, there is nothing not to love about the paperless office.
If you think that the idea of having a clean, clutter-free office space that doesn’t waste paper is a great idea, but you don’t know where to start, check out these tips that should help you on your way to achieving a totally paper-free office in the near future:
Start Tracking Usage
It may seem a little Big-Brother-ish, but tracking how many pages of paper each of your employees prints during the course of a month is a great way to see how and why paper is being used and identify anyone who may be using it needlessly. Many printer servers come with the ability to track usage, but if you don’t have one of those, then you may need to invest in software like print inspector, which will do the job for you. Sure, it’s an extra expense, but considering it costs only $1000 for site-wide use it’s worth it because your annual paper/print bill is probably far in excess of that figure!
Make Printing the Inconvenient Option
Another great tactic for getting your employees to stop using quite so much paper is to make it far less convenient for them to do so. If, for example, you remove half of the printers in your office, ration your paper or place the printers at an inconvenient location, chances are your employees will start to look for the easier option and that will mean they will automatically complete more tasks digitally without any further prompting for you.
Use Both Sides
For those paper documents that absolutely must be printed out, then at least try to print on both sides of the paper. After all, doing this will literally half the amount of paper you get through. You know it makes sense.
Of course, it isn’t just you and your employees who cause paper to stack up in the office – the numerous utility companies, banks, clients, etc., that you deal with during the course of the working week can be a seemingly constant source of unnecessary paper. Thankfully, the solution is beautifully simple – go paperless. Opt out of paper statements, complete transactions online and start reducing that stack.
Invest in E Signature Software
One of the biggest causes of paper overload in the average office is official documentation – things like contracts that need to be signed. Traditionally, these kinds of documents would have to be signed by hand, which necessitated a paper copy. Sure, you could have the copy signed and then scan it into a digital file, but that was time-consuming and wasted way too much paper. Now, thanks to e signatures you can have anyone anywhere sign an important document digitally without having to use paper at all. Invest in software/services that enable you to get your documents signed digitally, and you should notice a huge difference in the amount of paper your office collects this year.
Use PDF Forms
Similarly, instead of distributing paper forms and applications, use a PDF client to allow candidates, employees, clients and whoever else might need to do so, to fill out their forms online. It’s much easier to do this than to send out a paper copy or to scan data into your computer systems later, as well as it being paperless.
Scan Your Files
Of course, if you have older files that you need to hold onto for whatever reason, it is certainly worth scanning them, if only because it will free up more space and you can back them up on the cloud so that they will never be lost or destroyed due to accident or error. Just make sure that you actually get round to shredding the physical copies or you’ll have seriously wasted your time!
Use Google Docs for Internal Documents
Instead of printing out internal documents that need to be handed out to various employees, use online services like Google Docs and Evernote to distribute them instead. The advantage of doing this, apart from the obvious doing away with the need for paper, is that it allows for a greater level of collaboration between parties. It’s much easier to comment or add bits of info to an online document than it is to a printout. Think of all the time you’ll save by cutting out those post-document distribution emails!
Invest in Dual Monitors
If a lot of the paper usage in your office comes from employees doodling as they try to work out a problem, then you might have some success by introducing dual monitors, that way they can use their extra screen for brainstorming instead of the reams of paper they would usually write on.
Use an Online Fax Provider
There are still a shocking number of businesses who use faxes as a matter of course. If you have to deal with them on a regular basis, sign up for an online fax provider who will email any faxes being sent to you to your inbox no paper required. Just don’t print them out!
Provide Recycling Facilities
Of course, it might be a while before your office is completely paper-free (if it ever is) which is why it’s a really good idea to provide paper recycling bins in convenient locations and to encourage your employees to use them. That way, paper is less likely to stack up and cause the office to become cluttered, and you’ll be doing your bit for the environment.
Here’s to a paper-free future. Let’s make it happen!