Take a quick scan of the room you’re in. How much paper do you see? Bills stuck to the fridge, post-it notes dotted everywhere, a filing cabinet full of reports and information you look at once in a blue moon… Perhaps one of the most common causes of clutter, both at work and at home, is paper. Is 2021 the year you finally go paperless?
But clutter doesn’t only leave us scrambling to find our meeting notes somewhere in the mountain of paper on our desk, it can also leave us feeling stressed, impact our cognitive function, and sap our focus. Going paperless, and finally conquering your clutter once and for all, could be your number one productivity hack this year.
Going Paperless Benefits
The benefits of going paperless aren’t limited to cleaning up your clutter (although that certainly matters). Going paperless can also help you:
- Save time. When you’re no longer having to sort through mail or maintain a paper filing system you can redirect your time to where it really matters.
- Work remotely with ease. In 2021, businesses of all shapes and sizes understand the importance of remote working. When the documents you need are all in hard copy or tied to a physical location, remote work and collaboration become harder.
- Share knowledge with your team. Paperless businesses can reduce the risk of creating silos by creating a shared workspace for team members. The information that team members and clients need can be shared quickly and updated in real time.
- Save space. Banks of filing cabinets, record rooms… these can seriously eat up your office space. As businesses are exploring reducing their office footprint, moving paperless can help you to save space (and money).
- Improve security. Paper documents can easily be misplaced, copied, stolen, or mislabelled. Paper records are also vulnerable to natural disasters such as flooding or fires. In contrast, you can protect your digital files by controlling permissions, preventing duplication and blocking access. You can easily back up your digital files so that even in the event of a disaster, you won’t risk losing key information.
- More eco-friendly. Reducing a businesses’ carbon footprint by reducing paper products
- Organization. Manual organization is time consuming and can be difficult to keep track of. Online organizational systems keep everything uniform and easy to access.
- Better communication between employees. Information can be shared easily and employees can collaborate more when they can all see and work on the same documents!
- Save on costs. Money spent on printers, upkeep of machinery, ink, paper, and other miscellaneous supplies (i.e. staples, paperclips, etc) – it adds up!
How to Go Paperless
The benefits of reducing your paper trail are clear. Here are some tips to help you become a paperless office:
If the wide-ranging benefits of going paperless have you convinced, the next step is to work out how to do it. We’ve assembled our top ten tips into a practical guide on how your office can go paperless:
1. Get clear on your why
Before you make the change in your business, take some time to reflect on the benefits of going paperless for you and your team. What business challenges will going paperless help you solve? How will this change help you live up to your company’s values? The clearer you are, the more you’ll be able to champion going paperless with your team.
2. Get your team on board
If you’re serious about going paperless as a business, you’ll need to get your team on board. A great way to kickstart your paperless workplace is to get people involved through a bit of friendly competition. Ask teams or individuals to complete specific tasks or goals to win prizes.
Here are some ideas for your paperless challenge:
- Adding an email signature championing going paperless
- Creating a shared workspace
- Reducing print outs by X%
- Snapping a photo of an empty file drawer
3. Identify what needs to stay
Depending on your industry or jurisdiction there may be some paperwork you’re legally obligated to keep. Before transforming into a paperless office, clarify what needs to be kept in paper form (and for how long)
As more and more small businesses, agencies and companies move towards paperless, you may be surprised to find there are fewer requirements than you imagined.
4. Reduce printing
Before you make the leap to fully paperless, you can encourage your team to start printing less. Some techniques for encouraging people to think before they print include:
- Moving from individual desk printers to shared printers
- Using virtual print queues which ask users to input a code before their job is released
- Using print management settings to control the size of documents people can print
You might also want to set your organization’s default print settings to double-sided and black and white to reduce the resources people use when they do print.
5. Define your paperless workflow
Going paperless means figuring out how key information will move through your team. Do you need to set up a shared digital file system? How will you track and manage email conversations? What tools do you need in place to capture notes, ideas, etc?
6. Go paperless with vendors
Much of the paper that ends up cluttering your desk originates from outside your organization. Bills, invoices, receipts, industry magazines, etc. Start looking for where you can request e-statements, or move to digital subscriptions as another way to limit the amount of paper you need to sort through.
7. Go paperless with clients
You may also find you generate a lot of paper for your clients. If you’re still using paper invoicing, consider moving to an online system. If you’re filing away paper contracts, consider using digital agreements instead.
8. Choose a document management system
A document management system helps your business organize all digital and paper documents. Hard copies can be uploaded directly into the document management system with a scanner, and owners can control access from there.
You’ll want to have a system in place before starting the actual scanning process, and potentially train certain team members on it to help with the transition.
There’s a lot of considerations that go into selecting this system. Budget, business needs and security preferences all factor into the decision. See more tips for choosing a document management system.
9. Digitize your existing knowledge base
It’s important you don’t lose access to critical knowledge but rather make your existing knowledge more accessible and easy for people across the organization to find when they need it. Think about how to capture your existing print files before you safely shred.
Here are several ways to digitize your paper documents. From printer scanners to mobile apps, there’s several different ways you can go.
Once you’ve scanned and saved your docs, you’ll want to file them. If Google Drive is your chosen document management system, we’ve got good news! Our app Charli uses AI to quickly file all your Google Drive documents into folders, so you don’t have to. Try Charli free today.
10. Securely destroy your old documents
Once you’ve confirmed all your important documents are scanned and filed away, it’s time to hit the shredder. If you have a large number of papers, you can hire a shredding service to take care of the destruction for you. This can save your business hours of effort, and privacy is often a core component of shredding services’ business.
No matter which method you choose, consider choosing one which allows you or the shredding service to recycle the paper. Better for the planet, better for everyone!
Say Goodbye to Paper and Hello to Efficiency!
We hope these # tips have given your business a solid plan to become a paperless office. Next up, check out some of our favorite paperless apps to help the transition go smoothly.