We’ve all heard about the idyllic paperless office, where desks are clear and clean and employees know where all the digital documents and processes are clearly located. If you’re still operating a paper-driven business, this may feel like an unattainable goal. Do not be discouraged, every paperless business started from a messy paper-driven system. It cannot be done all at once, but it is attainable if you keep your plan and timescales realistic.
Here are 4 main steps you can follow to create a framework to go paperless:
1. Going paperless with your daily documents.
Create document sharing environments and promote a green no-printing agenda throughout your company. The first step is to bring everyone on-board by promoting the advantages for the company and the environment. This needs to go hand-in-hand with the document storage and access system. You can use Microsoft Sharepoint or One Drive and create a simple centralised structure for document storage.
2. Accounting documents in a paperless office
The accountant’s desk is often covered in mountain-shaped piles or many neat little piles of paper. To imagine a paperless accounting environment can be difficult, to get buy-in from your accountant may be even tougher, however this is probably the one department where going paperless will reap the most rewards. Cut the time it takes to look for papers from your day-to-day accounting activities and you could be looking at a vast improvement in efficiency. The great advantage is that there are some packages out there that have been specifically created to make paperless accounting efficient. Sending bills and scanning supplier invoices that are automatically uploaded to your accounting system can take a lot of time out of day-to-day processes. Although the set-up will be longer and more demanding than simple document sharing it will also reap more rewards for your business. You will also notice a short term saving because paying bills online and sending documents digitally will eliminate your stationery and postage costs from the onset.
3. Meetings can be paperless too
You can also go digital with your meetings and every day communications. By having digital meetings, you will also reduce the amount of papers you use. Digital meetings can easily be conducted using software like GoToMeeting, Skype or Zoom. These packages allow you to meet more than one person at once and also help you share your screen or document at the press of a button. The great advantage is that you don’t get 6 people turning up for a meeting with the same printed materials which often gets discarded soon after. Online meetings are often also more organised, people take turns in a more orderly manner and the agenda and timing tend to be followed more closely. Online meetings can also be recorded and provided after the call, this is great for the records and also to make sure no one forgets what has been said and agreed.
A study conducted by Simone Kauffeld, of Technische Universität Braunschweig, and Nale Lehmann-Willenbrock, of the University of Amsterdam, found that often meeting were not productive and left employees feeling unhappy and unsatisfied due to behaviours such as wandering off topic, complaining, and criticising. By recording the session you discourage such distractions and make sure that people stick to the agenda. You can also break down meetings into shorter more effective meetings of around 30 minutes where only people who need to take a decision can attend.
4. Scanning and Faxing need not happen on your office desk
When scanning and Faxing today you can use digital solutions. You can easily scan in documents and password protect them in your archives. There are very few documents that need to be retained for legal purposes, these often pertain to the accounting department and are related to submissions. You can then shred the originals and move a step closer to your idyllic paperless office.