It was a Monday morning and I was responding to an important email on my laptop. One of our vendors had sent me an invoice couple of weeks back he was reminding me that its already overdue. I had a feeling that I already issued a payment and even got the receipt for it. I quickly checked my drawer, went through the pile of papers on my desk but couldn’t find the receipt.
I asked my colleague who had collected the receipt but he couldn’t remember where he kept it. It was a small piece of paper and was easy to get misplaced. I pulled out a file where I had kept all bank statements but it was very difficult to locate a payment entry from hundreds of transactions. I had already wasted my Monday morning in a completely unplanned activity.
Does this sound familiar? How often we misplace our documents or spend lots of time just to locate them? Well, this can be avoided by creating a paperless office.
But Is it really possible to create 100% paperless office?
Today’s businesses probably can’t go completely paperless as sometimes we need to preserve contracts and other legal documents. However, most of the documents like bills, receipts, business cards can be scanned and stored digitally for later reference. Those can be shared online which saves time as well as money.
With latest technology and online apps, its possible to cut paper usage. Check out these 10 simple tips to create paperless office:
1) Scan bills and receipts with your smartphone
If you have a scanner device, its great, you can take a first step towards a paperless office by scanning all bills and receipts. But if you don’t have one, don’t worry, you can just browse App Store download an app that will turn your smartphone into a scanner.
So the next time you pay that restaurant bill, just take your smartphone out and scan it. Later you can organize these images on your computer.
2) Scan your business cards
If you are someone who attends events or workshops regularly, you must be having a separate drawer in your cabinet to store the business cards. People often buy big folders to store every single card that they receive. Searching through these cards is a big pain. Fortunately, there are good mobile apps that can help you scan these cards easily.
Best part is, these apps read the data using OCR technology and store it in logical format. For ex: Phone 1, Phone 2, Address, Personal Email, Work Email, etc. This way, it becomes easy to import these contacts in your phonebook or share it with other contact management application.
3) Request paperless statements from banks
There are some documents that we get every month in paper format. One of them is bank statements. Most of the banks like HDFC and ICICI nowadays have started offering e-statements. You can opt for email delivery of these statements by logging into your net-banking account. Sometimes, these banks even reward their customers for opting for email statements.
Bank statements hold sensitive data about the business transactions and can pose security risk if not store correctly. E-statements give you more control and are ease to backup and search when needed.
4) Ask your vendors to send invoices via email, Send POs via email
It will be very convenient if you could ask your vendors to send invoice in PDF format via email. This way you can organise them properly on your computer and search through them quickly when needed. Similarly, if you are using an online accounting software, you will be able to email Purchase Orders or Invoices directly to your vendors and clients.
This is not only a faster way, it will also help you avoid clutter at your office.
5) Digitise internal documents
Get a document scanner or MFD (Multi-Function Device) that includes scanning capabilities and start converting paper documents in PDF. You can start with the preservables that you’ve been collecting for later reference. Scan & convert old contracts, bills and any other document that’s’ lying on your desk since ages.
I use OneNote to store newspaper cuttings that I collect for future reference. It has OCR (Optical Character Recognition) function that can read text from the scanned documents and can be exported for editing. This is really very handy.
6) Share Docs online
For sharing files between team-mates or clients, consider investing in document sharing sites like Dropbox, OneDrive or Google Drive. You can edit these documents online and even simultaneously chat with colleagues who are viewing the document.
Dropbox even lets you to request files from anyone that will be stored in a specific folder.
7) Make printing difficult
It might be difficult for you to go paperless on day 1 as it takes time to implement these steps. So, to avoid resistance from your team, make printing difficult for them. For example, deliberately reduce the number of printing sheets kept in the printer. Change printer setting to make it mandatory to print on both the sides.
You can limit the printer access to small group of people. I’ve seen emails that contain “Save paper, Don’t print this mail” message in signatures to stop people from printing unnecessarily. Just come up with innovative methods like this to discourage printing.
8) Reward your employees who help you go paperless
You can gamify the entire process of going green. Ask your employees to ditch notebooks and use Laptops/Phones to take notes. You can create paperless office easily using Evernote or similar apps.
Setup some targets to reduce printing and reward the achievers. This will encourage others to cut down the paper usage and ultimately help you to achieve paperless office.
9) Get rid of old technology
I’m writing this with little hesitation, but if some of you still use Fax machines, its time for you to get rid of it as soon as possible. Recently I visited a doctor and noticed that the receptionist was using notebooks to record patient names. If you are doing the same, please stop doing it and get a simple Laptop. Some offices still have large cabinet to store those box shaped folders. Start digitising those documents and save some space.
Old habits die hard but you must stop them and move ahead.
10) Say hello to Cloud Apps
Small businesses can benefit immensely from cloud technology. You can create a paperless office easily by using following softwares:
OneDrive – Great for document storage and sharing. Lets you edit documents online.
CamScanner – Turns your smartphone into a scanner.
CamCard – Great for scanning business cards.
OCR – Extract text from scanned PDF or Images.
OneNote – Microsoft’s note taking app. Works across all platforms.
ProfitBooks – Amazingly simple online accounting software.
Top 5 benefits of paperless office
You may ask, why I should create a paperless office? Well, going paperless has lot of benefits. Here are top 5 :
Quicker access to information
Security and easy sharing
Searching through papers can be a nightmare. If the documents are stored online, you can not only search by file names but also by the document content. You can also access these documents on your smartphone even if you are away from your office.
If the documents are stored in digital format, you can implement various access controls. Its very easy to share those documents quickly with your peers.
Imagine that you are shifting your office. When it comes to shifting your box folders, you will have one less thing to worry about. You can save time while sharing documents over an email or through document storage services.
Your desk will be free from pile of files. When you get rid of that huge file cabinet, you will have space for one more desk.
While saving paper is good for the environment, its also good for your pocket too. You will save printing, postage and other indirect expenses. Also check 30 simple ways to cut expenses and save costs.
There are numerous benefits of creating a paperless office. App stores are filled with apps that can convert your smartphone into a scanner. Similarly, a good cloud accounting software can help you reduce paper usage in your office.
If you have some good ideas to go paperless, please share it in comments section below.See How ProfitBooks Can Help You Go Paperless