Many companies are focusing on going green. Many consumers want to do business with those who help conserve the environment, plus many green practices actually save money in the long run. One way a business can save money is by becoming a paperless workplace. There are a number of benefits to going paperless:
- There aren’t as many paper records to store.
- The company saves money by not buying as much paper and printer ink.
- There’s a digital record of everything.
- Employees don’t have to spend as much time shredding, filing, etc.
But we’re all so used to printing documents and reports, so how do you create and maintain a paperless workplace? Simply issuing a memo (emailed, of course) saying to stop using as much paper isn’t going to cut it. Here are six different effective tips that can help you maintain your paperless workplace once you’ve made the decision to go digital.
1. Make it a Team Effort
In order to make your paperless office truly effective, you’ve got to have every member of your team onboard. You have to make sure all of your employees know about your paperless plan and what they need to do to be a part of it. Your employees who are already environmentally minded may be on board without any coaxing. Others may need more convincing.
One thing you can do is track how much paper your company uses every day or every week. You might find this information fairly surprising yourself, and your employees probably have no idea how many trees are used in just a five-day workweek. They see only the paper they use, not what everyone else is using. But it all adds up!
If your employees seem to need a bigger push to go green and stop printing, you could hold a contest to see who can use the least amount of paper over a specific period and give the winner a small cash bonus or a gift card.
2. Use Real-Time Apps to Eliminate Paper at Meetings
Whenever there’s a meeting, there’s paper: you pass out things like agendas, schedules, timelines, and reports. If each department in your company has a weekly web meeting, that’s a good amount of paper right there. Then add in supervisor/manager meetings and board meetings. If you just eliminate the paper used at these gatherings, you’ll have accomplished something! While you can try cutting back, you’ll find using an overhead or having everyone bring a laptop or tablet to the meeting isn’t quite as effective. The solution may sound even worse: eliminate these meetings!
That’s not to say that you don’t need to gather your team on a regular basis—it’s important to have team meetings, but if you do it virtually using real-time apps, you’ll find that everyone can get all of the information they need, and they don’t have to leave their desks. By using a web-conferencing app such as UberConference, an app like Asana that is designed for cloud-based project management, and a cloud-based collaboration software like Bitrix, your team will be able to meet, share information, and work together in a virtual space.
This not only eliminates paper; it eliminates much of the time meetings take up (there’s no more passing out information or chatting before or after the meeting). You can even include employees from other offices or those who are working from home in these meetings, too.
3. Make the Change to Electronic Signatures on Contracts
If you use reams of paper printing up contracts for your clients to sign, make the change to accepting electronic signatures. Many companies have gone to this method. Since electronic signatures are legally as valid as those done on paper, the contracts and agreements signed this way are just as valid and legally enforceable.
You can use tablets, some laptops, and even smartphones to capture signatures on documents. By doing so, you don’t have to print anything. Since in most cases you’d be printing at least two copies of the contract (one for you, one for them), you’re saving a huge amount of paper every year.
4. Scan your Paper Documents and then Ditch Them
Do you have an entire room dedicated to your paper files? Some places, especially large companies, universities, and medical centers, keep a huge number of paper records. But how many of those records are actually used on a regular basis? Even if you do need to find one, how easy is it to find a specific record from five years ago?
Going digital solves many of these issues. You’ll want to start with new records, of course. Start creating them as digital documents instead of paper. Then, when you have the time, you can start scanning your old records and creating a digital filing system. Even though this may take weeks or even months, look at the benefits:
- You save paper and ink
- You don’t need to purchase file folders or additional filing cabinets
- You gain back all the space you used to store paper files
- It takes less time to scan a document than it does to find the correct file to put it in or to create a new file
- You can pull up a digital file from anywhere if it’s stored in the cloud
- It’s much easier to search digital files than it is to search paper files
5. Reduce the Number of Printers you have
Another way to get people to use less paper in the office is to reduce the number of available printers. Does every employee need their own printer? Probably not. By making several people share a printer located outside of their offices, they may not print as much. You’ll also not have to buy as much ink or pay for as much printer maintenance.
6. Be Organized!
Some people put off going to a digital filing system because they’re afraid they won’t be able to find the files they need. That’s why it’s important to have a structure in place before you start creating new files as digital-only documents or scanning in older files.
Decide where these files will be saved and how they will be named. Will each client have their own folder? Will documents be saved with the client name and date or by some other reference? Once you decide on your system, make sure everyone knows what it is and sticks to it.
Are you ready to go paperless, or have you already make the switch? If so, how has it worked for you? Any other tips for maintaining a paperless workplace?