Top 10 Tips for Going Paperless in Your Business

Top 10 Paperless Office Tips

In our series on going paperless, we’ve considered why you should consider reducing paper in your business, the benefits to your business, and tools that can help you make this happen. In this article we wind up the series with the top ten tips to go paperless in your business.

Habits for Going Paperless

One of the biggest problems for any business that is considering going paperless is starting the process. The job can seem so enormous that it is overwhelming. In reality it seems overwhelming only if you take an all or nothing approach to going paperless. You don’t have to quit paper cold turkey. You can start with small steps that gradually reduce the amount of paper that your business uses. One of the best of these steps is to examine the paper workflow of your business.

Paper workflow is simply how information enters, moves through and leaves your office. When you understand the workflow, you understand where the paper your business uses gets generated and by who, as well as who uses or needs particular documents and when.

This understanding allows you to choose the areas of your operation that are best suited to begin going paperless and which areas may need to remain using paper, at least for the time being.

When looking at paper workflow, remember that paper in your business comes from two sources – in-house generated paper and paper that your business receives from outside sources. It’s easy to make the mistake of concentrating solely on in-house paper at the expense of paper that’s coming in from the outside.

Once you get a handle on your paper workflow, you can start developing the habits necessary to maintain the forward momentum on your business’ efforts to go paperless. These habits are simple steps that channel the paper flow and direct it to job specific locations for review, conversion and disposal.

Start by having all incoming paper go to one specific location. This location can be as simple as a certain inbox. Once paper arrives at this location it is reviewed for content and separated into groups. At this point, a decision can be made if any document is fit for immediate recycling. Once separated, each group is then sent for scanning and conversion. After scanning and conversion are completed, all documents are held for one day and then sent for recycling. Why hold the documents for one day? Computer system backups usually occur once in a 24 hour cycle. Holding the physical documents back from recycling for one day ensures that scanned and converted documents are secure before the originals are destroyed.

The subject of backing up your system files brings us to another issue that should be a part of any paperless habit your business develops, namely paperless security. Keeping your paperless documents secure is essential to your business’ continued good health.

The secret to paperless security is redundancy. For example, depending on the business, electronic documents that are created through workflow habits will end up being stored in one of two places – in the cloud or on a server.

The problem with this situation is that all of the eggs, so to speak, are in one basket. If there is a problem with the cloud or the server, your information is compromised.

Why not store your information in as many places as possible – in the cloud, on physical servers and, for the most sensitive and critical documents, on external drives with physical backup copies stored in a fire safe.

The more redundant your storage, the more likely it is that your information will remain secure no matter what.

Top 10 Tips to Reduce Paper in your Business

In this series, we’ve covered a lot of ground and you’ve learned quite a bit about the ins and outs of taking your business paperless. However, before we wrap things up, let’s take a quick glance at the top ten tips for going paperless.

  1. Get Started – You have to take the first steps in order to go paperless. Start by converting new material that arrives at your business on a certain date. This way you begin to develop paperless habits.
  2. No Cold Turkey – Don’t attempt to go completely paperless all at once. This is impossible. Even in the most efficient paperless businesses, some paper is still used. The goal is to lessen, not eliminate, your paper usage.
  3. Utilize Electronic Statements – You can eliminate a lot of paper simply by choosing to receive as many bills as possible electronically.
  4. Get Rid of Useless Mail – Junk mail is one of the biggest sources of paper. Get off as many junk mail lists as possible.
  5. Start Reading on a Device – You’re not going to go paperless by insisting on reading physical documents. Develop the habit of doing your business reading on the device of your choice.
  6. Use a Digital Signature – Again, insisting on signing physical documents will only ensure that you produce those documents. Use a digital signature whenever possible.
  7. Stop Printing – If a document is available electronically, you don’t need to print it out. Stop printing and you’ll reduce the number of documents you generate.
  8. Scan and Convert – Begin scanning documents that you receive and convert them to PDFs. The more you scan and convert, the less paper you’ll have to deal with.
  9. Archive and Store – Organize your electronic documents with document management software or OCR software. Treat your electronic documents as if they were physical documents.
  10. Keep It Up – Successfully going paperless is an ongoing process. Periodically review your paper workflow to see if there are areas for improvement.

Modern technology provides a great opportunity to reduce the amount of paper in your business. This will improve your productivity and have a positive impact on the environment. Follow these tips to implement this in your business.

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