6 Steps to Going Paperless as a Small Business
Paper has been an integral part of the typical office environment for decades, helping to spawn terminology like “paperwork” and “paper pusher.” But paper comes with a cost. In addition to costing a company money, paper has a significant environmental impact, contributing to deforestation as well as pollution in air, water, and excessive waste. As a result, many companies are considering going paperless to improve their environmental impact and reduce total costs. Unfortunately, many business owners simply don’t know how to do it.
The False Promise of “Paperless”
The idea of “going paperless” is appealing to most businesses, but the terminology may be contributing to some false hopes. It’s almost impossible to go completely paperless; you’ll still need to mail the occasional form, print the occasional notice, or use sticky notes in the office. Still, there are steps you can take to significantly reduce the paper consumption in your office, and every step you take is valuable.
Steps to Follow
Even simple steps can bear a massive impact on your bottom-line paper consumption, so make sure you implement these strategies as part of your new paperless vision:
1. Get everyone on your team sufficient technology. Your first step is making sure everyone has the technology they need to do their jobs efficiently without paper. For starters, make sure everyone has at least one fully functioning device that allows them to take notes and send communications. Most businesses already take this step, but you’ll also need to make sure you have the technical systems and processes in place to allow for paperless interactions to happen smoothly.
2. Use cloud-based apps. Consider transitioning your business to use more cloud-based applications. These systems store your information in a central location, allowing you to sync all your company information between devices and between employees. This mutually accessible model, available everywhere and to everyone, reduces the need for physical copies of information. As an added bonus, your data will be safer, and you might even end up paying less for these services.
3. Reorganize your filing systems. Most paper ends up getting filed somewhere; you’ll keep the personal records of your employees, contracts with clients, invoices, and everything in between. Take a close look at your current filing systems and figure out what stages of the process can be replaced—or even eliminated altogether. For example, you might start getting your contracts signed and submitted online, or you might initiate an overhaul to your employee onboarding process that reduces the demand for paper filing.
4. Ask for digital payments. Your next step is to start asking for payments digitally whenever possible. Older institutions, especially bureaucratic and traditional ones, often favor old styles of payment, such as check by mail and faxed invoices. It may be difficult to persuade these types of businesses to adopt a newer model of payment, but it’s worth the effort. Digital payments aren’t just cheaper and better for the environment—they’re less of a hassle to deal with, too.
5. Send all-digital communications. Next, you’ll want to adapt your company to send only digital communications. Your internal team will probably be on board with this immediately, relying on emails, instant messages, and phone-based communications to get in touch with one another. But don’t forget about other forms of communication that involve paper, such as mailing out invoices, posting memos and notes throughout the office, or leveraging direct mail campaigns to reach your customers. Strive to eliminate these forms of communication and replace them with a digital equivalent.
6. Use paper responsibly. We already mentioned the fact that going paperless often isn’t “truly” paperless. You’ll still need to use paper from time to time. When you do, use paper responsibly. Only use the minimum amount of paper you need to accomplish your task, purchase recycled paper when you can, and recycle your paper when you’re done with it to complete the cycle.
If you follow these steps, you’ll be able to shrink your paper consumption to almost nothing, saving your business thousands of dollars a year and doing your part to keep our environment cleaner. It doesn’t have to happen all at once, so don’t try to make these changes overnight. Instead, keep them as long-term goals, and work toward them as a team. Getting your employees on board will help you remain accountable and successfully meet your paperless goals.
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