The dream of a paperless office has not been realized in many businesses but it is still very possible. You just need to think a little differently and employ some new technology.
Here is a list of the top 6 common misconceptions about a paperless office.
1. I Need to Print Things to Show to My Colleagues
You don’t. Services like Microsoft Office 365, Google Docs and Basecamp allow for instant file sharing and collaboration between different people working on a file. GoToMeeting allows for screen sharing with remote employees. You can also insert a hyperlink to your document in an email message.
2. Bills and Other Financial Information Needs to Be Printed
It’s amazing how many people still mail invoices and insist on hard copies. Bills can be emailed instead of mailed and if people mail them to you, scan and then throw them out. If you don’t have a scanner, look at mobile apps like TurboScan which use your smartphone camera to a scan.
Instead of mailing cheques, think about paying online or doing email money transfers. Paying by credit card can also eliminate the need for paper bills.
3. We Need to Take Notes at a Meeting
I used to have piles of notebooks that had notes from meetings I attended, action items and other useful information. The problem it was near impossible to find anything in those notebooks.
Now I use a tablet to take notes and it’s great. It takes some getting used to but it’s not like being buried in a computer during a meeting and it makes notes easy to action, file and email around afterwards.
4. Meetings Need Paper Copies of Agendas, Discussion Materials, etc.
You don’t need to print things out. You can use software like TeamViewer or GoToMeeting to have a meeting chair share their screen with other participants local or remote. You can of course use a traditional projector or you can now get a mini projector to attach to your tablet to project your documents on a wall.
5. Faxes Need to Be Printed
1980 called and they want their fax machine back. The only people that still insist on using faxing seem to work at the Canadian government. Even if you need to send something to the government there are plenty of online fax services such as eFax.com.
We haven’t had a fax machine in our office for four years. When we get incoming faxes they are turned into emails and most of them are deleted because most faxes coming in now are advertisements.
6. I Need to Print Contracts to Sign Them
I have started signing many documents on my tablet without printing them out (see more here). We moved a number of years ago to a quoting software where our clients can approve quotes online. You can even use services like EchoSign from Adobe for online contracts.
If you have to sign a printed contract, scan it in and get rid of the paper!
One Word of Warning
One critical thing you need to remember with implementing a paperless office is that your data backup needs to be bulletproof. Make sure you are using modern backup software, backups are being checked and other best practices are in place.
Need help? A network audit of your environment is a great place to start to see if your current IT setup is ready for a paperless office.