How to Go Paperless
When it comes to paperwork in the modern office, the sheer amount of it can be staggering. From contracts to employee records, handbooks to forms, it can sometimes feel like you’re drowning in paper. And don’t even get us started on the papercuts.
We hardly think about how much paper is in the office, but businesses spend a significant amount of time and money physically moving paperwork around, both in and out of the office. The concept of going paperless has been around for upwards of two decades and yet more paper is being produced each year than the one before.
If being buried beneath mountains of forms, bundles of receipts, and wads of post-It notes is getting you down, don’t worry, we’re here to help. We’ve put together our favourite tips on how to go paperless and streamline your workflows so take note of our digital document tips.
Below is part of our handy infographic, to help you remember the steps to going paperless (maybe, don’t print it out, though). Click on it to see the rest, or read on to find out how a paperless office can be your reality.
Is a Paperless Office a Reality or Not?
Many businesses are making the switch from physical documents to digital files to create a paperless environment. However, even with all the technological advances such as email, and digital form-filling, we still find paperwork piled up in cubicles, tucked away in filing cabinets, and unceremoniously shoved in drawers. It leads us to think that many offices are not correctly utilising every digital tool available to them.
With the level of dependence some companies still have on physical paper documents, it may leave you wondering: is a paperless office even a reality? It's it possible?
Well, here’s the deal: 40% of employee time is wasted looking for paper documents, 45% of the paper printed in the office ends up in the bin and 20% of print jobs are never retrieved from the printer. This results in a significant amount of paper waste but also leaves sensitive data lying around for employees, clients, or even visitors to pick up.
Going paperless should be a priority if you want to address inefficiencies, cut overall costs, and reduce waste. Not only will going paperless contribute to a more efficient workflow, but you will also help upgrade the office space, improve staff morale and, most importantly, help the environment (who doesn’t love trees?).
Thanks to improved document management technology, electronic documents are easier to store and send, simpler to locate and much more flexible and versatile than paper. It sounds great, but where to start?
What Is a Paperless Office System?
Paperwork can be overwhelming, but so is strategizing on how to become paper-free, right? It's a daunting task for most of us, and for some, it will be nothing shy of terrifying, and we understand why. We’ve been using paper for over 2,000 years to communicate, record, and remember important information. To suddenly remove all paper-based processes can be scary, but we’re here to help.
So what is a paperless office system? Essentially, it’s where an electronic Document Management System stores digitised files in a central repository and streamlines business processes around documents. Some industries cannot get rid of paper completely, and so use the term “paper-light” to ensure they stick to compliance requirements.
How to Run a Paperless Office?
Now we know what a paperless office system is, it’s time to start putting the wheels in motion. Going paperless won’t happen overnight. So here are our four steps on how to run a paperless office.
Lead the Way
According to a survey completed by Medium, 47% of employees said that the reason they didn’t know how to go paperless was due to a lack of management initiatives. If you truly believe in going paperless, then you need to lead by example.
However, we advise you to speak to your employees about it first. As Helen Keller once said: “alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” and you won’t get anywhere if your employees aren’t 100% on board with going paperless.
Try and have open conversations about the benefits of a paperless office with your team. Some key pros include:
- Better collaboration - Google Drive is great for collaborating on the odd document, but for heavy-duty, document-rich projects, a DMS will help you work better together.
- Cost savings - You can save money on paper, printer ink, and even postage when you choose to digitalise your documents.
- Faster access to information - smart searching through digital records takes much less time than flicking through files of paper statements manually.
- Reduce clutter - never have to worry about laying your hands on a file again. With digital documents, you can always find what you need without covering every surface in clutter to access it.
- Improve security - a digital document management system will help keep your sensitive data safe and keep your business GDPR compliant. Access controls can be set to protect confidential data from unauthorised access and editing.
- Better for the environment - everyone knows we should be doing what we can to reduce waste at home and work for the health of our planet. If we can lessen our paper usage then, of course, we should.
Less paperwork means fewer filing cabinets, which means more floor space to do with as you wish. It could mean a new coffee break area. Or even space for, wait for it… bean bags. As if you needed a stronger incentive to embrace a paperless workflow initiative and reduce reliance on physical paper.
Organise Your Paper Documents
Did you get everyone on board about going paperless? Amazing! Now onto the really fun stuff. Organising.
Find out what paper documents you already have and start categorising them into what needs to be kept and scanned in, and what needs to be destroyed securely. This will take more work for businesses in industries that have historically relied heavily on physical paper for legal, or logistical reasons. Don't rush it, Rome wasn't built in a day, but don't leave it either. The longer you put off this task, the more paper you'll have to sift through.
Spreading the work out between departments and coming up with a unified system to break down the workload can make this a much easier (and tolerable) experience.
Start Digitising Your Filing Cabinet
Once you know what you have, then you can start uploading your paper documents to a secure Document Management Software. Whether cloud-based or server-based, all digital files can be saved securely and accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. So whether your team are in the office or working remotely (or a combination of the two), everyone’s on the same page. For that matter, everyone is looking at the same page, at the same time, wherever they are. Now, that's pretty nifty.
Some Document Management Systems (like ours) are even clever enough to automatically file your digital files. You can set up bespoke rules to file emails, attachments, and information, so your team can spend less time searching for the stuff they need, and more time on the really important stuff, like networking with new clients and growing your business.
Don’t forget to use that handy e-signature feature to sign off contracts! Our client portal is encrypted for secure correspondence, without having to go through email, and it has binding e-signature capabilities so you can get documents digitally signed by your clients and back to you in a couple of clicks.
Train Staff and Educate Clients
Switching to new technology can be daunting for even the most tech-savvy employee. Make sure you take the time to train your staff on how to use the Document Management Software, otherwise you could run the risk of some teams returning to old routines and throwing the system out of whack.
Phasing out old technology and embracing going paperless will be even easier with Document Management Software integrations. Keep the software and digital equipment that you love and say bye-bye to any redundant tools that slows you down.
While you’re at it, get rid of those century-old printers, bulky scanners, and filing cabinets. Streamlining your office hardware can reduce the cost of running an office too, especially since those printers and scanners that are as big as industrial bins are often hired or leased rather than owned by the company. Using them less means you can replace these with more cost-effective, compact versions since you won't be using them much. Take the opportunity to upgrade the office space with a modern and fresh appeal. Your employees will thank you and you'd be surprised what a fresh look can do for boosting employees' mental health and efficiency at work.
Going paperless poses so many advantages for your business. From improving employee productivity to cutting costs, your company can prosper by just getting rid of paper waste and embracing the digital age. The convenience of picking up the phone versus taking long journeys to talk to someone, and the lightning speed of an email over traditional snail mail correspondence have taught us that digitalising common processes really does make life easier in the long run. Document Management is no different.
A paperless office and a digital Document Management Storage Solution go hand-in-hand, why not try it out today and book a free demo? You can thank us later...from the comfort of your new bean bag.
Can Accountants Go Paperless?
We're so glad you asked. We happen to be the absolute authority in this area and we can answer in no uncertain terms that it is absolutely possible for accounting firms and accounting professionals to go paperless. That's because Virtual Cabinet makes it so easy to digitalise files and store them correctly. Whether you're looking for a server-based, hybrid hosted, or cloud solution, Virtual Cabinet has what you need to make your accounting practice paperless in no time. Just ask our thousands of users employed in accountancy and the financial services.
How are Document Management Systems Data Compliant and Audit-Friendly?
Paper filing systems have many drawbacks, and one of them is that it has to be someone's job to physically go through the folders and files periodically to securely destroy documents that have reached the end of their lifecycle. By this, we mean that some types of companies are required by law to store some forms of documentation for a set amount of time. With GDPR there is also a set period of time when it is no longer required for them to keep that information and in many cases, it is then against the law to keep for longer than that retention period.
The beauty of a good Document Management System is that you can set custom retention policies that automatically destroy or archive certain documents after a period of time set by you. No more trawling through files trying to work out what needs to stay and what needs to go. VC will do it for you and keep your audit trail squeaky clean.