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Ten Steps to Go Paperless in the Office

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Reducing the consumption of paper in the office is not just good for the environment, going paperless can also save time, money and space. By sending correspondence, marketing materials and invoices via email, it cuts back on the cost of postage. If you have a document digitally backed up on a secure network, you won’t have to worry if it gets lost or destroyed. If you have been working with a paper filing system for many years, then you know that eventually the physical storage of boxes of files or filing cabinets can become an issue. Less paper means less time spent filing. Here are 10 ways you can start reducing that pile of paper on your desk.

1. Use Acrobat PDF format for documents. You can print to PDF and scan to PDF. Adobe Acrobat has built in OCR (Optical Character Recognition) and digital signatures capability and there are many other OCR programs. Another great feature of Acrobat is the ability to send documents for comment and review to multiple people with Tracker. No need to make multiple copies for everyone in the office.

2. A digital filing system can be created that mirrors your paper filing system. Create a digital inbox that is easily navigable on your computer if you need to do data entry. Once you’re done with the data entry, you can file it in the proper digital folder (See item 4 for Navigation setup). The best part of a well-organized system is the ability to search and find at the push of a button. Don’t you wish the real world had that feature? See IRS document RP 97-22 for guidance.

3. Secure backup and storage is highly recommended to prevent data loss. Today we have many options for cloud storage that automatically backup and encrypt your data. Save your shared files on a server and external hard drive for quick and easy access. If something happens to your hard drive, you’re covered.

4. Navigation: Setup your desktop work environment in such a way as to be able to work with files easily. In Windows, select File –>Organize–>Folder and search options–>Navigation pane and check these: Show all folders and Automatically expand to current folder. Use the Snap Feature in Windows to view and compare documents side by side, or to view data on the left and entry into your program on the right. You can also use two monitors side by side for more visual real estate.

5. Payments and Billing: Accept payments electronically. Setup online payment accounts if available for bills and services. Tell your vendors that you prefer emailed invoices. Enclose a small note with the billing email address and payment option info with your checks and invoices. This may take some time, but can make it more convenient for all parties involved.

6. Reminders: Use calendar reminders or a Personal Information Manager app to keep track of your recurring payments and tasks instead of paper so that you never miss a payment.

7. Notes and Organizing: Use an e-writer, digital post-it notes or phone to jot notes and lists of things to do. There are several productivity apps and websites that can help organize your notes and data, as well as share and collaborate from a central location, such as Google Drive and Evernote.

8. Reduce incoming paper: Request digital catalogs and email marketing items instead of printed pieces. Get rid of the fax machine and receive faxes digitally through your phone service provider. You can turn your phone into a scanner with apps such CamScanner. Stop Junk Mail with the Stop Junk Mail Kit from BayROC. Spend more time on important projects instead of sorting through the junk.

9. Printing and Paper: If you must print, use a printer that has the option to print on both sides. Today, there are all-in-one printers that can scan, fax and print multiple documents at once. Use paper that is 100% Recycled and is FSC certified. Click here to read the benefits of using recycled paper. For every case of GSB recycled paper you buy from Give Something Back, they will donate money to a local food bank.

10. Packaging: Whenever possible, shop locally in bulk to reduce excess packaging and carbon emissions, and recycle. Another tip: If you save your clean Styrofoam packing peanuts, your local UPS branch will often take them back and re-use them.

It may take some time to change your paper habits, but after trying it you will appreciate the benefits and gain new insight on how to save even more paper and prevent pollution each day.

Sustainable Technologies is a Bay Area Green Business. For more information about how you can become a green business, visit www.greenbiz.ca.gov