Some small-business owners are hesitant to shift to aÂ paperless workplace because the transition seems overwhelming. But the switch doesnâ€™t have to happen overnight.
If you need motivation to get started, consider how much money youâ€™ll save by eliminating the costs of paper, equipment, ink, toner, and storage space from your budget. You may also save time: Going digital could make essential documents easier for you and your employees to find.
Here are six steps to taking your office paperless, which you can take at a pace thatâ€™s right for your company.
- Assess your situation. â€śPaperlessâ€ť doesnâ€™t have to mean no paper; it can mean less paper. Start by determining what to do with your existing documents: What should beÂ retained in hard copy for the time being? What can be recycled immediately? What about all the junk mail your business receives?Â Take your name off distribution lists and cancel subscriptions to unwanted newsletters and magazines. Simply reducing the amount of paper cluttering your workplace is a great way to begin the transition.
- Make a habit of scanning. A scanner or multifunction device is necessary to reduce your reliance on paper. Assign scanning duties to an employee or hire an intern whoÂ can begin turning your archived and current paper documents into electronic files. From now on, scan every piece of paperÂ that comes into the office â€” bills, correspondence, purchase orders, etc. â€” and shred and recycle the originals.
- Back up your digital data. Your newly created electronic files must be properly stored. This means keeping copies somewhere other than on your computerâ€™s hard drive, such as an external hard drive, an online backup service, or a cloud-based filing system.
That way, thereâ€™s no need to keep the originals in cumbersome file cabinets. All of your â€śpapersâ€ť can be easily organized, indexed, and retrieved electronically using small-business document-management software.
- Say â€śnoâ€ť to printers and paper faxes. Begin the process of eliminating printers from your business by encouraging your employees to create digital documents and
make backup copies every night (see #3). Share reports and other correspondence via email or a cloud-based service such as Dropbox. Generate outbound faxes as needed in digital form and have inbound faxes delivered as email attachments.
- Bill customers and pay staff electronically. Use an online system like Intuit Payment Network to generate e-invoices and collect payments. Pay your employees and automatically complete payroll tax forms using Intuit Payroll. You no longer need to rely on paper checks or bank statements to maintain your business. You can even accept customersâ€™ credit card payments with a mobile device via GoPayment.
- Get your employees on board. For some people, the use of paper is deeply ingrained. Begin the education process by slowing weaning workers off photocopies, paper faxes, and manila folders. It may take some time for everyone to master the necessary software, but they’ll come around when they see that going paperless ultimately makes their jobs easier.