6 Steps to a Paperless Workplace

Some small-business owners are hesitant to shift to a paperless workplace because the transition seems overwhelming. But the switch doesn’t have to happen overnight.

If you need motivation to get started, consider how much money you’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 that’s right for your company.

  1. Assess your situation. “Paperless” doesn’t have to mean no paper; it can mean less paper. Start by determining what to do with your existing documents: What should be retained in hard copy for the time being? What can be recycled immediately? What about all the junk mail your business receives? 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.
  2. 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 who can begin turning your archived and current paper documents into electronic files. From now on, scan every piece of paper that comes into the office — bills, correspondence, purchase orders, etc. — and shred and recycle the originals.
  3. Back up your digital data. Your newly created electronic files must be properly stored. This means keeping copies somewhere other than on your computer’s hard drive, such as an external hard drive, an online backup service, or a cloud-based filing system. That way, there’s no need to keep the originals in cumbersome file cabinets. All of your “papers” can be easily organized, indexed, and retrieved electronically using small-business document-management software.
  4. Say “no” 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.
  5. 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 customers’ credit card payments with a mobile device via GoPayment.
  6. 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.

About Lee Polevoi

Lee Polevoi is an award-winning freelance copywriter and editor and a former Senior Writer for Vistage International, a global membership organization of chief executive officers. He writes frequently on issues and challenges faced by U.S. small businesses.
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2 comments
Julian Sark
Julian Sark

I like the ability of backing up invoices digitally and opposed to holding on to a paper trail of invoices, it's really nice to have all of the invoices electronically invoiced for easy reference if needed. Do you have any invoicing platform preferences? I've been using Avidxchange based on the cost and how easy it is to automate my invoices. Any other platforms that you would recommend based on your experience?

Bruce Hartsough
Bruce Hartsough

Thanks Lee, these are practical suggestions.  I love the reminder that this isn't an all or nothing proposition, just get started where you can.

@IntuitGreen