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10 Ways to Take Your Business (More) Paperless

COVID-19 was to the modern office what the rise of Amazon was to traditional brick-and-mortar retailers: an agent of change.

In the case of COVID, the risks of the pandemics forced a broad swath of offices to mobilize and digitize. Many tasks that typically had to be done with a pen or a printer had to be replicated paperlessly … and in most cases, companies had mere weeks to get the ball rolling and figure the rest out along the way.

But something happened along the way. Eventually, as COVID restrictions were lifted, some completely work-from-home policies retreated to hybrid models or full back-to-the-office mandates. Some employers kept all of the new digital practices and workflows COVID demanded … but some began to revert to some old paper habits.

However, businesses would be wise to avoid this backslide.

While a paperless office does indeed make hybrid and work-from-home models more functional, it has many more benefits too. Digitization creates faster workflows. It’s usually more cost-efficient. It can even improve security of sensitive documents.

So for whatever reason, if your office still has some work to do (or work to do again) in digitizing, here are a number of steps you can take:

1. Use Cloud Storage

Your average filing cabinet takes up 5.5 square feet of space. For businesses that only need a couple of cabinets, that’s no big deal — but excessively paper-reliant companies will need many, many more, effectively eating up more expensive office space. Nevermind that finding the documents you need often takes much longer when they’re in a physical format. But cloud-based storage is a more convenient and typically cost-effective way of storing documents that also allows your employees to access what they need right from their desk — whether that’s at home or in the office.

2. Scan More Documents

Scanning receipts and bills, rather than filing them away with additional paperwork, is an excellent and easy way to start cutting out the paper. Accounting apps, such as QuickBooks, allow you to take a picture of a sales receipt, then attach the digital copy to the related expense filing within the software. You can also attach scanned receipts to invoices.

3. Use Collaboration Tools

Google’s productivity suite, which includes services such as Google Docs (similar to word) and Google Sheets (similar to Excel), allow you to create, view and edit live documents online without ever having to print a sheet of paper. Even if you don’t want to spend a dime or 10 seconds on downloading collaborative tools, you probably don’t need to — simply sharing documents such as Excel and Word via email can help you cut down the paper waste.

4. Communicate (Better) Paperlessly

Today, just about every office has email, and probably some sort of messaging system on top of it. Our suggestion? Think more critically about the system you’re already using. Many messaging systems, including Slack, Google Chat, and Skype, have various levels of interconnectivity with calendars, shared documents and more. Rather than treating messaging systems as just a place to let everyone know there are bagels in the break room, use them as a place to make vital office communication and collaboration more seamless.

5. Go Paperless in Meetings

You’ve probably been to hundreds of meetings where whoever was leading came prepared with printed notes for everyone — even if the meeting was centered around a PowerPoint presentation. Scrap the extra paper. Where possible, conduct meetings that only use these presentations — and if there are additional notes that attendees might need, distribute them digitally for use either before or immediately after the meeting.

6. Get an E-Signature

One of the hardest lines for some businesses to breach is the signed document; there are certain things that simply need pen to paper for approval. That said, thanks to the ESIGN Act of 2000, electronic signatures are perfectly valid. The key is getting over the psychological hump … and the technological one. Per the latter, there’s plenty of software that has you covered, including DocuSign and HelloSign, that allow everyone in your business (and vendors and external customers) to add their John Hancock with the click of a mouse.

7. Ask Your Customers and Vendors to Go Paperless

One way to deal with less paperwork is to have less paperwork sent your way. Even if you’re in the midst of a paperless-office transition, some of your customers and vendors might not be in the same place. But it’s worth at least asking for things such as invoices and purchase orders to be sent in PDF or other electronic formats via email, rather than mailed in paper format.

8. Reduce Junk Mail

No, we’re not talking about email spam — we’re talking about good, old-fashioned junk mail. And believe it or not, you do have some control over this. You can actually opt out of some marketing mail by signing up for DMAchoice (and paying a one-time $2 fee). You can also opt out of many financial solicitations through OptOutPrescreen.

9. Be Smarter About When You Do Use Paper

Let’s be clear: Most offices can’t go 100% completely paperless. While they can make a lot of strides, “paperless” transitions are really more like “less paper” transitions. However, in addition to all of the digitization suggestions above, another thing you can do is be more thoughtful about times when your business does have to use paper. You could institute heavier-handed rules like a certain allocation of prints per day/week/month, though merely asking employees to be more mindful about usage, and asking teams to share printed documents where possible, can help cut paper use, too.

10. Ask the Pros

Implementing a paperless office transition can be difficult whether you’re an office of 1, 100 or 10,000. The flip side? It can save you literally thousands of dollars each year, from paper to machinery wear and tear — and even mistakes made thanks to human error in the accounting process.

McManamon & Co. is a full-service accounting and consulting firm that can help small and midsize businesses with myriad money matters, and that includes digitizing the office to make your company leaner, meaner and greener.

Interested in learning how paperless initiatives can save your workplace money and make it run more smoothly? Call McManamon at 440.892.8900 or contact us online today.

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