What does paperless mean?
Paperless is a term used to describe office environments with complete digital documentation, record keeping and filing systems. In a paperless office, computer systems are used to create, store, retrieve, and dispose of documents and records. Most of the company's paperwork, memos, files, and other data are stored electronically on computers or servers.
Even though an office is considered paperless, this doesn't mean that physical documents are completely eliminated. Most businesses still use letterhead, envelopes, and other printed materials regularly. What paperless means is that most day-to-day business activities no longer require the use of paper.
Paperless is one of several "green" initiatives businesses are adopting to help reduce their impact on the environment. The concept is simple, if you are not using paper, you're not straining trees, water, air, and other natural resources that are used to make that paper.
Benefits of going paperless
In some sectors, such as accounting, a paperless office is essential because of the large amounts of information the business needs to track. But even companies that don't deal with complicated finances can benefit from switching to an electronic system for their records. Not only does it make information easier to find, but it also helps keep the company's overheads low.
Save on costs
The biggest reason businesses want to go paperless is that using less paper can cut down costs. If a company uses less paper, it won't need to buy as many printers or ink cartridges. It also won't need as many filing cabinets or shredders for all its paperwork.
Employees also won’t need to come to the office to fetch or submit documents. They can attend virtual meetings and take notes on their devices, submit work and progress reports through online collaboration tools, and complete training sessions through e-books and video resources. They can work whenever and wherever, and businesses can save money on rent and utilities because remote and hybrid work models don’t require a vast real estate footprint.
Going paperless also makes business operations more efficient. It makes it easy to find files when needed because you can search through documents digitally rather than having to flip through boxes of files in a filing cabinet.
With an electronic system, employees can access the latest version of each document from any location at any time without having to wait for someone else to send it in the mail. If a contract needs to be changed or added to, employees can do so quickly and easily without having to re-type everything. Software like Spindle Document Distribution makes it easy to brand and sign digital documents and send them to any internal or external contact, saving time processing paperwork.
Enhanced document security
Since data is backed up on a network or server and not just stored in one filing cabinet, there is less chance of losing important information if something goes wrong. Even if your computer crashes, your hard drive fails or your office burns down, you won't lose any documents stored in the cloud. You can still access them from different devices and locations.
Additionally, when your files are stored digitally, they are much safer than sitting in a file cabinet or box in the office. You can use encryptions to code and protect your data, create passwords to regulate access, and even set up alerts to notify you of an attempted security breach.
Save the environment
Relying on paper and paper products contributes to the growing incidence of waste pollution. Most documents are printed and discarded after a single use, and they either end up in landfills or in recycling plants that require a great deal of energy to run. In any case, going paperless can significantly reduce the amount of pollution produced by office work, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and conserve trees, water, and other natural resources. It is one way to make your office more eco-friendly.
How to go paperless
Going paperless can save you time, reduce clutter and help the environment. It's also a great way to ensure you always have access to your invoices, receipts, and other essential documents. Here are four tips for going paperless:
1. Create a paperless office policy
The first step to being paperless is to create an office policy about it. Tell employees what it means to go paperless and give them clear directions for handling everyday situations, like printing out receipts and documents that need to be signed.
2. Invest in an electronic document management system
Cloud-based solutions such as Spindle Document Management make it easier to organize and manage your documents. Instead of keeping physical copies of receipts, invoices, and reports, you can generate, send, receive, store, and search through these documents electronically.
3. Use online storage
The cloud has enabled online storage on a massive scale, so it should be no surprise that virtually every major cloud storage service has been created with business owners in mind. There are dozens of options available, including Dropbox for Business, Google Drive for Work, and Box for Business. These services make it easy to store documents in the cloud, access them anywhere you have an Internet connection and collaborate with colleagues on projects.
4. Turn off your printer and fax machine
You don't need to abandon hard copies of your documents altogether, but you can make a tremendous dent in your paper use by simply turning off the printer as often as possible.
Fax machines still exist, but they're slowly being replaced by digital communication methods like email, instant messaging and text messages. A good step toward going paperless is disabling fax capabilities on your phone system.
Most businesses today offer paperless services. You can pay your bills online, file your self-assessment taxes on a government website, and even sign many agreements digitally. The paperless lifestyle is catching on as its benefits become apparent: less clutter, less waste, and a reduced carbon footprint.
If you were wondering, "What does paperless mean?" you now know that it does not mean eliminating paper from your life. It means making paper work for you. It means printing only what you have to and creating, storing, and sending everything else in a digital format.