7 Actionable Steps Moving Towards a Paperless Office
The business world is going green. Day-to-day operations of small businesses, large corporations, and everyone in between is being streamlined.
The painstaking task of processing mountains of paperwork has come to an end, and long gone are the days of towering storage boxes and filing storerooms collecting dust.
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This article highlights the benefits of a paperless workspace and provides you with seven actionable steps to achieve this.
But before we get started, let’s discuss what it means to go paperless.
Having a paperless workspace means that information usually given and processed in paper form is now handled in digital or electronic format. Invoices, quotations, and data are entered and stored electronically and accessible by anyone who has been granted access to this information.
So, how do you get there?
1. Set the tone
Be proactive and start by getting everyone in your company on board. Schedule a team meeting and share your vision with your coworkers and employees. They will be the ones who work with the new systems and will have a direct impact on their successful implementation.
In an article written for Forbes, George Bradt notes the following: “You can get people thinking about things in new ways by introducing new frameworks. Doing this doesn’t suggest you think there’s anything wrong with what they are doing or thinking (which would be threatening). Instead, new frameworks lead to their coming up with different insights and potentially new choices and behaviours (which is empowering).” (1)
Once you’re all on the same page – excuse the pun – you can inform your long-term and recurring clients about your move to a paperless office. No doubt they will soon see the benefit and try to embrace this new and efficient system.
2. Focus on Accounting
Within any company, there are core departments that naturally use more paper and paper by-products than others. Your accountant will use way more paper than, for example, an entire team of mechanics.
So it’s important to identify where the changes are needed most and focus your efforts on implementing changes there first. This can be done by changing from a paper-based approach to using cloud-based accounting software.
While paperless accounting would have seemed impossible a decade ago, software such as Envoice now helps streamline the process by allowing you to process everything digitally. This means that suppliers send their invoices directly to your ‘Invoice Inbox’ on the Envoice software. The tedious step of archiving and attaching documents is illuminated through this process.
3. Introduce changes gradually
Change scares people and this fear stops them from seeing the benefits. Many employees are so in their groove when it comes to their daily work routine that the very thought of going paperless could leave them underwhelmed, to say the least.
Implement changes gradually and in one department at a time.
For example, the process of entering data can cause a lot of headaches. Much time and energy are dedicated to accurately entering client data into accounting systems.
So if your accounting department were to introduce paperless data entry successfully, other departments would see the benefit as the team now has more time to answer queries faster. Gradually implementing a paperless system, one department at a time, will help ensure a smooth transition.
4. Get the front desk involved
The first person a client sees or even speaks to is the receptionist. Get the front desk to do things electronically. Scan, rather than sign visitors in. E-mail rather than print notes and reminders.
It’s at the front desk where anyone and everyone sees the intentions of your company being paperless. If a secretary is involved with taking minutes at a meeting, train him/her to do it virtually. This helps avoid double work later on when compiling and distributing the minutes.
5. Put things into writing (virtually)
Using e-signatures is a great way of avoiding paper usage. Whether it’s a contract needing a client’s signature, a project needing signing off, or in-house communication, make use of digital signatures.
By planning ahead and saving documents in a format that allows for electronic signatures, you will save not only on processing time but on the costs involved with printing. And that leads us to our next tip…
6. Move the printers
If the printer is there in the corner of the office, easily accessible to everyone, it will see a lot of use. It’s a force of habit. Need to review last week’s sales data? Print it out. Preparing for an upcoming board pitch? Print it out. Updating your work schedule? Print it out.
But the saying ‘out of sight, out of mind’ really applies in this case.
Max Freedman speaks of removing printers from desktops and replacing them with “centralized network printers relegated to dedicated areas within the office.” By doing this, he continues to say in an article for Business.com, “you can limit their use.” (2)
7. Introducing tablets and notepads
Having information printed out in front of us has always made us feel more confident about our facts. But introducing tablets and notepads into the workplace can give an even greater feeling of confidence.
We need access to real-time information when meeting with clients, and connecting to a central network will allow your employees to always be on top of their game. While there’s an initial cost involved with supplying key staff members with tablets, “this should prevent gaps in communication and keep a business running like a well-oiled machine.” (3)
These are just a few tips on changing the office to a paperless workspace. And while there will likely be challenges along the way, the benefits of introducing this new way of thinking far outweigh the drawbacks.
Fortunately, there are various tools and applications available to help with this transition. One such product is Envoice.
Envoice helps accountants and bookkeepers to save time and money by automating expense management (accounts payable) workflow.
A challenge that businesses face today, as mentioned in the article, is data entry. One of the features that make Envoice invaluable is that it offers what is called SmartExtract.
SmartExtract is an AI software that automatically reads data from receipts and invoices. This saves time and money. Companies that aren’t comfortable with this software can make use of an additional service of Envoice called ExactExtract which will add human validation to your data-capturing process. This will give you confidence that your data is correct and automated tasks run smoothly.
A great way of implementing the changes mentioned in this article is by using a SAAS product like Envoice. The user-friendly design of their product enables businesses, great and small, to go paperless and reap the benefits of digitalized accounting software.
As the saying goes: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
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