Remember when you had to wait for documents and invoices to come in the mail, or could only submit paperwork in person? Technology has made it faster and easier to get and share information, and going paperless at work benefits your company with increased productivity and fewer delays.
Instead of emailing a PDF that then needs to be printed, filled out, scanned and emailed back, a form can be completed entirely digitally, including signatures. Even something like filling out a weekly timesheet can be done online or in an app instead of on a piece of paper and sent to a manager and HR for approval.
Electronic sharing can cut off an average of 4 days of wait time in processing a document, reports Que Publishing. Think of how much more you could get done when you’re not waiting around for paperwork to be filled out and are notified right away when it’s submitted.
If that's not enough, the cost of paper in an office goes beyond each ream itself; it includes the cost of printers, ink, and even the man-hours of processing. Xerox estimates that the U.S. spends $460 billion in salaries just to manage paper-driven information.
So not only will going paperless at work save money, creating digital procedures can also make your company more efficient. And it doesn’t have to be a painful process.
Step 1: Get Everyone on the Same Page
Change can be hard, especially when you have a long established way of doing things. To get past initial resistance, it’s important to create clear company policies for going paperless. Explain the reasons for the change and what processes will or won’t be changing.
For example, let everyone know that invoices or receipts should only be sent online or through email instead of being printed out and mailed, and that all bills will be paid through online accounts. These small steps alone can make a big difference.
It takes around 66 days to develop a new habit. Set out your new procedures and remind people regularly in the beginning to follow them.
Step 2: Create an Implementation Plan and Set Goals
Going paperless won’t happen overnight. In order to make your digital plans a reality, your company needs to set clear goals and create an implementation plan to manage the process.
Start by organizing your current paperwork and files in a system that works for your company. It might make sense to have each department handle their own, while also following company-wide guidelines.
One question you’ll need to ask yourself is what current files you actually need. Often files from previous years just get put in file cabinets or boxed up and forgotten about. Do you need those records from 15 years ago? Determine how far back you really do need to keep, and if there are things that can be thrown out.
Step 3: Invest in the Right Technology
Going paperless at work will be much easier if you have the technology and tools in place to support your efforts, and this doesn’t mean only relying on email more (especially since everyone has overly cluttered inboxes as it is). Cloud options like Google Drive and Dropbox offer file storage and collaboration. Project management and communication tools like Slack, Trello, and Basecamp are easy to use, and provide an organized system for getting work done. Mobile technology can help companies with employees who work remotely or in the field.
Depending on your company or department, you’ll also need software that can handle specific document needs, such as creating invoices or contracts.
Taking advantage of these tools and technologies will make sharing and collaboration easier and faster, as multiple people can work on the same files, see progress on projects, and fill in the blanks for their expertise area.
Step 4: Provide Training
When your new systems and processes are in place, you’ll want to make sure everyone in your organization is set up for success. The fastest way to see a new system fail is when people aren’t confident in using it, so they just don’t. Provide training sessions that both introduce the new tools and demonstrate how they will be used. And let everyone know where to go if they have additional questions.
Once people see how easy using your new electronic systems and tools can be, and how much time they can save, they’ll be much more likely to get on board and stick with using them.
Step 5: Stay Digital Moving Forward
When you’ve begun the process of going paperless at work, it’s important to make sure you keep up the momentum. Digitizing your files is just one part of the process. To truly make a change, your operations need to be digital going forward. So use the new technology you’ve invested in and look for other ways to become more digital and efficient.