The concept of the paperless office gains more traction year-on-year and with good reason. The idea that the paper document could be removed entirely from the work environment certainly has its appeal. Whether you’re concerned with environmental issues, looking to cut costs or boost data security, eliminating paper from office processes can have a significant impact.
But is a truly paperless office actually possible in 2018? Many businesses have taken steps to reduce paper usage, but how can any brand really eliminate every aspect of paper documentation?
Adopt cloud faxing
Fax documents are as important to businesses in 2018 as they were thirty years ago. They remain the most effective method of transmitting sensitive documents securely, while also providing legal assurances, such as authentic signatures and evidentially valid timestamps, that other forms of document sharing simply do not offer.
Note, however, our terminology: fax documents — not fax machines. Fax machines use a significant amount of paper; a piece of equipment that needs to be immediately removed from the office on the journey to a paperless environment. A fax machine, though, is not required to send or receive a fax.
Digital fax software, often referred to as online fax services or cloud faxing, enables faxes to be sent and received entirely in paperless form, even if they were initially submitted to your business as a paper document. Cloud faxing works by uploading and transmitting files through specialist software — files that can be given legally binding signatures through the use of touchscreen technology.
Implementation of cloud faxing is endlessly simple. It can be integrated into current fax systems without the need for new fax numbers, replacement technology or the need to change the way you communicate with clients. A seamless blend of documentation transference by either fax numbers or email, all you need is a service provider that offers the necessary cloud faxing software, and paperless data-sharing processes become part of your office routine immediately.
Create digital archives
It is common practice in business to archive files for the purpose of future retrieval. These could be employee contracts, invoices, bank statements, client agreements; the list is endless. The procedure has been adopted as, from an evidentiary standpoint, businesses invite unnecessary risk when they don’t maintain records.
If somebody was to challenge them in a legal dispute, archived documentation provides a much-needed safety net.
Maintaining documents for legal purposes will always be important, but those documents do not have to be paper. Digital files are as valid a piece of evidence as a paper file, if stored in the proper format. Of course, a word document can be edited or manipulated and won’t hold up as evidence. However, if you ensure all your files are recorded in archiving software, dated, timestamped and set to PDFs or other unadjustable files, they’ll provide all the support you need in the case of a dispute, without having to maintain reams of paper records.
Utilise new technology
Technology has a habit of taking old processes and making them better, easier or faster. You only have to look at the email, the telephone and the car to get a sense of what it’s really all about.
When it comes to the practice of using paper, technology is no different. It doesn’t matter what you use physical documentation for; technology has found an answer that eliminates the need for the more archaic method. So if the solutions exist, why continue using outdated systems?
- Are you using paper to take notes in meetings? Why not try Minutes.io or LessMeeting.
- Are you setting task lists on paper for work projects? Software like Teamwork or Trello could be a paperless office solution.
- Are you submitting invoices in a physical format? QuickBooks and Xero are great paperless alternatives.
Going paperless is actually fairly straightforward. Simply look at the task you are using paper for and research digital solutions.
Request paperless services
The simple fact of the matter is this: you can make all the changes you need to in your office, but you will still not be paperless. You can get the latest software, unplug your fax machine and store all your files online, but, if you are still being sent physical documentation by third parties, you’re still accumulating unnecessary paper.
The final step to becoming a truly paperless office is making sure paper doesn’t turn up on your front door. Many businesses, banks and organisations will offer paperless alternatives, if you request them, and others may be willing to make allowances, given your paperless goals, and submit more documentation to your business in a digital format.