The paperless office that people have dreamed of since the 1970s is still out of reach for many companies. Most offices, however, are still using more paper than they need. Not only does that paper cost money and waste trees and energy to produce, but every piece of paper your staff prints needs to be stored, delivered, and/or discarded, which consumes a tremendous amount of staff time, office space, and resources. Try these tips to reduce the paper load at your office.
Think Before You Print
Train your staff to pause every time they’re about to print a document and ask themselves if there’s another way to handle the task. Documents that need to be shared in-house can easily be emailed as PDF files, for instance, or shared through in-house messaging systems. Clients may prefer to receive files electronically rather than by mail or fax, so ask before you print.
Use a Fax App
Some sensitive information and some government information still need to be faxed because email isn’t considered secure enough. With the right software, you can send and receive faxes directly from your computer, which saves both time and resources. If you set up incoming faxes to go directly to the receptionist’s computer, he or she can distribute the documents electronically using your preferred messaging or email system.
Print Both Sides
If your staff needs to print long documents, make sure they know how to use both sides of the paper. Train them to use the duplex setting on your printer, or how to use the print settings in their software to print the odd pages first, flip the stack, and then print the even-numbered pages. Collect scratch paper that’s only printed on one side in a box near the printer and use the back of those pages to print out test layouts or pages for proofreading and in-house use.
Use an E-Reader
Instead of printing lengthy documents for proofreading or to study later, you can create a PDF file and send it to your e-reader. If you’re using a Kindle or a Kindle app on a tablet or phone, you can email PDF files directly to your device. Documents can be sent directly to an iPad by email or by using Airdrop from an Apple desktop or laptop system.
Distribute Documents Electronically
Instead of printing lengthy contracts and agreements, consider using an electronic signature service to get papers signed. Signing documents online is much faster and less cumbersome than printing them and circulating them for signatures. Modern e-signature systems are both secure and convenient. It’s a small change that can revolutionize the way you do business, making legal document execution easy and inexpensive even when multiple people are involved across long distances.
Save Receipts Digitally
Your bookkeeping department wants receipts, but they don’t have to be printed. When you buy products or services online, print the receipt to a PDF file or grab a screenshot and save it into a “receipts” file. Then hand over that file to the bookkeeping department.
Reconsider Your Marketing Materials
Do your sales reps like to compile and print lots of information to share with clients? While they may think they’re being thorough, many clients don’t like to be presented with thick folders of information. If your customers are trying to go paperless, those stacks of information will feel cumbersome and old-fashioned to them. Train your sales staff to do the work of summarizing information for the client instead of printing stacks of paper.
For example, many real estate agents print out information on “comps” (comparable houses for sale in the seller’s neighborhood) to establish a price and hand this to the seller in a thick stack. But the seller would probably rather receive a one-sheet summary of comparable houses that they can digest at a glance with a follow-up email containing links in case they want to see the full information.
Once you start looking for ways to reduce paper usage, you may discover that your office can get closer to a paperless ideal than you imagined. Electronic options are cheap, fast, and convenient and will help your business appear sleek and professional.