Whilst we’re still living through a pandemic, many businesses have taken their operations online. This has already meant a switch to less paper-based methods to get things done. Online documents are collaborative, editable and more secure in a way that paper documents are not. In addition to saving the trees (they allow us to breathe so it’s the least we could do), there are lots of advantages to living a paperless life as a business. Below I’ve listed some tips that you can take on board to begin the transition to operating an entirely paperless business.
Lots of companies offer an alternative to sending letters in the post and can switch you over to digital documents. Whether this means you can access important paperwork via their website directly or have it sent to you by email – it makes your life a lot easier.
Instead of leaving important documents lying around or hoarding bills from decades gone by, e-documents allows you to keep better track of these things and makes them more accessible than ever. Of course, if you’re storing them on your PC or your email, you need to ensure that your cybersecurity protocols are in check to prevent any confidential data from being at risk. More on this later.
Make Online Payments
Writing up, printing out or posting invoices is a timely and costly endeavour. You also have to consider the chance of something happening to it in the post and the sender not receiving it at all. An endeavour a paperless business doesn’t have to deal with.
By emailing out your invoices, not only do you have proof of it being sent, but you also have a date and time of reference. Not to mention, generating them digitally allows you to make any changes in real-time and saves you a lot of paper in the long run. Should you need to chase something up, already having a copy of the email, makes this process a lot simpler for both parties. Consider online banking, too. As that is most likely how the person you’re invoicing is going to be paying, it just makes sense for the entire process to be digital (especially when banking can now be accessed from your phone too)!
Keeping track of receipts can be done by snapping a picture on your smartphone and with apps that allow you to scan documents, you don’t need to hold onto things either. These tools do come at a price, but they offer features allowing you to scan multiple pages, text-recognition and editing all from your phone.
Got hefty contracts to sign? Use e-signatures. You don’t need to print out long documents to have them signed in this day and age. Sending or receiving e-signatures allows for easy changes to be made to any document before either party agrees to sign. Once they do, it’s legally binding. In the current pandemic, meeting with other people is forbidden. If you need something signed in a hurry, this is the most efficient option.
(See software such as Adobe or Docusign).
Make Your Digital Storage Secure
If you want to store your important digital documents, whether they be documents sent to you or documents that you hold on file, it’s easy enough to do. However, this does come with security risks that you need to make a priority.
Storing your documents locally on your PC is a great way to keep things organised in a way that doesn’t intrude. Storing countless piles of paper documents can be messy and unsightly. It doesn’t exactly invite you to want to jump in to sort it out either. Set up a filing system on your computer with main and sub-folders. You could date them or categorise them in the way that you need and can make sense of.
You should also consider cloud storage. This allows you to upload files to be stored on the cloud, thus saving space on your work devices to keep them running at optimal capacity.
Digital folders and the cloud allow you to add a layer of protection in the form of a password. Keeping your operating systems and security software up to date is also key to protecting you from cyberattacks and impending data leaks.
Break Up With Paper
The sheer feat of sorting through and safely discarding all of your paper files shouldn’t stop you from going paperless. As with any change, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Start implementing a digital system now to get things backed up. Eventually, you’ll be on course to start becoming a paperless business.
There’s going to be a lot of scanning and shredding going on. Lost in all that paper, don’t forget that there will be some paper you need to keep. Depending on your business there may be legal documents or pre-existing contracts that you’ve got to hold onto. Not everywhere is digital yet and some places will need you to keep or reference paper documents.
In beginning to make these changes, you’ll be saving the trees and freeing up more space in your office. It also makes doing business in the digital world a whole lot easier. With a dispersed team, being able to send and receive documents online keeps everyone working efficiently. You no longer have to succumb to arduous wait of ‘snail mail’ if you need a contract signed or an invoice paid urgently.
It’s certainly a process. But once you start to feel the weight of being a paper dependent business lift from your shoulders (mentally and physically) you’ll be sorry you didn’t start it sooner. Take that – heavy filing cabinets and overflowing folders of the world!