Pagoda Blog

How to Convert to a Paperless Office in 5 Steps

March 15, 2018

Once upon a time there was no other choice but to print every form and file it alphabetically in a maze of cabinets, requiring an entire room to accommodate their unwieldy girth. A primarily paper-based business requires meticulous filing methods, additional off-site storage with duplicate copies (or the risk of losing everything in a natural disaster), and an inflexible workforce that’s tied to the office.


Fortunately, that time is over and it’s now easier than ever to convert to a paperless office. This is an important step if you want to modernize your company and keep your competitive edge. Before we dive into how to convert to a paperless office, it’s important to understand why. Besides the obvious space-saving benefit, here are six reasons to make the switch:


  • People expect to be able to access forms and documents online. If you require customers to print and mail in a form, for example, the inconvenience of finding a printer and paying for postage could lose you the sale. 
  • Searching through online forms and locating specific information is a breeze compared to manually sorting through physical files.
  • When you digitize your data, working remotely becomes possible. Of course not all jobs allow for this type of flexibility but if you can, offering the ability for employees to work from home or from anywhere in the world, can boost morale, reduce turnover, and attract highly qualified applicants.
  • Paper has a significant environmental impact. Besides deforestation, the pulp and paper industry is the 4th largest emitter of greenhouse gases among U.S. manufacturing industries.


Ready to convert? It only takes a few steps to convert to a paperless office and drastically transform your workflow and reduce your environmental footprint. Here are five steps to take you from paper-reliant to paperless:



Step 1: Invest in a document scanner

First things first. You need to transfer all those paper documents online. Invest in a document scanner for the office and begin uploading all your files to the cloud. The good news is scanners are now incredibly fast and can often scan both sides of a document at once in just a couple seconds. The Hartford Small Biz Ahead Blog recommends the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500, compatible with both Macs and PCs.


Step 2: Use cloud-based sharing & collaboration

It can take a little training to get all your employees up to speed with a cloud-based platform like G Suite or Office 365, but once everyone’s on board, you’ll see a huge improvement in workflow. Sharing documents online ensures that nothing gets misplaced and allows you and your employees to all edit a document at the same time.


It also creates remote workforce opportunities--employees can work from home if necessary or you can hire based on qualifications, not on location. (Just make sure you establish a BYOD policy.)


We recommend using Google Docs for live, collaborative editing on working documents like a proposal, presentation, or blog post. The suggestion mode allows you to see who made what changes and then quickly accept or reject the edits with a click of your mouse.


Other cloud-based file-sharing platforms include ShareFile (file sharing, E-signatures, and collaborative editing), Microsoft OneDrive (also includes document scanning and expiring links for increased security), and Dropbox.  


Step 3: Switch to online forms

If you require your clients to fill out paper forms, it’s time to move them online. Not only will this please your customers, it will make it easier for you to keep track of responses and tease out useful data. Google Forms is a great free option that allows you to effortlessly create questionnaires with short and long paragraph responses or multiple choice. You can send the form via email or just include a link to the form on your site.


For a more robust form-builder, check out the reviews of Formstack and Jotform on Tallyfy.



Step 4: Set up online billing

How often have you let an unpaid invoice go well past its due date because you simply forgot to follow up? Or maybe you forgot to send the invoice in the first place? It’s not easy keeping track of invoices, late payments, and payments received with just paper and a pen. Fortunately, there are several user-friendly online billing services that streamline the process and ensure none of your invoices fall through the cracks.


Create and send estimates, invoices, and receipts to your customers with Quickbooks. Monitor your sales with its user-friendly sales reports and track business expenses, reducing stress during tax season.  


Related reading: 9 Useful Apps Every Business Owner Should Know About


Last but not least, it’s estimated that if only 1 in 5 households switched to electronic bills, statements, and payments we could save 151 million pounds of paper and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 2 million tons.



Step 5: Reconsider direct mail  

While direct mail (paper mailers like postcards, fliers, or catalogues) can still be effective, it results in a significantly lower return on investment than email ($10 compared to $52 for every dollar spent). The vast majority of us hate receiving junk mail whereas an ethically nurtured email list is comprised of people who have chosen to subscribe and are actually eager to hear from you. It’s no wonder email marketing has a much higher ROI.


Junk mail also produces 1 billion pounds of trash headed straight to the landfill each year. Reduce your environmental impact and start an email list instead that focuses on providing valuable content to your customers.



And don’t forget to backup your data

When you move everything online, it’s critical that you have frequent backups in place as well as a disaster recovery plan in the case of a data breach. Cloud remote backup is a must so that if your physical server goes down, you can still access crucial company data and avoid a loss in revenue.


Pagoda provides both remote cloud backup and disaster recovery plans for small businesses. Get in touch for your free consultation. We’d love to work with you!


Related posts:


5 Ways Technology Can Reduce the Environmental Impact of Your Business

9 Useful Apps Every Business Owner Should Know About

Why Your Business Needs a Technology Update




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