What is a paperless office, and is it a pipe dream? In this article, I discuss various practical ideas that we’ve used to reduce our use of paper to virtually nothing.
More Computers = More Paper
I remember the early days of the internet when people were starting to go “online.” Using a 14.4kbps modem and a landline, we’d click the “connect” button, and after a few squeals and chirps, our computer was connected to the world. Patience was a virtue, but we were more than happy to wait. Of course, so much has changed with technology since then.
Near the end of the 1970s, the rise of the home computer was thought to bring a paperless society. However, after 30 years, the use of paper substantially increased. As more homes and businesses purchased computers and printers, more people found themselves using paper.
Innovative Software = Less Paper
With the rise of technology and software in the past twenty years, achieving a paperless workplace has become much more manageable. With cloud storage and email, we can easily store and share documents without using paper.
Many people are hesitant to change, but some readily embrace it. The most important thing I learned from my father regarding bookkeeping has been to keep a good “paper trail.” He always kept meticulous books and was a well-organized businessman. Having learned from him, I, too, have become organized in my bookkeeping methods. For example, I use my smartphone to snap a photo when I receive a cheque or cash from a client. Then, when entering my transactions, I would print a copy of that photo to attach to the paid invoice, thus keeping a paper trail.
One day I noticed an additional $3/month charge to my bank account. I realized that the bank had begun charging for paper statements! Though it may look like they were “helping the environment,” the $3/month charge was an excellent way for the bank to earn more. So instead, I printed one from my online banking account, thus using more paper because my printer doesn’t print double-sided! It was time to consider an electronic paper trail.
Paperless Office Tips
In 2013, I made a move to become a completely paperless office. In fact, I have a laser printer and inkjet printer that collect dust.
Below are some ways that we implemented a paperless office.
- Pay bills online whenever possible, including Government payroll and taxes. This will save money on envelopes, stamps and cheques. Most banks charge a very nominal fee, if anything, for the service.
- Email invoices, statements & estimates. This is quicker than standard mail and, once again, FREE.
- Receive/send payments via online payment methods. Most Interac Email Transfers can be sent for amounts up to $3000/day, and the fees are low and even free through some banks. Credit card payments are always an option, but they can be expensive when considering the processing fees. PayPal is another option though their processing fees are similar to credit cards.
- Paperless billing. Choose to go paperless with those who provide services to your company Eg.) internet, phone, electricity, etc. Many companies will send an e-bill notification or monthly statement to your email. It’s only a matter of time if it hasn’t already happened that companies and banks will begin charging for or cancelling paper statements that are mailed out.
- Avoid paper filing. Rather than printing out transactions, invoices, estimates, bill payment stubs, etc., save them in PDF format in a folder on your computer for that client or vendor.
- Pay employees electronically. This is a fairly straightforward process to automate and can save the hassle of writing out cheques and can be deposited into the employees’ accounts without them having to go to the bank. Save pay stubs in digital format on your computer in a folder for that employee.
- Share electronic files. Don’t click print when you can click the “share” button. Electronic documents can easily be shared through an office network or cloud software like Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, or Zoho Drive.
- Electronic faxes. Faxing paper documents is becoming a thing of the past. Document signing software with electronic signatures has replaced the need for an office fax machine and a separate phone line. Scanning and emailing those important documents is another option.
We hope that this has given you some ideas about where you can help the environment and, more importantly, SAVE MONEY! If you have any other ideas, we’d love to hear them.