If you are running a paper-only office, you won’t stand a chance. You’ll take longer to complete the same work, and customers and other businesses will move on to the company that can deliver faster.
Let’s say, for example, you work in a paper-loving insurance office and one of the clients wants to start a policy. Sure, you can gather a lot of the information you’ll need from them over the phone, but to get the policy started, you’ll need their signature.
If you’re in a paper-only office, you’ll print out the needed documents, and then those papers will sit on your desk until your client can find the time to drive to your office and sign them. Or, you could send the documents in the mail, and wait for the client to receive, sign, and return them in the mail to you.
Either way, each method takes more time, delaying the start of the policy, and the needed coverage.
Now let’s imagine you work in a paperless office. You take the same phone call, draft the same policy, and then send your client a link to a portal where they can immediately view and e-sign the documents. Upon the instance of the digital signature, the insurance policy is in effect.
It’s easy to see how this e-signing scenario could apply to many businesses.
The simple ability to use digital documents and signatures saves a massive amount of time in cases like these. And clients and professionals alike, prefer getting things done faster.
Companies are adopting paperless office technology for all the benefits it brings. Some of these include:
- Quick communication
- Efficient tracking
- Easier collaboration
- Central document storage
- Easy document access
- Industry-specific apps and software to automate functions
- Easier and more reliable bookkeeping
- Better inventory tracking and ordering
- Automated payroll and invoicing
Really, at this point, the list of specialized paperless applications businesses can use is gargantuan. Not only are there standard apps, software, and hardware that any business can use, there are also specialized products that solve industry-specific needs.
So why then, is there still resistance to converting to a paperless office?
Often, people spend a lot of time and mental effort to become good at their jobs. They learn a way of doing things that work for them. Until not too long ago that mode of working was in an office that used paper.
Once a worker has reached a place of predictable efficiency, they feel secure in their knowledge and ability to perform their job. When the time comes to make changes, that secure feeling gets threatened. This leads to resistance toward learning new strategies and techniques, even if those things offer a better way of working.
How can you start a paperless movement inside your office?
Too many people assume that going paperless in the office will mean a massive overhaul to their processes and systems. They envision weeks and months of scanning and digitally filing documents, painful moves from paper to paperless billing with lost invoices and angry customers, and hours spent in training learning to use difficult software programs.
This would actually be an inefficient way to move into using paperless technology. The point of paperless office work is to make the things you do on a daily basis easier, not more complex.
If paperless technology didn’t result in more efficient processes, saved time, and fewer mistakes, people wouldn’t be adopting it. The fact is, these tools do make work life easier. The biggest hurdle to get over when converting to paperless is the mental hurdle.
This mentality can be addressed directly through training and meetings, or it can be addressed by slowly adopting paperless practices to reduce resistance.
Start with what’s familiar
Believe it or not, there are many ways you can start the shift from paper to paperless in your place of work. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to winning over your colleagues, but there are some clever ways you can start to ease them into paperless work.
Start by introducing paperless ways of working in the places with the least resistance. The easy places. Things that are useful, but not too overwhelming.
One strategy is to use an iPad and Apple Pencil in place of a notebook and pen for note-taking. This is nothing huge. It is simply using the iPad and Apple Pencil to handwrite notes, exactly as they are used to doing. But this is adopting paperless technology.
Using the iPad for note-taking will naturally lead to organized notes that are searchable. These benefits will make paperless note-taking pleasant. These good feelings will lead to learning about other benefits the iPad can provide, and other apps that can be used with the iPad.
Another easy way to introduce paperless apps into a workflow, that are familiar to most office workers, is by using a digital journal for daily task tracking, planning, list-making, and more.
I created the Tom Solid Digital Journal to look like the planners everyone is used to seeing. This means that using the digital journal is already a very natural feeling. The pages and tabs are familiar, and the journal is used in the same manner as a paper planner, but with the extra benefits that paperless technology adds.
When employees realize that with an iPad, Apple Pencil, and digital journal, they can keep doing what they are already used to doing—like scheduling, planning, note-taking, even sketching—the transition to paperless work will become much easier.
Once your employees or colleagues see how easy it is to begin to go paperless, look for places where paperless processes can be used that are beneficial, but still relatively easy to use. Here are some examples.
Still processing bills by hand and sending paper invoices through the mail? This uses time, resources, and leaves room for errors.
Pay your company’s bills with online bill-pay options. Online bill-pay options help you save on paper, ink, postage, and time.
You can also provide paperless invoices and bill paying options to your own customers. Online payment processors allow you to accept paperless payments from your clients. They have invoice templates and built-in record keeping.
Scan Papers that Need to be Saved
If you are in an office that still uses a paper filing system, you don’t need to put the office into chaos by suddenly turning all of your paper files into digital versions. You can begin right where you’re at, by no longer adding files to the paper system. Scan them instead.
To begin with, you can use a scanner and your computer’s file storage system to limit confusion and resistance. As your staff gets used to scanning and saving digital versions of all documents, you can explore more advanced options for scanning, filing, and storage.
Then when your new digital document filing system feels like second nature to your employees, you can begin the process of scanning your past files to eliminate your space-hogging file cabinets.
Have paperless meetings
Paperless meetings are a great way to save on paper. No more needless printouts of each meeting agenda. No more scratched out revisions. Planning a paperless meeting is an easy task inside a Word or Google doc. You can easily make changes without messing up the document, and everyone who is accessing the document will have the same updates, instantly.
Make it known that all meetings will be paperless. Make it easy for all attendees by providing a link to digital copies of the meeting agenda they can pull up on their devices during the meeting. Invite them to add notes directly to the document. You can even show them how to move action items from the agenda to their calendars or task list.
Set up paperless faxing
Yes, I know it’s hard to believe, but businesses still use fax machines to send and receive info.
An online fax service bypasses the fax machine and allows you to send and receive faxes electronically. Although sending an efax feels a lot like sending an email, it still interacts with other fax machines and sends and receives through a fax number. The email-like experience of sending a digital fax makes it easy for employees to learn.
Keep looking for small places inside the office where you can make moves toward being paperless. The more familiar your employees become with the few small changes you make, the more open they will be to adopting more changes in the future. This leads me to what might be the most important paperless strategy of all…
Find a paperless enthusiast in the company
You need a paperless mascot, an advocate. Having a tech-savvy person in the office who loves all things paperless and uses many paperless solutions will give fellow colleagues an example to look to.
Seeing a colleague get excited over paperless technology feels different than getting an order from upper management does. Employees will be more likely to get excited and want to adopt the same practices as their team members or office friend.
It helps coworkers to know there’s someone they can watch to see “how it’s done”, and someone they can come to if they have questions. This key person can help teams transition to paperless by looking for small places to start adding paperless tools into the workflow and holding internal training sessions.
To make the transition to a paperless office as smooth as possible, start with technology that is used in the same way your employees are already working, make small changes in places where it’s easy to execute and find a paperless movement champion to bolster spirits and offer inspiration. These small changes will go a long way toward getting your group on board when it comes to taking your office from paper-full to paperless.