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14 tips for creating a paperless office

Paul Mah | March 27, 2014
Half a century after marketers coined the term 'paperless office,' the concept largely remains a myth. Today's businesses probably can't go completely paperless, but these 14 tips will at least help them stop wasting paper and start improving productivity.

The " paperless office," coined as a marketing slogan in the early days of the IBM computer, has not yet arrived, despite anecdotal evidence that the use of paper may finally be on the downtrend. For proof, just step into the office of any small business.

At a time when almost every employee has access to a computer terminal, and when mobile devices with pixel densities indistinguishable from that of print media are now commonplace, it's strange that more hasn't done to reduce the usage of paper.

Paperless Office Not Without Limitations

One big reason is that, when it comes to eradicating paper, organizations must be realistic. Completely eliminating paper may not be economical or even practical for everyone. The realities of paper in our society force even the most tech-savvy businesses, even start-ups with no legacy processes and habits, to contend with external forces such as client needs and regulatory or legal requirements. Moreover, industries such as law and auditing may not be good candidates to go paperless due to the historical prevalence of paper.

In addition, doodling or sketching represents a good way for some to flesh out their thoughts. While excellent alternatives such as the Jolt Script stylus have emerged to deliver an experience comparable to that of using a real pen, they can be pricey and may not convince a purist. The point is, there may be situations where it would be unfair and counterproductive to insist on change, especially if the resulting reduction in paper usage is minimal.

With this in mind, here are some practical strategies for significantly reducing your overall volume of paper usage. We also take a closer look at how you can better equip your employees to work more effectively in a paperless environment.

Reduce, Discourage Paper Usage

The first step toward reducing paper usage is simply emphasizing the move toward reducing paper usage. This can be done in a variety of no- or low-cost initiatives that underscore the seriousness of the paperless drive.

1. Track the number of pages printed per person, generate a monthly report and email it to everyone. Obviously, this works best if the capability to track printing is already supported by the existing multifunctional machine or printer server. Depending on how printers are set up, standalone print server software such as Print Inspector may work too, though cost may be prohibitive for small businesses. (Print Inspector costs $500 for 10 clients or $1,000 for a site license.)

2. Make it less convenient to print. Reduce the number of printers in your office by consolidating smaller, low-end machine with printers capable of higher print volumes at a central location. Without printers on their desks, employees are less likely to print frivolously; this has the added benefit of improving cost effectiveness.


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