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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.

3. Request paperless statements from banks and service providers such as the telecommunications company. Make a conscious effort to pay bills online, too, as this reduces not just the use of paper checks and envelopes needed to post them but also improves overall productivity.

4. While it's decidedly low-tech, actively advocating a culture of reuse and recycling can modify prevailing attitudes toward paper usage. An empty box for collecting non-confidential documents for recycling can help, as do email signatures that discourage the unnecessary printing of emails messages.

Re-architect Key Business Processes

If you want to substantially reduce paper usage, there's no running away from re-architecting certain business process to identify procedures that make needless use of paper. One of the simplest remedies: Generate reports directly in PDF format, which can be reviewed on a laptop, tablet or even smartphone.

5. Do away with physical signing printed documents, particularly internal ones. Even for external contracts, the need for a signature has roots more in historical precedence than actual legal requirement. In the United States, for example, the ESIGN Act of 2000 gives validity to electronic signatures, making an electronic signature contract as legally valid as signed hard-copy contracts.

6. Reproduce internal documents on Wikis or online notebooks such as Google Docs or Evernote instead. The latter supports the sharing of entire notebooks or individual notes, which is handy for disseminating both static and dynamic materials such as an employee handbook or meeting notes.

7. Completely discard fax from the business process and replace paper forms with fillable PDF forms that are submitted via email or a Web browser. The free PDFescape online tool will create PDF files with the relevant form fields, while paid applications such as Nitro Pro 9 and Acrobat XI offer more sophisticated functionality.

Support Infrastructure to Enable Paperless Office

Getting the right infrastructure can go a long way going paperless office. Below are a number of software tools, services and pieces of hardware that can be put in place to support the paperless office.

8. Consider a dual or multi-monitor setup. One common reason that workers print documents is the need to cross-reference them with another document. You can reduce wasteful printing by setting up a multi-monitor workstation. Giving employees two (or three) screens provides more digital real estate and offers a productivity boost at the same time. LCD monitors typically outlast computer upgrades, too, so this is one cost you'll only need to pay once.

9. In order to work with vendors and clients that insist on using the fax machine, sign up for an online fax provider that will email an incoming fax direct to your inbox. This mature market includes various free and paid options that essentially eliminate the need for a physical fax machine. For example, the eFax paid option allows users to send up to 150 pages per month from an email message, through an online portal, or from a mobile app.


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