I have always been a big fan of efficiency. Sometimes technology can get in the way of that, there's no doubt about it. One area where I believe technology is king though is helping a business run paper-free.
Why Would You Need A Paperless Office?
Paperless offices are great for a variety of reasons. To me, a paperless office is essential when operating my business no matter where I am. For example, when I am giving a speech in another city, I can be managing our internal checklists throughout the day. I can give direct feedback to my team on live conversations with clients. I can draft a letter to be sent without ever being at the office.
Additionally, we reduce our day-to-day usage of paper, which significantly reduces our paper waste as a firm. Did you know that an average U.S. office worker uses about 10,000 sheets of paper each year?
How Can You Run A Paperless Office?
Teamwork makes the dream work! You must have a team that likes the idea of reducing paper usage. Some tasks are better for people with paper, but you must have a team of folks that are all in on being paperless.
Second, you must stay consistent with this approach. If someone wants a bunch of documents, unless absolutely necessary to print and mail, try and find a way to give them a digital version of those documents.
Finally, you need to spend time understanding how you learn and create best. It is different for everyone, but here are a few different ideas that have worked for me.
What Do You Use?
As for technology, I run a Mac office. To me, the equipment is easier to use and it syncs with all your Apple devices. For example, I have a computer, tablet, and smartphone. This helps me stay updated no matter what device I am on.
Our phones are VOIP phones that we can use apps on our smartphones. A VOIP phone runs off the internet and is essentially a digital service. This allows my team and me to run our office remotely if needed. Weather and traffic or holidays and vacations may require us to be away from the physical office more than we would like. However, we can take the office with us. This includes answering the phone.
Keeping all files on a type of cloud makes the need for file cabinets obsolete. Since all documents can be stored in a file on a cloud, there's no need to even print them in the first place!
If You Read Nothing Else, Read This For New Info!
Internal communication and organization programs are key to running a paperless office. At my office, we are always testing and searching for new programs. Here's what we do to remove paper out of our day-to-day work life:
Note-taking - Note-taking has become mainly digitized at our firm. Using apps like the "notes" app on Mac or even Microsoft Word has made note-taking paper-free and easier! We are also able to easily file and store our notes after a meeting, and the need for notebooks has practically gone away.
Digital Calendar - this is essential because everyone can be on the same page. I use it for time blocks as well as appointments. My team always knows where I am and what I'm doing because we calendar.
E-Signing Software- Documents and contracts that require signatures can use tons of paper and require in-person signing. Now, there are multiple e-signing softwares available, making document signing quick and easy.
External hard drive - now, you may be thinking "but I thought the goal was to be able to travel light." Don't worry, you still are. However, you always want to back up your files on your external hard drive. So, each member of my team has one. The other reason is to use them for big presentation files. These take up so much space that, unless you are sending a link to someone, you will want to use an external hard drive to back them up.
Baby Steps - Start Simple, Then Grow
We didn't just start out as a paperless law firm. Although that was always the plan, we grew into it over time. We have been testing and adding constantly. That will never stop either. You need to pick a few areas you see where you can cut down on paper and find a system that works for you.
We are a small business, and I am a small business owner. I would be glad and happy to answer any questions any of you have. You can email me directly at [email protected] or give us a call at the office at (214) 699-4409. I look forward to speaking with you and wish you the best of luck with your paperless office!