As promised in my last post “The Day The Printer Died” I said I would give you some ideas on how you can start to go paperless in your office. It really is a great time to go paperless whether you are working out of your home office or have a small to medium sized business office. Let’s face it, printing has become a real chore what with having to buy the supplies, the maintenance of the printers and finally having to file & store all of that paper.
Did you know that Frederick Wilfrid Lancaster envisioned a “paperless society” way back in 1978, he even wrote a book on it, “Toward Paperless Information Systems” (make this a link). Well as we all know it’s not here yet but hopefully some of these tips will help you get started. But thanks to paperless technologies it just may be possible in the near future. It does clear clutter in your business but it also saves you money and is a great way for you to reduce you carbon footprint.
Let’s start with some of the Productivity Apps out there.
Ok, so you’ve gone completely paperless, or so you thought. How about when you, one of your employees or your bookkeeper needs to have a document with a signature on it? At these times you find yourself pressing the CTRL+P button to print, sign and then scan or fax the signed document to the proper entity.
This is where Hello Sign (make this a link) comes in. It lets you sign documents through your web Browser or mobile device without printing, scanning or faxing. It’s totally secure and the electronic signature is legally binding and even accepted by the IRS, can you believe that?
If your anything like me I have receipts, business cards and notes all over the place, on my desk, in my pockets and of course in my car. So of course one of the first steps in going paperless is getting rid of existing piles of paper. The Fujitsu ScanSnap (make this a link) scanner digitizes your paper receipts and anything else you want to save digitally.
What’s really cool about this though is you can connect this to a Shoeboxed Account (make this a link)! Using Shoeboxes will allow you create reports, edit data, label receipts and scan multiple pages at a time.
Why is it people still fax? I don’t get it but until absolutely everyone finally, like finally quits faxing stuff you can bet you will on occasion still have to send or receive a fax.
You can send & receive faxes without paper and without a fax machine. It lets you keep the exact same fax number but switches the entire process to online faxing via email. It allows your customers to still send faxes the old way, while you’ll lead the way with completely paperless faxing.
Using HelloFax (make this a link) the process will no longer be a pain and will be completely paperless!
Save the trip to the printer when you have to share documents with co-workers not only in the same location but literally across the globe if you so desire. With Google Docs (make this a link) which is a free service run through Gmail, you can work simultaneously with colleagues on a document or spreadsheet. The system will even let you “chat” with others viewing the document. One cool feature is it continuously saves so you’ll never lose your work. You have the option of downloading the files if you need to email them or print them God forbid. You can even compare an earlier version of a document at any time. For a free service you really can’t beat Google Docs to help you take one step closer to going paperless.
Paperless Statements and Bill Paying
Many of us still insist on getting our statements thru the mail which makes no sense anymore. Most banks if not all now offer paperless statements and even provide incentives for customers to manage their account online. Pay your bills online and save on paper, checks, envelopes and the time it takes employees to coordinate invoices, checks and mailings. If you’re a merchant you could use an app like Square (make this a link) to accept payments through your smartphone. You can also email receipts for customers instead of printing them
Take Digital Notes
With the wide range and ever growing note taking apps out there why would anyone want to use another Post-it? It makes one wonder if the Post-It note will go the way of the way of the slide rule, their just comes a time when a product has run its course and something else better takes its place. You have text only options such as SimpleNotes (make this a link) to more sophisticated offerings such as EverNote (make this a link) and Microsoft OneNote. Some have touchscreen and stylus support that lets you enrich notes with sketches and diagrams and all notes are saved to the cloud.
Reduce Where You Can’t Eliminate
The unfortunate reality is that we all face situations where paper printouts are unavoidable or we work with partners and clients who require them. When you’re faced with these situations there are still things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint. Use duplexing where ever you can, it’s just like using 50% less paper. Find a font that is known to save on ink and set it as you default font, you’d be surprised at how much this can save you in a year. Think about switching to Eco-friendly printer cartridges, these have come a long way from when they first came out. They use the spent cartridges and remanufacturer them to OEM specs, but be away you get what you pay for. You can find fantastic deals on line but it’s the “you get what you pay for” deal. Find a reputable dealer that backs up their product with a rock solid warranty, is easy to contact and has a excellent replacement and return policy.
While the paperless society remains elusive for most of us adopting processes that puts the emphasis on digitization will help us to get closer and closer to the ideal.
I just read a short article in a trade magazine I get, The Recycler, asking the question is a printer-less office a possibility? Back in 1985 when I owned my first business and we bought our first computer and a printer to go with it I heard this same statement. The company that sold us the computer said that within 5 to 10 years at the most, we would be paperless! As he stated, why would you want to buy the paper, print it and then have to file and save it. Now that we have computers, you can just save it to the hard drive and that’s it.
As we all know that did not happen. Why? Industry figure Nathan Dube speculated on the concept of the paperless office in early 2012, noting that it was “a myth for the simple fact that human beings truly have an intense and emotional attachment to the printed page”. Funny, that’s how I felt back in 1985 when I was told we would be going paperless, I had a thing about holding that piece of paper in my hand. Not only that but if you are going over your financials isn’t nice to have paper in hand and a pencil to jot down ideas, notes and anything else you want as you are reading the numbers? Of course you do, try doing that on a computer. Or try telling a CPA that they are not allowed to print a hard copy of financials but will have to save everything to a hard drive or even better “in the cloud” and notice the reaction. I’ve had a number of bookkeepers and CPA’s work for me over the years and not one of them bought into this concept, period. As far as their concerned you have to have a hard copy and save it for 7 years. Yes, they do save to the hard drive and many of them now save off site in the cloud, but not one of them that I have ever met will trust in that alone, print a hard copy is their motto.
Personally, I can think of many instances when I want to print what I have on my computer, like when I’m going through my e-mails in the morning and I see something from a customer that is going to take my attention by having to call him and discuss the issue. I print it out and make whatever notes I feel I will need before calling him. When on the phone I now have that piece of paper to jot down important points that are brought up during the conversation. This seems like a small thing in and of itself but you really can’t do this on the computer, Sure you could copy & paste the email into a word doc and have that window open as you are talking and make notes on the document that way, but it’s just not the same and besides, you can’t doddle with a computer. Sounds silly but again, human nature.
How about when you have a meeting? Sure you could bring you’re laptop to the meeting and you’re document saved in Word and reference that during the meeting. But what about the other people in the meeting? Oh yea, they could have their laptop and reference the same document that you have shared on DropBox. Still leaves the problem of people wanting to take notes as the meeting progresses which is pretty hard to do on a shared document, hell everyone is going to be taking notes and doodling on the same document, this is going to get pretty messy really fast. No, in this situation the best course of action is to print out the meeting notes and pass it out to everyone so they each have a copy and they can make notes as they wish. Save a copy in the cloud, of course. When the meeting is done you can go in, revise the document, everyone can see it and most likely will print it out so that they can follow up on whatever it is that needs to be done.
This is just a few examples that I can think of where I would want that printed piece of paper. I’m sure you can think of situations that you also want a printed piece of paper in front of you. Should we be careful of how much we print? Of course, going green means a lot of things now a day’s, it’s just not CO2 pollution. Saving on paper helps to save our forest and reduces the amount of fossil fuel that is used to produce that piece of paper. Like anything else in life, moderation is key. The day’s of printing any thing and everything just because you can are gone, be careful and only print what you really need. Will we bring this to the point of being a paperless society, I think not.
To be fair there are some companies out there that have saved thousands by attempting to go as paperless as possible. In the court case of Boris Berezovske v Roman Abramovich in Britain by virtue of utilizing cloud computing technology they managed to save five million pages. Not that’s saving a few bucks in the cost of the paper itself, not to mention what it would cost to store this much hard copy material for many years.Granted this is a large case with thousands of dollars that were saved but scale it down and the same system can be used on a much smaller scale. The point is paperless is great for some applications and not good for others.
In the heyday of the printer it was not unusual to find a printer on ever other desk in large offices, this is ridiculous and unnecessary. Many larger companies have done away with this and installed one or two large copiers per floor where everyone prints to those machines. But the point is that they print, why? Because they have to. Even if the company is using The Cloud and discouraging wasteful printing, office workers are still printing but only what they need. Need is the key word here, remember human nature, we like to hold that piece of paper in our hand. I don’t think that will ever change.
So one way to help our environment is to only print what you need to and use the cloud for storing and saving everything you can. Another way you can help save our environment is to use re-manufactured ink and toner. Our specialty at Ink & Toner Solutions is the aftermarket Eco-friendly re-manufactured printer cartridge. If you do use these brands of printer cartridges, you are recycling what would otherwise end up in the landfill. The cost and resources used to make a new printer cartridge is twice that of re-manufacturing what has already been made. If you are interested in trying these high quality cartridges you can order on line at www.inksolutionsma.com.