There’s a new push on for the paperless office. Paperless 2013 is a coalition of several companies that provide solutions for the paperless office, encouraging business owners to “take the paperless pledge.” The participating companies include:

  • Google Drive – Cloud storage
  • HelloFax – Online faxing
  • Manilla – Online bill management
  • HelloSign – e-Signatures
  • Expensify – Online expense report
  • Xero – Online business accounting
  • Fujitsu ScanSnap – Scanners

Paperless 2013Whether you choose to employ any of these solutions to go paperless or other cloud based services and hardware and software tools, there is a compelling case to make the switch. According to the coalition’s website, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of copy paper a year. In 2010, the amount of paper recovered for recycling averaged 334 pounds for each person living in the United States.

Going paperless not only helps to save the environment, it can save you money on your small office supplies. It also can improve operational efficiency. Electronic documents are easier to retrieve when you need them, especially when customers call with a question or a request that needs an immediate response.

In addition to saving paper, moving to electronic invoicing and payments saves on postage and reduces the time it takes to send invoices and make bank deposits, thereby speeding up your cash inflow. Using electronic transfers for payroll instead of checks also saves paper, and your employees – including contractors – probably prefer the direct deposit.

Prepare your small business for paperless

If you are ready to give paperless a try, set aside time to go through your documents to determine what you must keep and what you can shred and toss. Once you know what documents you have to keep, scan and store them in the cloud or on external hard drives. (Make sure to backup and encrypt all your digital files for security.).

Stay paperless

Here are tips for staying paperless or at least reducing the amount of paper you produce. You may be doing some of these things already:

  • Print selectively: Be very selective about printing documents you receive electronically. Make sure you absolutely need to have a hard copy before you print out something.  You can also condense the number of pages that you print.
  • Take electronic notes: If you need to take notes when you are out of the office, use your smartphone or tablet if you don’t have your laptop with you.
  • End paper faxes: Sign up for an e-fax account. E-faxes conveniently arrive in your email inbox or you can view them online. (If you have a unified communications system at your small business, e-fax will be one of your installation options.)
  • Sign electronically:  Sign up for an e-signature account online so you no longer have to print and sign documents. There also are apps for mobile devices to sign and send documents; and PDFs have a tool that enables you to sign them electronically.

For more tips on going paperless, go to the Paperless Coalition website and sign up to receive an email newsletter and other information on removing paper from your small business processes and lowering your small business carbon footprint.