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Stem the Tide of Print to Start Realizing the Dream of the Paperless Office

May 01, 2014

 By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

The term “paperless office” was coined by Newsweek in 1979, and since then it has captivated the imagination of efficiency experts, office managers and anyone who has struggled with finding the right piece of paper in a large stack of papers.

Yet, unlike the flying car, the dream of the paperless office is one that can be realized today.

But few businesses actually have a paperless office, however, partially because the weight of legacy documents weighs down any effort to move in the direction of going paperless. To go paperless requires addressing all the file cabinets and papers already in the office, and any effort to address that mountain of paper usually costs dearly in terms of time and money.

Moving toward a paperless office does not need to be an all-or nothing effort, thankfully. In fact, one of the best ways to actually succeed at going paperless is just to start, working back to those legacy documents over time (or realizing they weren’t needed in the first place).

When it comes to going paperless, one of the most important factors of success is just starting — not getting overwhelmed by the potential task. Stop the flow of new paper in the office, and the battle is well on its way to being won.

Simple, low-cost adjustments can go a long way toward the paperless office.

One adjustment is electronically billing clients instead of sending paper invoices, and making sure that all correspondence travels electronically. At one time this may have been forward-thinking, but today most people and businesses are used to electronic communications in lieu of paper communications. It just takes formalizing the move to paperless communication to greatly reduce paper.

A second adjustment is shifting away from paper-based faxing and adopting fax-over-IP (FoIP), which lets employees send and receive faxes electronically. Not only does FoIP save a business money (since digital faxing is cheaper), but it also stems one source of paper in the office—no need to print documents to fax, or to print incoming faxes.

A third, relatively easy adjustment is moving away from printed internal communications. There is no reason why company communications need paper in 2014, and setting company policy to discourage paper in the office can go a long way. By reducing waste basket sizes and reducing the office printers to just one in the back of the office, employees can be subtly encouraged not to consume as much paper.

The move to a paperless office doesn’t happen in a day, and it need not start with a million dollar digitization initiative. Simple steps, such as switching to FoIP or moving the printer away from office desks, can go a long way. 

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