When you run a small business, going paper-free has big benefits. It cuts your office supply budget and makes work life more convenient, because with digital systems, you can access files and workflows from nearly anywhere. Plus, using less paper reduces your company’s ecological footprint, which benefits the earth and your public image. By gradually making the switch to a paperless office, you can ease the transition for your employees and your customers.
1. Digitize and Organize Paperwork and Receipts
Chances are, your business uses a variety of paper documents. These might include employment applications and HR forms, receipts, invoices, client contracts, project drafts and proofs, memos, and more. The first step in going paperless is to make this information digital.
If you use standard printed forms, turn them into fillable PDFs that can be filled out and saved to a computer. Need to send a form? Simply make it available for download on your website, or email it directly to the recipient. The same goes for contracts, memo templates, and any other documents that you or your employees use frequently.
When it comes to materials you need to archive for your records, such as invoices or receipts, going digital is a breeze. Simply scan or photograph the item and save it to your server. The Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) accepts electronic records, so there’s no need to keep the paper copies. To be acceptable, the digital file should be legible and show every part of the original document. Just be sure to keep backup copies on a cloud storage system or remote server. This protects your company in case a fire, flood, or human accident destroys your in-office server.
2. Move Collaboration Workflows Online
Does your team collaborate using paper proofs and drafts? If so, moving to online workflows can go a long way toward building a paper-free business. Programs like G Suite take typical desktop programs — such as presentation tools, spreadsheets, and word processors — and move them online. You can create, edit, share, and collaborate on documents, all without using a single sheet of paper.
Imagine the following scenario in which you need to write a proposal and get feedback from your team. With a traditional paper-based system, you would draft the document, print it, and ask your team to hand back their edited copies. With programs such as Google Documents, you can create the proposal online and share it immediately. Your employees can log in and make changes or comments directly in the document, and the program saves each version so the original is always preserved. If two or more employees are working on the same file at the same time, the system alerts them, and each person can see the other people’s changes in real time.
Do you travel for work or employ remote team members? Online programs allow everyone to log in from any location. As the boss, you can set permissions for each file to protect confidential or personal documents.
3. Switch to Online Accounting and Paperless Payroll
Traditional paper-based accounting and payroll systems take a great deal of time and paper. If you’re still dealing with stacks of paper receipts and entering transactions manually, an online accounting and payroll option can be a lifesaver. These systems gather all of your financial tasks in one place. With a single login, you can:
- Scan and save receipts
- Send invoices
- Pay bills
- Accept client payments
- Track employee hours
- Run financial reports
- Track expenses
- Manage direct deposit
- Trigger employee paychecks
You and your employees can log in from any location to create an invoice or enter a receipt. That means that your finances are always up to date, which boosts accuracy and reduces the chance of errors. When it comes to payroll, QuickBooks allows you to calculate paychecks and set custom payment options for each employee.
4. Choose Online Faxing and Electronic Signatures
Traditional fax systems are a big source of wasted paper. After you send the fax, the sheets go directly into the recycling bin. With online services like eFax and myFax, you can eliminate your fax machine completely. Electronic fax services provide you with a fax number that clients can send documents to; the system then automatically digitizes it and sends it to your email. Need to send a fax? Simply upload a document and send it to any fax number — your contact receives it as a traditional fax. You accomplish the same job, without a single sheet of wasted paper.
Does your business use faxes to get signatures on client or vendor contracts? No problem, thanks to electronic signature services such as DocuSign. When you need a signature, simply upload your file in any standard format. The system encrypts it and sends it to the client to sign using an electronic signature. This creates an audit trail, and the secure encryption protects both you and your clients.
5. Eliminate Paper Project Management
As a business owner, you’re probably juggling multiple projects at any given time. If you’re still relying on binders and paper files, this process can be time-consuming and prone to errors. That’s where online project management comes in. Online systems like Asana and Slack gather all of your projects in one spot, so you can manage them with a few clicks.
With an online system, you can break a project down into individual tasks. Then you can set deadlines, assign tasks to employees, and track progress — all without searching through binders or filing cabinets. Most programs also come with communication tools that allow your staff to post progress updates and chat about the project. These conversations are visible to everybody, so your team is always on the same page.
Imagine that an employee is meeting with a client. The client changes his mind about a product feature. In seconds, the employee can log in and make a note in the project, so everyone on the team knows about the change.
Need to limit project visibility? You can add or remove group members for efficiency. Use these systems for everything from internal marketing campaigns to external client projects.
6. Ditch the Junk Mail
Once you go paper-free internally, it’s time to look outward. Junk mail is a big source of wasted paper. If your mailbox is overflowing with circulars and unwanted flyers, you can take action to stop the flow. To start, look to your partners and vendors. You might request that companies send electronic invoices and receipts, and request to pay online whenever possible.
If you’re receiving unaddressed mail, Canada Post can help. Simply place a note on your mailbox that says you don’t want to receive Canada Post Neighbourhood Mail. This stops items without an address, including:
- Restaurant menu
- Store flyers
- Free samples
- Banking and telecom offers
If you’re dealing with junk mail that’s addressed to you, your next stop is the Canadian Marketing Association (CMA). Their Do Not Mail Service removes your name and address from marketing and advertising lists. You can complete the process online in minutes.
When you’re committed to cost-cutting and reducing your environmental impact, going paperless is a great solution. As a bonus, a paper-free small business is more agile and adaptable, so you can better serve customers and employees. A variety of online programs for everything from faxing to accounting make the change affordable and pain-free. 5.6 million customers use QuickBooks. Join them today to help your business thrive.