Widely believed to have been invented in first-century China, paper has featured heavily in the history of mankind. Durable and easy to manufacture, it helped usher in a new era of knowledge sharing, fuelling a reading culture that allowed new ideas to circulate in a way that had never been previously possible.
Nearly two-thousand years on and the importance of paper is finally beginning to wane. The decline has happened quickly, even ten years ago office buildings would be filled with paper – whether invoices, expenses or reports, all would be paper. Head into any modern office however and things are beginning to look very different.
Paper is quickly becoming a burden for business. In fact, two-thirds of UK businesses now admit to struggling with a plethora of paper, creating concerns that many are at risk of losing important documents.
Paper laying around the office can quickly pile up, with important invoices, contracts, and other documents getting lost in the chaos. What’s more, a messy environment makes you less organised and may have an impact on your overall well-being, with research showing two in five office workers admitting a messy desk affects their performance
Physical documents can lead to serious security concerns, carrying confidential documents with you and accidentally leaving them on the train might be calamitous – as one poor civil servant discovered back in 2008, when he left top-secret documents containing Cabinet Office intelligence on the tube during his morning commute. In this instance, the documents were safely handed to the police, but the repercussions of this incident could have been far worse.
These kinds of accidents will (hopefully) not happen to any small business owners or their employees, but the security threat surrounding paperwork is real and should not be neglected.
The answer, as with many modern issues, lies in technology.
There are numerous benefits to going digital and paperless. It will create a lot more precious physical space for you and your colleagues to work in, with there being no need for chunky equipment needed to print, send and store paper documents. What’s more, reducing the amount of equipment you use can also lessen your office running costs, freeing up cash to spend elsewhere.
Securely storing your documents virtually makes them easier to find too – there’s no need to worry about misplacing an important document when you know it’s just a couple of clicks away. Moving away from paper and embracing available technology also offers an opportunity to work remotely, removing the pressure of always having to be in the office to access, edit and send documents. All of this makes a more profound contribution to a working environment where colleagues can focus on their work, rather than their admin!
You’ll also have more convenient access to all your files and you’ll be able to work flexibly without any restrictions.
Here’s how SMEs can take their first steps towards a paperless office:
Ditch the scanner, embrace your smartphone
To start with, how do you transfer blocks of text to your computer? The good news is that you don’t have to use a scanner! You can just use your smartphone. Apps such as Microsoft’s Office Lens. allow you to simply take a picture of the document. and convert it into a file.
Get your head in the cloud
Using cloud services such as Dropbox, Google Docs, or Microsoft OneDrive is the best way to store your files. Having them in the cloud means that you’ll always have access to your projects, no matter where you are.
You and your colleagues will also be able to view and edit them, from any device. Such collaboration and ease in accessing and updating work is far more efficient and removes the risk of you misplacing key documents or notes that may have been printed on paper.
Enter the era of virtual notes
With your files on the cloud, you can simplify many processes that would usually use sheets of paper. During meetings, you can take advantage of technology such as Evernote, a tool that allows you to share notes, getting your teams to work on collaboratively As a bonus, the documents that you already scanned can be put into your virtual notebook and made editable.
Say goodbye to receipts
Receipts are a thorn in the side for many small businesses – frequently getting lost or thrown out by accident. By moving to a digital solution, such as INGs, a Receipts & Invoices app, or Concur, an application dedicated to simplifying the complexities of expenses and business travel, you can streamline the process for your business and ensure you don’t lose any key receipts!
Undoubtedly, paper still has a role to play in our lives – yet as technology advances, so its importance for how the day-to-day office runs diminishes. If you want to keep up to speed with the digital age by making your processes more streamlined and forward-thinking and your office safer and more practical, it’s time to shed the sheets and go paperless.