In the year 2019 paperless (or nearly paperless) offices really can be a reality for almost everyone. These days there are very few documents that need to be kept in paper format for legal reasons. Even these can usually be stored offsite, with scanned copies being made available for employees online (if need be). Going paperless isn’t “just” about saving the environment (although that’s a pretty big “just”), nor is it “just” about improving data security (although that’s another pretty big “just”), it can make for a happier and more streamlined office too. Here are three reasons why. Going paperless can free up (a lot of) office space Lack of space is often at least as big an issue in small, modern offices as it is in small, modern homes. In both cases, you need to pare down what you are storing to what you really need and what you really love. In an office environment, paper is highly unlikely to be either needed or loved (and exceptions can always be made where appropriate) and so is an obvious candidate for de-cluttering. Going paperless is likely to be a prerequisite for supporting remote working The ability to support remote working has major benefits for employers. First of all, it makes it possible to recruit employees who would not be able (or willing) to commute to your office location. Secondly, it can make it significantly easier for companies to keep going if their main office becomes unavailable or unreachable for any reason. In fact, going paperless may make it possible for a company to stop using a permanent office and just hire office space as and when it is required. Going paperless makes it easier for people to find what they need when they need it. Even if all you do is scan your existing documents and put them into digital folders named after their former storage location, you will still have created a win for your staff. As they will no longer need to go and retrieve paperwork physically (and hope that it is there when they need it). If you actually take going paperless as an opportunity to implement a more effective document and data management system, you could significantly reduce the burden on your staff, making them both happier and more productive. Hopefully, by this point, you will be convinced that going paperless is the way of the 21st century (and beyond), in which case you will now be looking for tips on implementing it. Here are five points to consider when preparing for the transition to paperless working. Stop creating more paperwork When you’re in a hole, stop digging. Determine what is causing paper to be generated and put alternatives in place. Test them and ensure that they are working (in practice as well as in theory) and that users are comfortable with them before you retire your old systems. In this context, note that “users” means “all people involved” rather than just your staff. For example, if part of your work involves collecting data from customers, then you will need to ensure that your digital systems are at least as intuitive as your old paper forms. The good news is that this is unlikely to be difficult, especially since many people are now completely used to digital data collection, but it may require a little trial and error to get it exactly right. Be prepared to compromise (at least in the short term) If people are really resistant to switching over to digital-first solutions, for example, they prefer taking notes with pen and paper rather than note-taking apps, then consider splitting the difference and giving them the tools they need to digitize their paperwork quickly and then get rid of the paper itself. For example, you could keep a wireless scanner for communal use (or even personal use if there is a clear justification for it), which provides the means, and then minimize the amount of storage space for the paper (including paper recycling bins) so that they have a strong incentive to digitize their notes. This might be slightly frustrating, but it doesn’t have to derail your overall plans and you’ll often find that positive re-enforcement (and the desire to fit in with their peers) will ultimately persuade people to give up their paper habit. Scan all existing paperwork This may seem counter-intuitive, but it will probably be easiest just to scan all paperwork–unless it is obviously not needed. During this process, keep an eye open for paperwork which genuinely needs to be kept (for legal or other reasons). For the most part, the aim should be to get the scanning done as quickly as possible. Once the paper has been scanned, it either needs to be returned to its existing home or moved somewhere else in an organized fashion. In other words, there needs to be a system in place so that someone can look at a digital file and know where they can expect to find it in the real world and vice versa. De-clutter and organize digitally As previously mentioned, scanning your old paperwork will probably count as a major win, but you can make that win even better by taking this as an opportunity to do a thorough de-clutter and to implement robust organization systems. This process will also provide an opportunity to cleanse your data. You can identify which documents (if any) actually need to be kept in paper format. It also ensures documents are actually stored securely. Dispose of your old paper appropriately Some of your paper may need to be stored offsite but in all probability, most of it is going to need to be recycled. Paper containing sensitive data may need to be shredded first. In principle, there is nothing to stop you from doing this yourself. If you only have a very small quantity of paper to shred then this may be a feasible option. You can even hire a shredder or buy one used and sell it on afterward. You may, however, want to give serious consideration to using a third-party shredding company. This will ensure the job is done to the appropriate standards and also give you a proof of this to demonstrate GDPR compliance. Has your office taken the paperless approach? Tell us how that has impacted your day-to-day work life! Perhaps you’ve seen a huge improvement in completing daily tasks or the general well-being of your employees by having a more organized office.