Should you go paperless?
With deforestation one of the triggers to increased carbon emissions, how can we all use less paper? Many businesses already use far less paper than they did 10 or 20 years ago but is going completely paperless really achievable?
Are there any advantages for your business, (other than the huge reason of trying to save the planet of course)?
Will it be cheaper and is going paperless safe?
Here are our top reasons for you to go paperless and a few tips on how to do it.
Benefits of going paperless
Reducing the number of tress cut down every day is a challenge but that shouldn’t be the only reason you’re thinking of turning your business into a paper free zone.
There are a number of other benefits to your business too, such as:
- A reduction in clutter–Too much paperwork in your office can clutter your mind. It can also become a breeding ground for dust and dirt. There is a lot to be said for believing that a tidy desk equals a tidy mind.
- Less mistakes and errors –Keeping your records online rather than on paper should provide more accurate stock checks, allow easier business forecasting and reduce the risk of a fine due to incorrect tax payments.
- Quicker to find things – Imagine a client calls you up to query a recent delivery. If you need to check back to the source paperwork it probably means calling them back. You’ll likely need time tolocate the correct paper document.
- Access for all– A piece of paper can only ever be in one place at any one time. In big businesses, you may have to ask another department if they can retrieve a document you need or pass on the information in it. If you have employees who work remotely, they won’t always be able to access the information they need.
- A cost reduction– If you no longer need countless filing cabinets, you no longer need the office space to house them. In the future, you may be able to dispense with off-site storage too. And just think of the money you could save on printing cartridges and postage.
- Faster debt collection–With cloud-based accounting software such as Xero or FreeAgent, customers can make payments instantly. You can send invoices to your customers online in an instant too, so no more paper invoices getting lost in the post or hidden on someone’s desk for weeks.
- Improved disaster recovery – If you suffer a flood or a fire, there’sa very good chance many of your paper files could be destroyed. Provided your important documents are safely backed-up in the cloud then even if your computers are gone, your files won’t be.
How to make the change to paperless
It’s not practical to expect to make a big change overnight and get rid of all paper.
Instead you will need to make a number of small changes and build up to completely paperless over time.
For those who don’t know where to start, here are some things you could do to reduce the amount of paper you use:-
- Use Online banking – If you’re not already doing so, use online banking facilities and ask your bank to send statements via email.
- Overhaul your existing filing system – If you need to keep all of your documents online, it’s important to set up a thorough filing system. It should be as easy to find documents held online as it would be with paper versions.
- Invest in good encryption software – Online filing does present challenges around security, so make sure you invest in good encryption software.
- Back-up data regularly – If all your documents are held digitally and the source paper document is destroyed, you need to make sure that they are sent to the cloud and don’t just stay on your computers. This should be part of your disaster recovery plan.
- Education and training – Make sure that your team are all aware of the push to go paperless. Everyone should be fully trained onusing the new online filing system and there should be boundaries set for when to print things out and when not to.
- Switch to cloud-based accounting – By keeping up-to-date digital records in real time via Xero or FreeAgent, you’re less likely to lose receipts and over time. Nudges or prompts can be incorporated you’re your chosen software which will help to eliminate common errors. Spend less time on your accounts and spend more time on your business.
But we still need to use paper?
Some types of business will still consider that they have a need to continue to use paper. There may be legacy government requirements to retain paper docs, for example although over time even these will move over to paperless. Some organisations are proving slower to change than other although even HMRC are moving in that direction with mandatory MTD (Making Tax Digital) now a reality.
In some sectors such as the legal profession, many documents are still being printed. If you were buying a house, you’d likely expect to have lots of pieces of paper, many of which you’ll still sign in person. This too will change in time though as no one can resist progress forever.
We’re not at the stage yet of having paperless prescriptions as many people still don’t want to learn to use a computer.
If there are documents which do still need to be printed there are other ways in which the amount of paper being used can be reduced.
If you need to print a presentation for example, make sure you print it double sided and only print the number of copies you actually need.
If documents have been printed and are no longer needed, the paper can be used for hand-written notes, such as your to-do list. You’ll obviously need to make sure that any paper you re-use in this way is not confidential though.
How to keep your business safe in a paperless world
Cyber security is a big challenge for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
One of the potential downsides of moving to a paperless office is that you’re increasing the amount of information which is potentially available forunauthorised third parties to access online.
When considering your move to paperless, advice from an expert about encryption software and how to keep your documents safe from prying eyes should be your first port of call.
THP can help you with your paperless crusade
At THP we have already made great strides towards our goal to become paperless and have a full INVU system in operation.
We’ve also looked into a number of cloud accounting platforms and our team at THP has settled on Xero and FreeAgent as our preferred online accounting solutions. To find out which one is right for your business, come and join us for a quick chat or call us on the phone.