When it comes to accounting, detailed records are everything. Most offices are doing their best to replace paper filing systems with digital records, moving towards a paperless office that relies on cloud software instead of bulky filing cabinets. While a paperless office is the end goal for a lot of businesses, getting there can be tricky – especially in offices that have been reliant on paper records in the past. Employees who are used to paper records may prefer them, and there are advantages and disadvantages to both digital and paper archives. Below are some pros and cons to going paperless, as well as some handy tips to make it easier to cut down on paper documentation.
Pros and Cons of a Paperless office
Having a paperless office isn’t just better for the environment – it can be better for business, too. Since more and more offices are emailing invoices instead of sending paper copies, keeping paper records means a lot more in-office printing than it used to. This often results in a lot of money spent on paper, toner, and shredding services, as well as storage rental for records that the office doesn’t have room for. Relying on paper records also means that only one person can access the records at one time, and they can easily be lost or damaged. One of the best perks of digital files is the relative convenience of searching for them – even if your digital files are a mess, it’s easier to click through folders on a computer desktop than it is to go rummaging through stacks of paper.
While going paperless seems like the obvious solution, it isn’t always so easy – there are drawbacks to a strictly digital approach as well. Certain paper documents need to be kept for legal reasons, such as signed contracts or receipts for large business expenses. You may prefer to jot down physical notes on a paper copy of a draft that needs complicated modifications, and a few clients may prefer to receive paper copies of their invoices in the mail. Additionally, if your office already has a system for keeping paper records, it can be difficult to change your existing workflow to accommodate digital records instead. If that’s the case, below are some tips for switching over to paperless methods.
5 Tips to Create a Paperless Office
1. Make a digital filing system that mirrors your physical one
You may have a physical filing system that includes documents like contracts, invoices, receipts, purchase orders, and the like. If that system works for you, it’s easy to make a digital filing system that has the same structure on your computer. When you generate files on your computer, start saving them to their digital file instead of printing them out and filing them physically. Scan existing documents so that you can shred any paper documents you aren’t legally obligated to keep. Then when you create an invoice or report, you can simply save it to the appropriate folder in your computer, eliminating the need to print out a copy.
2. Pick accounting and database software to start using
If you haven’t already, pick accounting software like Billomat that helps you start creating digital records. If you’re more comfortable keeping physical records, you can make the transition easier by keeping both for a time and seeing if the digital version is easier for you. Over time, you may find that accessing the digital records is more convenient than accessing physical records is, and begin to start keeping fewer and fewer paper records. For example, Billomat’s receipt scanner app for invoices and receipts makes it easy to input expense information and keep receipts on file. When you take a picture of the receipt from your phone, Billomat’s software reads the data from the receipt to create a purchase invoice, eliminating the need for more data entry to record your purchases. Invoicing software like Billomat also makes it easy to create a PDF invoice from a template that you can save directly into your invoice folder.
3. Request digital copies of invoices, receipts, and other files
If there are invoices you receive regularly, such as subconsultant invoices or office supply bills, ask your suppliers to email you the invoice if it’s possible. Some companies may still only send a physical copy, but most often you will be able to receive invoices digitally instead. Contracts can sometimes be digitally signed as well, and there are many digital solutions for sharing large files with a lot of graphics if you need to share a complex proposal or meeting presentation.
4. Offer more ways to pay
Paper-based transactions such as cash and cheques don’t have automatic records created on purchase, and cheques can get lost in the mail. Offering digital alternatives is a great way to reduce the hassle of recording payments and to help keep your office paperless. Billomat, for instance, includes a paylink feature that offers clients the option of paying via all the common online payment methods, so there’s no need to wait for a cheque to come in the mail, and the payment is automatically recorded.
5. Keep looking for digital solutions for paper processes
A receipt scanner and online invoicing software will help streamline your transition into going paperless, but there are other processes that can be made digital as well. For example, pay slips can often be sent electronically instead of via post, and a small internal website with an employee handbook and training materials might be much more cost effective than their printed equivalents when hiring new employees. CRM software like Billomat’s can help keep digital records of customers and suppliers instead of saving business cards or other physical documentation.
When you have a stack of papers that needs to be filed, asking yourself how you might be able to digitize them can save you time and money in the long run. Going paperless can be a big commitment, especially if you are already running an office that depends on paper records. But it’s one that’s worth the initial cost, especially as the rest of the business world becomes increasingly digital.