By Mark Zeitler

Blog

Achieving Paperlessness

Friday, August 23, 2013

For the last several years, we at the Accrisoft office have been striving to abstain from all use of paper. We think it’s a worthwhile goal, not only for saving trees, but for embracing the 21st century and the efficiency of having everything we need in an accessible, digital format.

When we started pushing the anti-paper thing, some of the people on staff weren’t buying it; they’d been scribbling in notebooks for years, and old habits are hard to break. Rather than try to enforce this as an official policy, we led by example and showed them the benefits of going without paper: In meetings, we’d type into our laptops or tablets; several weeks later, we could access notes easily with a quick search, while the notebook-writers were flipping back through old pages, trying to read their own messy handwriting.

That (plus constant criticism) did the job, and today, nearly everybody in the office has bought into the concept. We’re proud to say that when you visit Accrisoft, there’s usually not a single sheet of paper in sight.

In addition to simply embracing modernity and making old notes accessible, there are many other benefits to removing paper from the office as well: For one thing, it stays cleaner without paper dust lying on all the surfaces. (In fact, our cleaning staff tells us that they’ve never cleaned an office with so little dirt and dust.) And we’re hardly an industrial paper plant, but the risks of inhalation of paper dust has been demonstrated to asthma and other ailments. We’re free of clutter (and paper cuts), we don’t have rows of file cabinets taking up space, we save a fortune on ink cartridges, and we don’t have to listen to the drone of the printer while trying to work.

All of our company HR forms are in digital format in Adobe EchoSign – rather than being inundated with packets of papers to sign, new hires are sent a few quick emails, and can sign everything digitally in minutes. These e-signed documents are considered legally valid and enforceable, and are less likely to get lost.

And yes, we do have a printer in the office, but it sits idly in a dark utility closet.

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There are many tools that can be used to achieve a paperless office, but here are some of our favorites:

  • Google Drive is our favorite note-taking solution. During meetings, one person takes notes into a Google doc, then shares them with the entire staff and links to it from a central document. Drive offers real-time collaboration and an extremely useful “Revision History” feature that saves every revision of each document, and lets you view every change ever made
  • Evernote has text recognition capabilities, so if you use their app on your phone to snap a picture of something, the text will often be searchable
  • Penultimate is an iPad app that lets you draw directly on your tablet. It’s not quite the same as writing with pen and paper, but it offers many advantages, and can sync with your Evernote account
  • Voice recordings can be even easier than typing out notes, and Evernote can sometimes transcribe them into searchable text. Most smartphones come equipped with a voice recording app, as well
  • Smartphones equipped with cameras are an invaluable part of the paperless office. You can automatically sync your photos to the cloud with Dropbox, iCloud, Google+ and others

For those of you who are interested in taking the plunge, here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Take photos of business cards and hand them back
  • Sign documents in Adobe Acrobat or Mac OS X Preview — Mac users, go to Preview’s preferences, and select the Signature section. From there, you can store your signature by holding a copy of it up to your computer’s camera. Whenever you need to sign something, select Annotate from the Tools menu, and you can simply drag a digital copy your signature onto the document
  • For documents requiring other people’s signatures, use Adobe EchoSign or DocuSign
  • After a meeting, take photos of the whiteboard using the Evernote app
  • Print documents as PDFs — Every Mac has this capability built in. Within any document, just go to File > Print, and at the bottom-lefthand corner of the print dialog, you’ll see a PDF section. Evernote Premium can even search PDFs.
  • When somebody does insist on handing you a paper document, scan it and archive it digitally

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If you have any other tips for going paperless, let us know in the comments.

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