How To Completely Digitise Your Life For A Paperless Existence

How To Completely Digitise Your Life For A Paperless Existence

Workplace technology has come a long way and today we can easily throw our work documents into the cloud and access them anywhere through computers, tablets and smartphones with crystal clear displays. Yet despite all the technological advancements that are able to free us from the shackles of printing out documents, the Paperless Office sounds like a mythical unicorn that continues to elude businesses big and small. Fear not, as we have some advice to free yourself from the shackles of paper.

Paper on fire picture from Shutterstock

From an economical and environmental standpoint, getting rid of paper in a workplace makes sense. You’ll be saving money on buying the paper itself as well as eradicating the financial burden of buying and maintaining printers, which can be extremely expensive in the long run. On top of this you’ll be saving trees from being cut down all because you want to read a 50 page report in a physical form.

But many offices across Australia are addicted to paper and while they may have made efforts to alleviate their reliance on print outs, they’re a long way from achieving the paperless nirvana. To lend a helping hand, we have some pointers on how to wean you off paper in the workplace:

Move to online bills and statements

Invoices and bills are just an everyday part of life for organisations and they can add up to a mountain of paperwork. For banking, be sure to let your financial institutions know to send you digital statements instead of hard copy. This is something most banks offer. As for customer invoices, it might be worth providing an incentive for them to manage their accounts online and by email.

For internal accounting, for example, expense claims forms, there are apps out there to help organisations keep track of records without the need to print anything out.

Ditch the meeting presentation printouts

It seems to be a common practice to print out copies of content heavy presentations so people can take notes during meetings. But if you need to print out your PowerPoint presentations just so your colleagues can keep track of what’s going on in the meeting, you’re doing it wrong. A presentation document should be easy enough to follow without the need of hand outs. There is also plenty of many collaborative and teleconferencing software out there that support screen sharing and notetaking for presentation purposes.

Store and share files online

With the advent of online storage services like Dropbox and Hightail, workers should have no problem sending documents electronically to each other, regardless of file size. Mind you, it’s important that your company has the right processes and security in place to prevent the loss of data on third-party storage services.

Make staff accountable for paper usage

Workers often lose track of just how many pieces of paper they print out on a regular basis. A three-page report seems innocent enough but multiply that over a month and the numbers add up. Managers can move to track the amount monthly reports and distributing it among the organisation. Not only will this make staff more mindful about their typing habits, it can also give companies a clear picture of where they can aggressively work to reduce the use of paper.

Make printing inconvenient

When there are multiple printers around the office, employees won’t even think twice when pressing ‘Print’. Make it less convenient for them to do so by reducing the number of printers around the office.

You can’t create a paperless office overnight but these steps will organisations along their journey to reduce their reliance on paper.


  • Powerpoint?
    If you are using powerpoint for more than images (graphs, charts, drawings, maps, photos, etc.) and the occasional orientating word or two, then you are not communicating, you are befuddling.
    If there is material that you need people to take away, perhaps use a webpage or two or a blog to post the posterity information: if your project does not have a project blog, and not for idle chat, but for project information, then you are still last century!

  • It’s taken years for me to get electronic bills from Energy Australia, and they still send out paper copies, plus multi-page letters to tell me about each price increase – the details of which they print in almost unreadable small text.

    NRMA is another paper-addicted company. Trying to get them to stop with paper isn’t just a matter of setting your customer communication options: they either ignore those or reset them. Just last week they’ve just sent out a mound of crap for their board elections and asked if I want to change to electronic-only. I elected to go electronic-only in 2008.

    I re-requested email-only communications from NRMA last week and logged into my account now to find that these have been turned off again. They also re-enabled a hard copy subscription to Open Road, which I managed to get turned off only after repeated contact with their twitter-account folks. I can’t work out whether they’re evil, incompetent or both.

  • We are a small financial services firm (tax- accounting) and operate a totally paperless office. Some two years ago now we disconnected all our printers and our office now only has a single standalone printer that you have to take a USB stick to if you want a hard copy. The time saving and efficiencies of paperless is amazing. The core of our system is: three screens per PC; cloud; teaching staff how to use Adobe Acrobat; using MP3 and 4’s, using expert type systems to record and store all our office procedures; and encouraging staff to come up with admin solutions.
    If we can go completely paperless then anyone can! In my opinion the problem is far too many people just do not get it and/or do not trust it. We could never go back to paper based system and it has nothing to do with the cost of paper. We are an admin reliant organisation, the better our admin, the better our services and the more we can sell and deliver our tax and accounting solutions. Going back to a traditional paper based system would seriously damage our bottom line. My biggest worry is our competition will see the light and start catching up with us – until then, however, we have a major advantage. It is not all plain sailing though – paperless means you need good staff; sub-standard employees can do immense damage to a digital system. Also potential clients often do not care or value just how precise and modern your systems are. This means winning new work is a slow process – in the short-term the advantages are all internal and mainly one of being able to produce work that easily matches the precision and quality of our competition but we can produce what they do in way less time.

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