How to Take Steps Toward a Paperless Office

from LifeHacker

It’s 2018, you have reams of paper in your home office, a file cabinet with documents at work, and your kid just handed you a new field trip form you’ve got to, for some reason, fax to their teacher. If this doesn’t sound like the paperless future you were promised, you’re right. Luckily, you don’t need much to get a handle on all those PDFs you’ve got (or are about to create). A scanner, a smartphone, and some cloud storage services are all you need to convert the stack of papers on your desk into a paperless wonderland.

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63 Responses to How to Take Steps Toward a Paperless Office

  1. Deep Patel January 29, 2019 at 3:29 pm #

    Going paperless has become a trend in recent years and will continue to be as technology is taking over the world and people are starting to realize using paper affects the environment and can cause disorganization. Companies are trying to use less paper and more technology to spread information and documents. Everyone one will say that paper is hurting the environment and is causing climate change globally. I can agree with that but I think going paperless allows people and organizations to be more organized and less stressful. Instead of seeing a stack of papers for work they can be in a folder on a desktop for any time usage and worry free from losing it. Therefore, being able to help the environment but also help keep organization is a great way to look at the benefits of going paperless.

    So many companies do there every day activities online with minimal paper interference. Currently, I intern at a marketing company and everyone has their own desktop and phone. Everything is done online with different databases such as word, excel, smart sheet and PowerPoint. All communication now a days is via email or a smartphone. At work, we use a database called smart sheet which allows us to share documents we are working on with anyone else in the workplace. In smart sheet anyone is allowed to edit, add, and delete any information that is on that sheet. This allows paper communication to be reduced which saves trees and disorganization. Everyplace I go I see less and less paper and more use of technology.

    Additionally, in years past job applications were done by going to the store and asking for a paper application. Now a days if a person is looking for job all applications are posted online and require no paper at all. This helps people find jobs easier and less stress of going all around town to see which opportunities are available to them. Everything is virtual and all the jobs show the qualifications and requirements right in front of their eyes. This not only helps people looking for jobs it also helps the company’s recruit people to work for them.

    Also, I remember when all the bills were mailed to my house piling up in a basket next to my couch. The bills come with so many pages of non-sense that I never read. I lose those papers and when I need to look back on them I cannot find them because of disorganization. However, I now pay all my bills online and can look at my bills on the internet without having all those papers mailed to me. Everything remains organized and I can go back and look at any bill I want to whenever I want. This is another benefit of using the internet and not paper.

    There is a downside of having paperless documentation. There is a chance of it being hacked and stolen by people on the internet. It has happened to many people and there will be scammers out there to steal money from anyone. Going paperless is a great benefit to society but everyone has to watch and make sure there information is secured and safe from being stolen by hackers.

    Lastly, I believe going paperless is the new wave and soon everything will be mobile and on computers and not on papers. It benefits society in a pivotal way as it helps keeps important information organized and secure. Technology allows workers to communicate and work together without having to print any papers. I believe having a paperless office weather at home or at work will be beneficial to everyone and will make everything run smoother with less errors.

  2. Divyaa Sarin February 1, 2019 at 8:58 pm #

    As more technology develops, we are able to get ahold of our documents, papers, and important files digitally. Our generation encourages us to go paper less and have everything accessible through a touch of a button. However, as easy as it seems, sometimes having important signatures or files on mobile may risk people to gain access of them. Although this is an issue, there are many ways to prevent people from getting ahold onto important files through having secure and private apps.

    Companies have transitioned into paperless offices due to easier access and clean workspaces. Uploading files onto devices is more efficient and resourceful. Often times when a file is stored onto a mobile device, there are low chances of losing it. My father owns a company and majority of the papers and files are stored onto an iCloud service. It is easier to be more organized when all the files are on a device and stored into digital folders. My father usually checks his company’s accounts and files through his phone whenever he is out of the office. My father also has to sign a lot of paperwork for shipments to get approved of, so he has his signature stored digitally and is able to sign documents easily. It is easier to send a signature than repetitively writing it over and over again.

    Personally, I store all my important papers and files on iCloud devices like Google Drive and One Drive. I depend on those iCloud devices to store all my information relative to my school assignments and important documents for my daily life. By doing this, I feel more organized and less stressed out because I have access to my important files at all times. When I was younger, I always felt anxious when it came to organization. I would always lose my papers for projects or assignment when I was in high school. I was told to store my information on Google Drive when I was in high school however, I never really used it until I got into college. Once I started college, I realized the importance of organization and really used the apps provided by school to my full advantage. I feel more assured that all my important documents are located in one place and I won’t lose them unless I delete them.

    By getting rid of paper and storing important information onto iCloud devices or apps like Google Drive, helps eliminate the issue of greenhouse gases. When we dispose paper into the trash, it eventually goes to landfills, and then finally disintegrates into methane gases. This is very harmful for the environment. However, recycling paper is more beneficial. Therefore, after uploading or scanning documents it is crucial to recycle them. Although we are encouraged to recycle, many people are lazy and just throw everything into the trash can. Ideally, our society is encouraging us to go paper less to not only make our lives easier but to make a world essentially a better place to live in as well.

  3. Melissa Caniz March 1, 2019 at 8:48 pm #

    Our future and present are all based through technologies, technology as a whole are what runs the world and there seems no escape from it but to adapt. A paperless office sounds more than like a good plan, it saves trees, and so we are helping the environment as well. Back then when there were no apps that helped with scanning documents, the only option to keep everything in place was file cabinets. File cabinets are extremely useful but can get very messy and take so much space, imagine filing gazillions paper documents. Thank God that we can know file papers without having file cabinets, apps such as Scanbot for iOS or Android are a full-featured option ideal for capturing whatever document is right in front of you and sending it to its destinations. Cloud storage serves as a destination once the document has been scanned and uploaded, which can later be organized accordingly to an individual’s wish. The best part of this app is that it is completely free, I mean who doesn’t like free useful stuff which doesn’t cost a penny. Now there are many benefits to scanning documents, as an article from record nations illustrates that it, 1)increase security and protects your business,2)complies with all disclosure laws, 3)it helps you get back on your feet quickly with easy to Use disaster recovery,4) you can collaborate with coworkers and vendors quickly easily, 5)cloud services make it easier to distribute files anywhere, 6) and last but not least save time and money in the short and long term. Of course, this is just an alternative to go paperless, but this may not always be an option for everyone, some people are old school and love their paper cabinets, but this generation is all about technology and new apps being launched constantly that help one’s everyday needs. Technology is not made for everyone and therefore the usage of apps towards a paperless office workspace may seem like the ideal dream for any business but there are a lot of benefits and disadvantages towards this goal. For example, a business economic standing and their standards on running their business or the fact that an office space only looks like an office if there are file cabinets or that fact that they may be a loss of connection between co-worker if there is no need for financial meetings.

  4. Shegufta Tasneem March 6, 2019 at 9:50 pm #

    A paperless office does not only make our lives easier but also is a great solution to deforestation. The effects of cutting down trees are already evident around us, which is extreme climate change. Therefore, creating a work space with the minimum use of papers will make the work of the employees as well as the employers less messy. It increases productivity and working in an organized environment automatically boosts our motivation. A digitalized work space will thus be helpful to every company, especially in this world where technology is advancing at a faster pace every day and automation is rising more than ever. However, the huge paper industry will suffer a great loss due to this modernization. This will, in turn, result in an increase in the rate of unemployment and cause a significant portion of the population, specifically the millennials, jobless. Most paper companies are already going out of business since all the companies around the world prefer technological devices and software over a paper. In this article, Patrick Lucas Austin talks about various useful apps for iOS as well as Android and for both phones and laptop or desktops. He also divided the information into specific steps like scanning a paper, storing them in separate folders by using markers or built-in tags and separating more important documents from less important ones. In a world where everything needs to be completed as fast and easily possible, these apps will come really handy to people who have part time and full time jobs and have to manage a lot of different kinds of documents within one day. Again, these apps will also come useful to college students who constantly face difficulty in buying expensive books and articles or spend hundreds of dollars just for printing out pages after pages of the textbooks. These apps will make our lives easier and more productive since we will be able to complete our work by putting less effort, energy, and time. So, a paperless world will indeed be a more organized and easier life for all of us.

  5. Kayla Clavijo March 8, 2019 at 7:09 pm #

    Today, we’ve become obsessed with the idea of paper and documents being part of our lives without asking ourselves the question of how relevant it needs to be. In my opinion, it’s weighing us down! Whether we like it or not, there will likely always be some form of paper, but the problem doesn’t lie in using paper itself, but instead society having awareness for the amount used and methods of which it is being used for. To begin with, going paperless isn’t something that happens overnight. If you really want to reduce your dependence on paper and pursue digital alternatives, then you have to be willing to strategize and plan. In the article “How to Take Steps Toward a Paperless Office” by Patrick Lucas Austin, we learn that going paperless is relatively easy and only takes a few steps. The steps include, having a digital signature, purchasing a dedicated scanner, using mobile scanning apps, and using a cloud-accessible folder. These steps could help reduce clutter in the office, save time, and can help save on paper costs.

    In the article, Lucas states “electronic signatures are handy, useful for staying paper-free, and can save you a headache if you need to sign and send something in a pinch.” This is true, if signing documents is a big reason why you print out documents, you might want to consider signing them on your computer. I understand that there is no exact way to ensure your signature and documents are safe but keeping everything online is simply more convenient. If you’re storing papers because they contain information that you want, remember that you don’t necessarily need that information in paper form. Instead, scan them and save them on your computer or an external drive. A decent, inexpensive scanner is very useful to have around, but there are also apps that use the camera on your smartphone phone as a scanner. In addition, it is more than likely you have more than one device and one of the benefits of going paperless is not having to take that paper note or document with you. However, having to copy and paste the document from device to device is almost more of a nuisance. Thankfully, there are plenty of cloud-accessible folders and services to pick from to help with this issue. It allows for easy access to all important documents that you already have digitally or have scanned into your database.

    The good thing about going paperless is that companies are teaming with us as well, trying to use less paper and more technology to spread information and documents. Going paperless simply allows people and organizations to be more organized and less stressful. My entire life, I depended on hand-held documents and information. I wasn’t brave enough to go paperless yet. However, I do hate clutter and love throwing things away. Once I started college, I realized the importance of organization, saving time, and reducing the costs of anything whether it was on paper or ink. In the last paragraph, Austin states, “what are you going to do with all that useless paper now?” Its simple, recycle every single useless paper. Once you eliminate the space devoted to paper records and documents, you will find yourself more able to access information digitally. Overall, a paperless operation does not only make our lives better, it makes everything easier! Technology is contributing immensely to how we live today. It has changed the way we work which is the reason why paperless operation is beginning to look like a more sustainable option. Getting your signature on file can save time and purchasing a scanner can save paper. Lucas isn’t saying that he is anti-paper, but he does believe in the freedom that going paperless brings to an enjoyable, efficient office life. This will make a positive turning point in society once and forever.

  6. Daibelis Acevedo March 8, 2019 at 8:43 pm #

    This article is a perfect example of where we are now in our lives. For a very long time now technology is taking over paper. After reading this article, I actually felt motivated to help my parents switch over to PDFs and just get rid of all the unnecessary paperwork that we don’t even need. It’s important to take this into consideration because soon enough there will barely be paper around and people would need to be knowledgeable and able to deal with digital documents. Not only does having all documents on a digital drive help with organization, but it also helps our environment. There is so much deforestation going on all around the world so that more paper is created, which means cutting down trees that will continue to give us oxygen. I really like the idea of an electronic signature and the fact that it can be “imported.” Patrick Lucas Austin does explain the importance of security when using an electronic signature to sign off important documents. He says, “if the thought of keeping a signature on your computer makes you feel uneasy, you can always import your signature.” This means that your signature wouldn’t just be on your desktop ready to use at all times, you have to manually import it into the file that you want to sign. This idea is so important because there are many real-life situations where people need to sign papers online and don’t have the ability to because they are not familiar with the system. Of course, there can always be a downfall with having your signature imported, possible mistakes and simply just scary to have that kind of information out there. In my opinion, responsibility and caution can take care of all those mistakes. Using less paper is a great idea for schools and offices. A paperless community can lead to a more efficient way of working, and even less of a chance of losing a piece of paper. Going back to the topic of our environment, I like how @Divyaa Sarin mentioned how the paper we are scanning and getting rid of must be recycled. There is no point of going paperless for environmental purposes if we aren’t making environmentally friendly actions.
    Keeping the organization in a workplace sometimes gets difficult, especially when there is a great number of coworkers all dealing with different things. A paperless office can only benefit these workplaces. This reminds me of an article I previously read titled “Got a messy work desk? Study reveals what your coworkers really think of you.” In that article, it was clear that a messy workspace makes you look irresponsible and unreliable. An office is very similar to this idea. If an office is messy with papers all over it makes the employees look like they are a mess as well. An organized workspace can increase the number of customers being brought in when they realized how well rounded and clean the office is. The organization is a very important element in success. Having all important documents scanned into a system can benefit these kinds of places.

  7. DawnJ March 8, 2019 at 10:13 pm #

    Having a paperless filing system at home and at the office is what people thought would be the standard by now in the digital age we live in. Easy enough as it is to be paperless, go to just about any business or home and you will find it just isn’t so. Understandably there are some paper documents that people hold onto, say a birth certificate or social security card. But if you took inventory of a household or business’s file system you would easily think it was archaic and you would be right. As the article points out, digital signatures can be used, whether it be in the form of an individual’s true signature captured as an image and placed on the signature line in a document, or by using some kind of digital software’s version of a signature. There’s just no reason to store paper when we do not have to.

    With all that we know about waste and the environment, the footprint we leave, and the fact that we are very capable of creating paperless systems, why are we still doing things the old-fashioned way? Maybe it’s because we are too comfortable and reliant on physical documentation. Maybe companies can’t or don’t want to supply the resources needed to convert to a digital office because a project of that scale would be a huge undertaking. What ever the reasons may be, its time to make the leap and tackle the paper problem.

    Its very likely that if our work environment reflected the true definition of a paperless office, we would be more inclined to make our home lean on paper as well. What if a large business rose to the challenge of creating a truly paperless workplace? If a business were to create a paperless-office business plan and implement it as a project with milestones to be met and dedicated teams to make it happen, I think the end result would be that other large companies would follow suit. Soon after, smaller businesses would follow the trend and then individuals would. At that point a large percentage of businesses and individuals would be paperless. Less office space would be needed, trees would be saved, the environment in whole would improve and our lives would be be less cluttered without the endless pages of paper.

  8. Ryan March 10, 2019 at 10:42 pm #

    In the modern era we live today, I always found it interesting how many physical documents have to filled out, returned, and filed in seemingly endless array of files. Typically larger firms are those that have taken the initiative to change over to the digital age of document processing and storage. Unfortunately, smaller and private businesses have struggled with the shift. Not only does it require a high initial cost for the infrastructure, but also the time to change over. Theses are two primary reasons the majority of smaller firms have yet to change. Furthermore, if they don’t do a large volume, there is seldom a reason to make the shift. Patrick’s article highlights some the primary items needed for smaller firms and every individuals to make the shift. Even for the smaller guys, the digital age allows for a seamless process. It greatly reduces time in the long run and allows for access remotely. In all, despite the initial fear to change over, there are truly a plethora of reasons to make the change to digital document processing and storage.

  9. Diamond Vasquez April 18, 2019 at 8:12 pm #

    In the business world, it is crucial to have organizational skills, especially when working with tons of papers on your desk. At times, it may be difficult to figure out how to organize your papers, but there is a way to solve that problem. Patrick Lucas Austin, publisher of “How to Take Steps Toward a Paperless Office,” on Lifehacker, gives steps on how to go paperless and explains how it is a better to organize your papers. These steps include the following: (1) Get your signature on file, if you need to sign something that has been scanned or emailed to you; (2) Getting an actual scanner, making it easier and less time-consuming than taking pictures of the documents you have; (3) Start with a scanning app, also making it easier to maintaining a copy of any documents you have; and (4) Pair your documents with services, organizing them into folders in any way you choose and uploading them to some cloud storage service. As Austin describes in the beginning, “A scanner, a smartphone, and some cloud storage services are all you need to convert the stack of papers on your desk into a paperless wonderland.”

    I can definitely see how scanning important documents is helpful because it helps you become more organized, and it decreases the loads of paper you may have on your desk. As I was reading this article, it brought memories to a more recent job I had during the last couple months of my senior year in high school. I remember when I worked as an assistant for a bookkeeping firm back home, I had to scan many documents, such as invoices, receipts, etc., and make sure that they were all placed in a certain folder. Once they were scanned and uploaded into their folder, we put the documents in a box for my employer to throw away; this was so the amount of papers would decrease. I do agree with going paperless, but there is one thing that concerns me, filing your signature on the computer. I would feel a bit worried about filing my signature to a piece of technology because I do not want anyone to forge my signature. That is why I was glad when I read that there is another option. Austin explains, “If the thought of keeping a signature on your computer makes you feel uneasy, you can always import your signature as previously stated, and delete it when you’re done.” Besides that, I believe going paperless is beneficial and an easier way to keep yourself organized.

  10. Andrew Kenny April 19, 2019 at 4:41 pm #

    Having a paperless work space is the future of every desk job. Getting an online signature is the first big step. That saves so much time and allows quick transfers and verification of documents. Online communication like email, text, slack, etc. is what runs communication. Rarely do you see letters or handwritten notes as a means of communication between two parties. Digitizing the work space with a scanner or phone app is very convenient. There is no need to make copies anymore with that technology. Plus, all of these things are greener options that help the environment. Why not help the planet while making you life easier?
    Our computers allow us to organize and name documents to organize ourselves better than any file cabinet ever could. By simply creating files to store our work and saving it, we can have access to any document from our laptops, desktops, and phone applications. Our devices are our personal assistants and allows us to ditch inefficient means of communication, writing, and organizing. I understand that some people are more comfortable with pens and paper. It allows them to write what is on their mind and stick post-its on their desk to remind them of what they need to do. However, with the endless possibilities technology gives us, why stick to old, traditional ways. Technology leads to more efficiency, a cleaner work space, and a greener planet. Why not ditch the paper and begin to use our devices to their full potential?

  11. Doran Abdi April 19, 2019 at 6:10 pm #

    The idea of the world revolving around technology in the near future is not an idea that is profound or unheard of. The truth is that the entire world become revolved around technological advances and the future for technology will shape the future of the world. With that being said, one of the biggest aspects of the world that technology will change and is already changing is the business and job world. Already, most offices are revolved around simple technological technics such as e-mail, printing, etc., but technology is allowing for offices to become much more convenient and accessible for most employees. Inverse of the actual intention, it may also be leading to most employees to be looking at the people they plan to hire for many different skills that most employers at this point may have.

    What this article addresses, and which is a very interesting concept is the idea of the workplace becoming a completely paperless environment. At this point, essentially anything that can be achieved through the use of paper has already been translated to the computers and other technological devices. While the transition between these two forms have been quite steady compared to other transitions that technology has created, it definitely is taking effect and will be happening soon. There seems to be no reason for most businesses to translate their job from being dependent on papers to revolving around technology. The cost of paper and the effect that using all of that paper has on the environment are all reasons why many of these companies may find themselves wanting to make their workplace completely dependent of paper. With that being said, it seems that many companies that have been around for a decent amount of time are being resentful towards switching the style in which their company functions. To me, I find that this is the case because many of the CEOs and heads of most companies are resentful to innovation or change to their company; they are following a “why fix it if it is not broken”. While this may be acceptable for many of these companies for the next five or ten years, after a longer term there will be no way for these companies who are still depending on paper to be able to compete with other more efficient and accessible companies. By keeping paper in the workplace, all of these businesses will find themselves falling far behind and trying to innovate their company in a way they should have been doing ten years ago.

  12. Ashley Bock April 25, 2019 at 5:41 pm #

    Going paperless is not only something that is for the most part inevitable, it is also a smart move. This because technology is growing at an alarming rate more and more amenities once only provided in paper is now digital. For instance, one cannot pay bills online, scan checks automatically into one’s bank account and take a whole class without using a single piece of paper. The article from provides steps that individuals can take to become paperless or decrease one’s use of paper in their own home office. To begin with the article addresses creating your digital signature. This is not something difficult to acquire and allows for signing documents online which a majority of documents today are sent via emailed or can be scanned and makes this process of scanning contracts, or invoices to be much easier. This also allows for individuals to better keep track and organize your documents. The next step that the article recommends is getting a scanner. Most common cheaper printers have a built-in scanner and they are not hard to find. Another alternative mentioned in downloading a scanning app on your smart phone. I personally have a scanning app which I have used for various school assignments. Having a scanner or scanner app will help to digitize your home office by eliminating the need to keep any actual physical copies on hand and will you to have access to any file anywhere you have a computer or smart phone. The last step that will help digitize your office according to is to connect your devices to a storage service. There are many options for example these services include Google Drive, Evernote, OneDrive, iCloud, or Drobox which are all reliable sources. I personally have used all these services throughout my education and am currently using OneDrive for my school work. Backing your device to storage service is something that is very important when going digital because it allows you to be able to organize and back up all of one’s assignments or work documents without worry of losing them.

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