9 Effective Tips to Reduce Paper Usage in the Office

9 Effective Tips to Reduce Paper Usage in the Office

We started talking about having a paperless office in 2013 when I bought a stand-alone scanner. We were tired of the hassle of filing volumes of paper, the archiving, and the storage dramas. By and by we were trying to reduce our paper usage in the office – but what tipped us over the line of success? Changing to a .pdf editor that we all felt really confident to use.

The paperless office can be a tale of 2 extremes – but don’t let this scare you from adventuring into a realm that can really save you both TIME and MONEY!

When looking at the paper-based office vs. the paperless office there are two extremes:

  • The office that depends totally on paper
  • The office that has no paper

Most businesses sit somewhere in the vast space between the two extremes. We hear the term paperless office regularly.

What does it mean? How can it benefit us?  How can we move towards it without turning our business upside down?

Here are nine tips on how to get there without having a nervous breakdown in the meantime!

Office Scanner

1 – Invest in a good scanner

Good doesn’t mean expensive! In my office, we have 5 devices that scan to a computer. 3 are part of multifunction devices, and 2 are standalone scanners.

Which one does everyone love? The expensive stand-alone scanner is universally hated.

The only reason it continues to survive in our office is because when it works, we can put “patch codes” between separate documents, scan them all at once, and hey presto we have a pdf for each separate document.

For more info on patch codes, click here The scanner bought for 1/3 of its price scans beautifully! Shame we haven’t found out how to use patch codes with it! Scanning a single page from our HP all-in-one printer is the quickest and easiest.

2 – Editable scans

Ensure the scanner software you use will scan as searchable PDFs. Avoid scanning photos as much as possible as they are NOT searchable.

3 – Have a good online filing system

To reduce paper usage in the office we must have a good filing system online. Having a good online filing system that everyone understands means you can find things later. Yes, document how it works so everyone knows ALL the rules!

it is important your filing system is searchable and organized. No more digging through endless folders and stacks of paper just to find that one document you need.

4 – Get a good PDF editor

We had been using a PDF editor for some years, however, it had shortcomings. We were coming to the time for its annual renewal, so I put a post in a private group I was a member of to see what everyone else was using. I then gave the list to my 2IC – and said – try them out and tell me what you like!

We moved to PDF Xchange, first the free version and now the paid version, and hey presto all our work papers magically started being done on screen!

We didn’t even make a conscious decision to try to do this!

office filing

5 – It doesn’t have to change in ONE day

It is all well and good to challenge your comfort zone, however, you will need to find things later. There is no win if you feel your online filing is a black hole! The absolute most important part is to get your online filing system working properly, then that will build you the confidence to use it more and more. If you know where to find things, then that builds confidence really quickly!

The key here is to take baby steps and celebrate small victories. Start by digitizing a few documents and gradually work your way up. Soon enough, you’ll gain the confidence to rely more on your online filing system or your new practice management software

6 – Utilize online accounting systems to further reduce paper usage in the office

Most online accounting systems will allow you to attach documents to transactions. Investigate how to efficiently use this feature. It can be done quickly and easily, if it seems clumsy to you then there is probably a quicker way of doing it – just ask!

7 – What to do from your phone

Be careful what you do from your phone! Many of us do as much as we can from our phones, however after watching a client painfully operate her cloud accounting system from her phone, we moved to the computer and she was amazed at how much time she saved just firing up the laptop to do the “I have more than a dozen transactions to process”.

document security

8 – Prioritize document security 

Shredders become important inorder to reduce paper usage in the office. The last thing anyone needs is a confidential document flying out of the rubbish into the wrong hands. I had the great fortune of finding an old fordigraph workhorse shredder on eBay for $50! What a marvelous investment! It gobbles our masses of paper in minutes! The other alternative is a Shreddex bin!

9 – What about the old records?

Old records are a cost-benefit question…  how much labour does it cost to scan old files vs. cost of paper storage? If you have storage in place already, you could look at “starting from today option”.

  • Anything now in storage stays in storage
  • Any new archive gets scanned and then shredded
  • All new files are kept as online copies as much as possible
  • Have an annual cull of old files that have reached their destruction date and eventually eliminate the storage.

If you have to move your storage location – you could hire a team of students or air-tasker people to scan your archives and then shred them.

Technology plays a crucial role in improving office processes, allowing for greater efficiency and productivity. One particular area where technology can make a significant impact is in the upgrading of old software systems. Upgrading old software offers several advantages, moreover using old software offers potential risks, Head over to What is the risk of using old software? to learn more.


Your thoughts…

How have you moved towards being paperless? What fears do you have of letting go of paper? Tell us where you are on your journey to reduce paper usage in the office.

About me

Hi, My name is Karen McDonald, I am a business analyst and accountant with a passion and strong focus on efficient business systems to empower business owners to focus more delivering great value to their clients.

In 2011, I founded Wise Owl Legal Practice Management as a response to seeing so many lawyers caught up with the struggle of old out of date inefficient software. I believe software should lighten your load and empower you to focus on your core mission. As a qualified accountant and tax agent, many of you will know me from my consulting business commenced in 1997, Cascade Consulting Services Pty Ltd (Cascade).

Cascade has helped many businesses, including many law firms, over the last 20+ years, some in the software applications consulting space, others in the accounting and tax practice space as well. Fundamentally in our accounting business, we aim to empower our clients to better run their administration more efficiently; eliminate redundant processes, and understand their finances and lighten the load of compliance.

If you would like to learn more about how I could help your law firm become more efficient, please book a discovery call with me at https://wiseowllegal.com.au/contact/ or contact me at [email protected] or contact me by cell phone / mobile phone at +61 40 999 2317.

Mostly I am in GMT +10 time zone.

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Hello!  I am Karen McDonald, founder of Cascade Accounting & Tax and Wise Owl Legal Practice Management Software.  I have also been referred to as “The Wise Owl” Today I had a law firm client phone up my accounting practice.  Her trust account was out of balance....