The ideal of the paperless office has been floating around almost as long as the existence of the computer. I call it the ideal since that is what it remains to this day. In fact, the availability of cheap, high-quality printers has probably contributed to more paper being used. Yet there are multiple benefits to going paperless, from cost savings to the environment.
Before you dismiss it as a mere pipe dream, let me share a few practical areas where you can leverage the use of technology to easily reduce your consumption of paper.
Send interoffice memo via e-mail
Instead of passing around memos and leaving slips of paper all over the shop, why not have all interoffice communication done via e-mail instead. Indeed, this has the added advantage of being able to set return-receipts, as well as being able to reach staffers who might be telecommuting or out of town on official functions.
Consider using a fax service
There are companies offering fax services in which incoming documents are automatically digitized and e-mailed out as PDF attachments. A couple of examples are eFax or MyFax; FaxCompare has a comprehensive comparison of the various fax services available. The use of a fax service eliminates the need to pay hefty equipment costs, and is generally very easy to use. Say goodbye to making repeated trips to the fax machine to check on the arrival of important documents. Similarly, junk fax can also be deleted without having to print it out.
PDF your reports
As I highlighted in my earlier blog post, it might make sense to generate all reports as PDF files. Rather than printing out voluminous stacks of reports to distribute at each meeting, why not e-mail the relevant data as a PDF or Word file to the relevant parties instead. Fellow workers who require physical printouts can still print them as necessary; the rest can simply bring their laptops along to meetings. Honestly, how often have you binned the stacks of reports distributed during meetings the moment you reached your cubicle anyway?
In conclusion, the beauty of being able to reduce paper consumption is that it is actually easier to initiate in an SMB as opposed to a large corporation. While it can be argued that paper consumption of an SMB is lower than that of a large enterprise, the amount of savings can only increase as the company grows in size.