Industry Views

Earth Day 2018: Moving towards a paperless office

April 20, 2018

Sunday April 22nd is Earth Day, an annual event which drives awareness on the topics of environmentalism and climate change. Founded in 1970, Earth Day continues to grow in influence, as it mobilises millions worldwide to work together and live responsibly.

Earth Day focuses on a range of campaigns including deforestation, in order to help compensate for the 15bn trees lost each year to feed the demand for paper, at home and in the office. In fact, our reliance on paper is growing so much, that the average office worker uses upwards of 45 pieces of paper a day, with two-thirds of that ending up as waste! Yet, with environmentalists predicting that rainforests may vanish altogether within 100 years, it’s a warning to us all that things must change.

Benefits of a paper-free office

Due to the nature of the job, accountants and bookkeepers generate a lot of paper, which can quickly stack up in the office. With even the smallest firms typically storing thousands of documents for clients, going paper-free may seem daunting to start with. However, alongside the inherent environmental benefits, there are numerous operational and financial gains in transferring your physical files to digital records. Here are three of them:

  1. Reduce clutter: You may be surprised at how much paper you’ve been holding onto unnecessarily, such as duplicated records or outdated information for old clients. By digitising these files, you’ll have a more organised and less cluttered working environment, which will have a knock on effect on employee productivity and morale.
  2. Faster document access: Nothing is more frustrating than trawling through cabinets and desk drawers to find files whilst on a deadline for a client. However, with your data stored online, you’ll be able to find the document you need at a touch of a button. Online service providers additionally provide back-up functionality in case your files are accidentally destroyed or your laptop or mobile device is lost or stolen.
  3. Less expense: It may not seem much day to day, but printing expenses can really add up. In fact, the average annual printing cost per office worker is over £400, which is a significant overhead for a practice of any size, and which can be dramatically reduced by working digitally.   

Driving a culture of change

When implementing a paper-free strategy, and whether your team is two or twenty, it will be important for everyone to be on board. Employees may not always embrace change, so discuss the benefits of working digitally with your team and create reports on how much paper your office prints per year. Set targets to help reduce this amount.

You may find it effective to place recycling bins around the office so employees can more visibly see waste and the impact of unnecessary printing. Elsewhere, ask your office manager to request email billing, over posted statements from your service providers.

Preparing for the GDPR

Paper documents can easily get lost, or fall into the wrong hands, therefore digitising your records and implementing ‘a clear desk policy’, will not only better organise this data, but help to keep it protected. Taking this approach will also help businesses comply with the upcoming GDPR legislation, which, from May 25th, will impact how firms working with European-based clients, manage and handle their data.

Information which can lead to an individual being identified, i.e. personal data on employees and clients, can’t be stored for any longer than necessary and must be disposed of securely. Businesses will need show evidence of what data they are holding, and for what purpose. Therefore, it makes sense to have information stored digitally in order to be able to adhere to these policies effectively.    

Using technology to support your green initiative

Digital tools are available to automate and streamline almost every line of business. With the strategic application of the right technology, firms can work more efficiently, whilst reducing their use of paper. Here are three examples:  

  1. File sharing and cloud storage: Office 365, Google G Suite and Slack allows employees to collaborate and edit projects simultaneously, and review a colleague’s changes in real-time. This means that not only can tasks be completed faster, but there’s less need to print out a document and pass it around the team for review. Using these tools, users can download and email files as attachments and also view previous versions of a document, with edits saved automatically.
  2. High speed scanners: Scanners with automatic document feeder function can scan multi-page documents in seconds, converting text into digital and editable PDF formats. Look for one with a resolution of at least 300dpi to capture all types of documents clearly. PC Magazine lists the best options for small businesses, in a round up here.
  3. OCR software: Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology is used to convert scanned or photographed images of paper documents into machine-encoded data. Innovation in recent years has led to a rise in OCR-driven applications for data entry being adopted. This is due to their ability to significantly reduce the time and cost spent on manual data entry, as well as improving and eliminating human error, via in-built algorithms which extract data with verified accuracy.

Automating data entry is key   

Here at AutoEntry, our goal is to be part of the paper-free movement, by providing OCR-based software which helps accountants and bookkeepers automate their bookkeeping data entry. AutoEntry works by capturing and analysing details from scanned and photographed bank and credit card statements, bills, invoices, expenses and receipts and inputs them directly into a user’s accounting software; integrating with all major accounting software providers including QuickBooks, Xero and Sage. Available with a mobile app, AutoEntry allows users to scan receipts on the move, and having posted the data to a user’s accounts software, the solution can act as your online filing cabinet, storing your documents for as long as you need, retrievable at the touch of a button.

So to celebrate Earth Day this year, think twice before printing, posting and photocopying documents unnecessarily. Consider using an automated bookkeeping solution to not only help eliminate the time and cost of manual data entry, but to help your office go green and reduce its consumption of paper.