If you're finding it tough to stay ahead of the paper trail in your office, it might be time to begin phasing it out. Storing documents electronically can save you time and your firm money, says Leonard B. Kruk, a technology futurist and president of Naples, Florida-based Leonard Kruk Consulting.
Reducing your reliance on paper can increase your productivity. Here are some reasons why as well as tips on how to switch to a paperless office.
Easy to Track
Electronic filing is just as easy as working with manila and hanging folders -- minus the paper cuts, says Yvonne Pitt, an executive administrative assistant for the network systems division of multinational General Dynamics Corp. in Colorado Springs.
Pitt's office has been moving to a paperless system for three years. Pitt creates main folders on the company server and names them by subjects, and then creates sub-folders to store subcategories of information. Key users can instantly access the data from all around the world via a Web-based server. Access is controlled by passwords.
Cheaper to Store
Pitt went from 10 filing cabinets crammed full of paperwork to just one, which still has an empty drawer. Electronic filing also saves money, because companies don't need to spend as much on ink cartridges for printers and fax machines, manila and hanging folders, tape, paperclips and staples, she says.
Faster to Find
"I find it so much more efficient to access the server directory and get what I need to in seconds, rather than having to get up and try to find the file," says Suzanne Benderski CPS/CAP, senior administrative assistant at Transcion, a Syracuse, New York, startup that provides independent medical examinations review for disputed medical and liability insurance cases.
Transcion encourages electronic submissions, but even if a physician's office faxes information, it gets scanned directly into a computer file.
Know Your Company's Policies
Admins should familiarize themselves with company policies, client rules and external legal requirements that dictate what must be kept on paper versus electronically, Kruk says. For example, medical offices will have additional security procedures in place to assure compliance with the Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act (HIPAA), which specifies criminal and civil penalties for improper disclosure of records.
Beyond those limitations, admins know better than their bosses how often they use a type of document or how they use it, so they are in a position to educate their bosses about the benefits of filing electronically.
Consider the Document's Purpose and Use
Admins should also consider how a document will be used by their boss. "It's difficult to see more than one document at a time [on your computer screen], but with paper, I can spread it all over my desktop," says Kruk. Paper is also easier and lighter for your boss to carry around than a laptop and doesn't require a power source to view.
If there's no legal or corporate policy to save a paper copy, ask yourself how often you need to use that document; if it's not that often, then eliminate the paper copy, Kruk says. He also recommends purging paper copies of materials that are also stored electronically every three to six months, or every year.
For more information and tips to help you advance your administrative career, see all our advice for admin professionals.