First day in a previous role, I died just looking at the cupboards stacked with paper I had just inherited from the previous safety director.
It’s amazing how common this is in so many workplaces.
Let me paint a scenario.
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Print. Sign. Forward to B, asking B to sign, and send to C to sign.
B prints, signs, and scans, then sends it to C.
C prints, signs, and scans, then sends it back to…. The cycle continues every day.
Some even go as far as printing out an email, to scan and save as PDF. There is no need to do this!
Ironically, at the bottom of the email is the declaration that you are an environmentally friendly company with advice not to print the email unless necessary.
In this article, I am going to share simple and effective ways you can reduce or eliminate paper. That is, effectively Putting Paperless in Practice.
But first, let’s look at some reasons why you need to eliminate the above-desired practice immediately.
1. You are wasting precious time.
Time is money, why waste it? When you send the email to B and ask B to sign and forward it to C, you are inadvertently starting an email trail that will very likely take weeks to end. When you can get it all done and over within a matter of minutes, hours, or maximum, a day. You may also be the kind who keeps records in hardcopy, filed away in a cupboard. I have been there and can tell you this causes you to lose hours every day.
2. You are wasting paper.
Contrary to your declaration that you are an environmentally friendly company, you are wasting paper, resources, and creating unnecessary stack of paper and waste.
3. You are killing productivity.
Imagine if you have to repeat this process most days and can’t move to the next stage because you are waiting for a signature. Or that you need to keep records in hardcopy. This means tasks get delayed and can’t be completed as quickly as possible. Before your team is able to roam through the filing cabinet or go over a stack of papers, the day is already gone.
But there are easy ways to save you these headaches (of losing time and money and/or killing productivity), without you spending money on expensive software or tools.
I will show how you can use the basic tools on your laptop to reduce paper trail and truly go paperless. You may even have to get rid of that printer or find that you rarely use it, indirectly saving you the money you would have been spending on paper and ink.
1. Create a digital workflow for managing your processes. You may choose to AUTOMATE.
First, you need to agree on a process and strategy for taking your various paper-related tasks digital.
I love to draw up flowcharts for this, starting with the first step.
Let’s paint a scenario as an example.
Imagine a Return to Work Assessment that need to go from the Supervisor or Team Lead to the Health and Safety Manager, before it lands finally on the desk of the Head of HR.
For workflows, I LOVE to draw up flowcharts and give important information about each step of the flowchart.
Once you have agreed on the workflow, you need to put in place systems that will help make them a reality. That is where some tools and software comes in. You can build one inhouse or get a readymade software or tool. I wrote about the difference between both kinds of software in a previous post.
These tools can be used to complete the assessment, notify the person or persons required to review and sign, and even send reminders reminding of deadlines or when overdue. This helps automate the process and saves time.
An example workflow would be:
- The supervisor completes Return to Work assessment online with the person returning to work.
- Both Supervisor and Returnee sign once all information has been entered. It could be by uploading their signatures or typing in names and ticking a box in a system that registers them as the signees. Possibly a system they can sign into with a unique username and password.
- Upon signing, H & S manager receives a notification (decide how but ensure it is digital ????) and has 48 hours to review and complete own section.
- H & S reviews the RTW and signs off if Returnee is okay to return to work. If not, H & S will click the reject button, giving the reason for the choice.
- Whatever decision is made, HR gets notified (decide how)
- HR reviews and confirms returnee is okay to return to work or not within 24 hours of receiving from H & S.
The above is only an example. You can see that this workflow once started must be completed within a maximum of 72 hours and requires ZERO PAPER nor PRINTING. This also ensures everyone knows the timing and they do not have to be manually chased for a signature or to complete an important document.
2. Switch to digital signature
First, you need to ensure you have your signature saved digitally to save you having to draw it each time you need to sign.
If you don’t have a signature already, sign boldly onto a plain shit of paper, take a picture, crop it and save to your PC or folder or cloud drive where you can easily access it from when you need it.
(a). Signing a Word Document:
From the home tab of Word, Click insert, select picture, and select your signature (already saved on your device) – as in the image below. You may need to reduce the size by bringing in the corners until you get your desired size (as indicated by arrows in the 2nd image below).
(b). Signing a PDF Document
On an Adobe PDF document, you have the open to fill & sign.
- Click the fill & sign option.
- Click Add Signature
- You can upload the signature, or type it in or even draw it (as shown in the second image below). I prefer to upload an existing signature for consistency’s sake.
(c). On a Macbook, adding a signature to a PDF is different. See below.
You get the option to use the trackpad for the newer versions of Macbook.
You can use the camera option but I never do.
For the iPad option, you need to ensure your iPad (if you have one) is connected to your Macbook. I am certain this may work for iPhones too.
The first time I chose the iPad option, I had to open my iPad and used my figure to sign on my iPad – there will be prompts, you do not need to do anything. The signature was automatically imported into the Macbook and added to the document. It stays on for next time you need to add a signature. Just click on the iPad and the signature will be available without you having to go back to your iPad.
(d). Using an external digital platform to sign documents
There are numerous electronic signature platforms out there. Most common in large corporations is the Adobe Sign. You can upload a document, email it to someone who signs within the platform. Once their signature is submitted, you get notified. No need to download before signing, and certainly no need to print!
3. Switch from printing to saving as PDF
Click the print option like you are about to print.
Then click the printer option and select SAVE AS PDF
Then save in your desired location. With this, you do not need to print to scan to save in PDF.
You can use features on your basic Word or PDF to sign a document without printing as shown in the images above.
You can also create your own tool or buy one.