How To Run a Paperless Office

How To Run a Paperless Office

Twenty years ago, having an office meant being surrounded by paperwork. In the pre-Internet days, there was simply no way around it: no matter what line of work you were in, every aspect of daily operations (from invoicing to project management to document creation) left an enormous paper trail. Luckily, that is no longer necessary today.

Using the free/low-cost Internet tools below, modern businesses can, if they choose, run a completely paperless office:

Google Docs

America’s offices are flooded with hard copies of documents that rarely (or never) looked at on a daily basis. Whether in filing cabinets, stuffed in your desk drawer or piling up in the hallway, these papers clutter your workspace while adding no value in the process. With Google Docs, this can be stopped once and for all.

Google Docs not only has all the standard functionality of Microsoft Office (word processing, slideshows, spreadsheets, etc.) it also allows an entire office to share important documents with one another. Thus, while your current office policy might be printing out and storing records for later use, you can now simply keep them in Google Docs and print them when a need actually arises.


Looking for a way to do free videoconferencing over the web? Look no further than Skype. This handy tool enables your partners or employees to remote conference with anyone in the world (so long as they also use Skype.) The only requirements are a webcam and a microphone headset. For a nominal by-the-minute fee, you can also use Skype to place outgoing calls.

Best part: Skype also doubles as an instant messaging utility, meaning any text conversations you have with conferencing partners are automatically and digitally logged for later retrieval.


Most of us know that is an excellent (and free) money management and simplification tool for individuals. Yet with a little ingenuity, it can just as easily perform those same functions for your small business. The typical startup has an operating account (checking) and a reserves account (savings), with perhaps an ancillary account for advertising or other purposes.

If your company is set up this way, Mint can paperlessly track and manage your corporate expenditures with little manual effort. Simply feed Mint your corporate bank account details instead of your personal ones, and watch as all financial activity is painlessly graphed, sorted and explained before your eyes.


When it comes to office clutter, invoices are one of the biggest and oldest culprits. You know the drill: print one to send out, and another copy for record keeping. In addition to being incredibly time-consuming, it’s also wasteful and inefficient. In 2011, there is simply no excuse to burden yourself with paper invoices anymore.

Instead, join the 21st century and invest in a subscription. Freshbooks handles your invoicing electronically, on automated schedules. If you have three paying clients or less, you can use most of the service’s features for free. For companies with more customers, Freshbooks can streamline your invoicing process for the less than the cost of a few new Polo shirts.


Nothing looks uglier on a desk or filing cabinet than an unwieldy bundle of receipts. Different colors, different shapes, different paper textures: they’re inherently annoying to organize and almost no one bothers to even try. As a result, they just accumulate wherever they get thrown and clutter your entire workspace up. And who wants to sit down and sort them out at tax time? (Neither do we.)

That’s why Shoeboxed is such a godsend. For reasonable fees, Shoeboxed will automatically scan and categorize all the receipts you send them. Just bundle them up into an envelope, send them in, and a few days later, you’re organized – with no effort or organization on your part whatsoever.


It’s true: a shocking number of offices have no real project management system at all. Instead, initiatives move forward on the backs of unstructured Word documents, back of the napkin sketches and other stopgap measures that create more chaos than clarity. To become both efficient and paperless in one shot, switch to Basecamp.

A flagship product of 37Signals, Basecamp is a fully web-based project collaboration tool that centralizes every project management task you have. To-do lists, milestones, deadline reminders and document sharing are all standard features. From day one, everything you used to scribble down or print out becomes exponentially easier to just store in Basecamp instead. A free trial is available, as are pricing options to support virtually any budget.

Additional Resources: Visit HP to find products such as scanners or a laptop.


  1. Great recommendations. A couple services that I’ve honestly never heard of before. Shoeboxed sounds like a really clever service! Totally one of those “I wish I thought of that” kind of things!

    I also have to second your recommendation of BaseCamp. My previous employer used it as a means of project management and it truly is a godsend when it comes to saving paper.

    I would also recommend 37signals BackPackIt. It’s a great way to store internal notes and to hash out project ideas amongst multiple remote contributors.

  2. Hello Tammy

    Have you ever heard about cronsync?

    cronsync is a web based time tracking and invoicing that has a intelligent rights management for permanent and external staff, such as freelancers.

    Flexible time tracking settings, easily adjustable to your company’s and clients’ needs.

    Real time project control, based on facts. Dashboard with project status and profitability, hours, internal and external hourly rates and expenses.

    Invoices are automatically generated based on time tracking and project data. You choose what level of invoice detail you want to grant your client.

    On the website you will find a video tour and an online demo.

    We have launched cronsync this year. I look forward to your feedback!

    Best, Jakob

  3. Thanks for these reviews. I understand they are all online services or third party handling. Do you have anything to recommend for doing document handling on site? I don’t like to give my stuff away or have sitting on someones servers.

  4. hello, very good site, and a very good understand! at least one for my book marks.

  5. Thank you very much for that big article

  6. I really appreciate all the efforts you put here in this post..I was fortunate to come cross your post how to run a paperless office…will come again..

  7. I love google docs. You can also create separate user groups in google docs and share plans, spreadsheets etc. with a selected group. No more e-mailing presentations etc. that take ages to load and print.

  8. On our time today, we can really make the office operate without the help of papers on documenting.
    if only all the people had the computer that corresponds their self, no paper will be needed anymore.
    Nice idea Tammy

  9. Thanks for these reviews. I understand they are all online services or third party handling. Do you have anything to recommend for doing document handling on site? I don’t like to give my stuff away or have sitting on someones servers.

  10. Love most of these services you list here – great post. Especially love Google docs over MSFT Office, and is just getting better and better as their features expand and their UI becomes easier to navigate (though it was always good to start with).

    May I also add for those who take credit cards online, and Unbounce for those who need landing pages for PPC ads they run? Another two great resources to add… and for those who do email marketing – rocks!

  11. Office Rental Vancouver says

    Great list. I am already using most of these but you showed a great compilation. Will be sharing this one.

  12. I’ve been running a near paperless office for years now. People are always surprised when I tell them I don’t really print things (there is generally no need). Even my accountant had a hard time believing that I don’t have printer/ink/paper expenses, but with all the great technology these days it’s just not much of a necessity.

  13. Good luck getting people behind this one. Though you make some VERY fascinating points, youre going to have to do more than bring up a few things that may be different than what weve already heard. What are trying to say here? What do you want us to think? It seems like you cant really get behind a unique thought. Anyway, thats just my opinion.

  14. Internet Marketing Tools says

    Basecamp and Skype are my favorites.

  15. The only place you’ll find success before work is in the dictionary

  16. Banner Printing says

    Wow great article…if I could only put all that into practice!