Is the thought of a true paperless office just a pipe dream?

January 5th, 2012

We have been hearing about the paperless office for what seems like years now, yet most office buildings today still depend on fax machines, copiers, and forests worth of paper documents. Is the paperless office just like the individual jet pack? Long promised but never delivered? The simple answer? No. The world is still moving toward paperless offices. It is merely taking longer than some would like.

The advantages of paper

As nice as it would be to have everything in digital format, paper is still useful. The biggest reason it’s still around is that paper is portable. It’s easy to scribble a note and slide it into your pocket. Even the most eco-friendly offices still find uses for paper. If you’re an editor, you know how hard it is to edit a digital copy. A lot of people prefer to proofread important documents in hard-copy format. It is sometimes simpler to spot errors when the file is printed out.  

Less paper than ever

Paper isn’t disappearing, it is becoming steadily less important. While we still need paper for certain tasks,  most offices are using less paper than ever before. Most writing is completed on a word-processor and communication is done via email or Skype rather than fax or letters. Meeting notes, company schedules, and whole marketing campaigns are stored digitally on our computers and smartphones.  So while paper is not yet obsolete, the sticky note is no longer king of the workplace.

The future

Clearly the future of the workplace is using less and less paper, but will it ever be truly paperless? Will notepads and sticky notes go the way of the milkman? Potentially. Let’s look at the milkman: some still prefer to get their milk hand-delivered to their homes, but the majority of us just pop out to the store and pick some up when we need it.

Paper will likely end up the same. As we turn to business solutions like the cloud, smartphones, and computers for invoicing, writing and spreadsheets, there will always be people that prefer the physical  feel of pen and paper.

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