The promise of a paperless office has been around for years. Unfortunately, most offices must still use paper regularly. Is the paperless office just a pipe dream that we will never achieve? In a nutshell, no. We’re constantly moving toward paperless offices, but it’s just taking us considerably longer than we had expected.
The advantages of paper
Digital copies of documents and communications are nice, but paper continues to be useful in many cases. Even people who work at the most eco-friendly offices, with reduced paper use policies, find a need for paper. Paper can be very portable and quick. You can easily jot down a telephone number on a sticky note and slip it in your pocket or leave your cubicle neighbor a quick note stating the boss stopped by. If you’re in charge of going over important documents prior to release, hard copy editing is usually much easier than editing on a computer screen. Sometimes it is easier to spot small typos on a physical copy.
Less paper than ever
Most offices today rely less on paper than they ever have, and that is no myth. Employees do the vast majority of their writing with word-processing programs. Rather than sending written notes to each other, they send communications through e-mail and instant messages. Marketing campaigns are created and stored on computers. Meeting notes are typed in tablets. Meeting agendas are written not on sticky notes but on smart phones. Consider how far offices have come in just the past decade. Paper, though not obsolete, has stopped being king.
It’s clear that sooner or later, offices will rely even less on paper. However, will offices ever truly become paperless? Will legal pads and Post-it Notes go the way of the milkman? Maybe. Just consider the milkman: There are still some homeowners who prefer to have their milk delivered to them, but the majority of consumers pick up their milk at their local supermarket.
Paper could end up the same way. While most office workers are relying more on computers, the cloud, and smartphones for their invoicing, writing, and spreadsheets, you can still find those workers preferring the old-fashioned feel of pen and paper.