We have been hearing about the paperless office for what seems like years now, yet most offices today still depend on fax machines, copiers, and forests worth of paper documents. Is the paperless office just like the personal jet pack? Long promised but never delivered? The simple answer? No. The world is still moving toward paperless offices. It’s simply taking longer than some would like.
The advantages of paper
There’s a reason why paper hasn’t yet disappeared from most offices: It is useful. Employees at even the greenest of offices—those workspaces most committed to lowering the amount of paper they consume—have uses for paper. Paper is portable. Employees can quickly scrawl notes on it. They can fold it up and slip it into their wallets or shirt pockets. Many employees prefer proofreading essential documents in hard-copy form. There’s something about proofreading a document on the computer screen that causes some employees to miss important errors or typos.
Less paper than ever
Paper is starting to become less and less important. Quite a few past paper processes are now able to be performed on a computer. Team communication is dealt with via email. Even instant messaging has taken the place of paper notes to coworkers. Smartphones and tablets have taken over the dependence on a physical calendar/schedule system. If you take a look back at how far business has come in the past decade, it’s pretty clear that paper, while not fully obsolete, is no longer king.
Clearly the future of the workplace is using less and less paper, but will it ever be really paperless? Will notepads and sticky notes go the way of the milkman? Possibly. Let’s look at the milkman: some still prefer to have their milk hand-delivered to their homes, but the majority of us just pop out to the store and pick some up when we want it.
Paper will likely end up exactly the same. As we turn to business solutions such as the cloud, smartphones, and computers for invoicing, writing and spreadsheets, there will always be those who prefer the physical feel of pen and paper.