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 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 more time than some would like.
The advantages of paper
There’s a reason why paper hasn’t yet vanished from most offices: It is useful. Employees at even the greenest of offices—those workspaces most devoted to lowering the level 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 becoming less and less essential. A number of our 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 glance 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.
It’s obvious that offices of the future will rely on less paper than even we do now, but will paper ever really go the way of the milkman? Maybe. Some people still prefer having their milk delivered from a local dairy but most are content to pick it up from the store when they need it.
Paper will most likely go the same route and it will be a personal preference as to how much paper is consumed in the office. As many of our business processes rely on digital solutions, there will always be a select few who prefer good old-fashioned pen and paper.