The dream of a paperless office has been spoken about frequently for many years - decades, even. In fact, it was first used as a popular slogan as early as the 1970s. However, it has always seemed like too much of a challenge to successfully go paperless, and many offices continue to accumulate paper at an alarming rate.
All the recycling in the world cannot offset excessive printing. So is a paperless office a reality or not? Or is it doomed to remain a pipe dream?
Many offices boast of “going paperless”, yet seem to make little to no strides towards this goal. Cupboards are still filled with boxes of old paperwork, and the accumulation does not slow down. In the average modern office, everyone will have a computer, and yet you will hear the noise of printers from morning until evening.
Some of this is necessary, but much paper waste is simply down to one very human foible - habit. Workers who were trained to carry out tasks in a certain way struggle to adapt to a new, digital way of working.
We can't blame the lack of digitisation entirely on a reluctant workforce, however.
Automation has increased over the past 50 years, and in the last ten, it has become very rare that anyone is working without a computer. Even the most basic tasks are carried out using a PC of some kind.
Most tasks that require paper can actually be done in a digital format - for example, instead of having someone sign a form, you can simply email them the document and have them use a digital signature. Yet, even with an eager workforce, not all offices have the finances or the wherewithal to make the leap to making such switches.
If a company is not in a good position to implement these changes to a more widely automated office environment, then heavy paper usage looks set to continue for many years to come.
This presents a notable problem to the modern office space, which often looks a lot different from the offices of yesteryear.
The advent of hot desking
The way that we work is changing. Many companies have made a change from standard offices - where everybody would have a designated desk with a desktop PC and a set of drawers - to hot desking.
Hot desking makes it harder for workers to collect paperwork themselves, as they are usually working from a laptop and do not have designated desk space. They will also usually have a locker that is set away from the desk area, rather than a set of drawers where paperwork can pile up.
This makes it vitally important to make the switch from heavy paper usage to a realistic reduction. And this is not even to mention the number of people now working from home, where they may not even have a printer, or be able to store vast amounts of documentation. This has been increasingly true across the last 12 months, as well as other significant changes to working practices caused by the current climate.
Going completely paperless might not yet be a reality, but the changes that come with the modern office are encouraging companies to make appropriate adaptations.
The perks of paperless
While many offices have actually increased their paper usage even with the advent of automation, the advantages of a paperless office still remain a strong reason to consider changing their ways.
In an increasingly compassionate and conscious world, the perks of paperless speak for themselves. Less paper waste means reducing the overall carbon footprint of your company, which is a plus for those trying to achieve a green company status.
Not only that, but less paper means that there is less space needed - storing paperwork can take up room that otherwise could either be used for other things or may see you downsizing your office environment altogether.
One of the best reasons to reduce the amount of paper used is for security reasons. Some paperwork may hold important and confidential information, and even some vital content. In case of theft or fire, automated data will remain secure, whereas paperwork could quite literally go up in smoke.
But even if a company wants to reduce its paper usage, how is this possible? It can be difficult to know where to start.
How to adapt
Thankfully, there are plenty of options available for those who want to make the leap. Small steps are all it takes to move towards an office that, perhaps not entirely paperless, can see a significant reduction in the amount of paper being unnecessarily used.
With more cloud-based technology available than ever, documents can be stored in a secure location that requires no physical space. This creates a far easier way to share and update information as a team, providing greater workforce connectivity, not to mention security, than ever before.
What about all those essential documents? Something like Spindle Document Management from Draycir can help offices to reduce the amount of paper used by providing a better alternative to traditional document filing. This reduces clutter, the likelihood of misfiling and document duplication, and replaces these annoyances with the fast and safe document access every office needs.
With excellent solutions like these, paper-heavy offices might be a thing of the past sooner rather than later!
Is a paperless office a reality or not?
To refer back to the original question - is a paperless office a reality or not? In 2021, this seems more likely and imperative than ever. However, we must temper our optimism with realism. The road to a fully paperless office seems like a long one yet - and it is possible that this may never be a full reality. Some physical historical documentation may always need to be held, and people will often want a physical copy of certain pieces of work.
Yet we can make small changes that automate our paper usage and who knows? Soon we may be working in nearly completely paperless offices.
Get in touch
Are you ready to start making the shift to less heavy paper usage? Draycir can help. We pride ourselves on offering efficient and versatile products to suit your needs. Our specialist software can improve your business processes easily, and you may be able to reduce your paper waste sooner than you think. Get in touch to discuss how we can best support you.