Since computers first entered the workforce, experts have been lauding the arrival of the paperless office. Yet 40 years after the term was first introduced, and despite huge advancements in technology, most workplaces are no closer to making that dream a reality. The reason? No matter how tech savvy a business may be, there is always going to be a requirement for paper.
The paperless office also requires a significant behaviour shift and, there will be certain cases in which digital won’t always suit. Whether that’s printing out contracts that require a hard signature, providing press packs for an industry event or editing a printed document, paper remains in demand.
And while the cloud brings many benefits to the modern workforce, it requires a change in mindset to be truly effective. Yes, it provides the tools for better information management, but if organisations are just using the cloud to move their offline filing system online, then there will be the same productivity lags and frustrations as employees struggle to remember where they saved documents within a sprawling mass of online folders.
Our growing need for immediacy is another factor to consider in this context. Employees want to get to the documents and data they need quickly and when electronic data management fails, digital doesn’t always satisfy.
The simple fact is that most just aren’t ready or fully equipped for a truly paperless office. The ‘paper-light’ office is what organisations should be striving for – a combination of paper and digital, where making smarter decisions on how paper is used, means lower costs associated with reduced paper use, distribution and management.
This is a way of working which also transcends to younger generations as they enter the workforce. While millennials are comfortable with consuming data in digital form and are well used to using e-reading technologies and cloud tools like Google Drive, many have still grown up using paper and like to still work with something tangible. They see the benefits of digital but also recognise the strong use cases for paper.
So how can organisations begin their journey to less paper intensive environments? Managed Print Services (MPS) are a great place to start as they help to minimise time wasted on document-related tasks and inefficient print practises.
With MPS, organisations will gain better visibility and control of their entire document environment, and once in place, the managed environment can unify print and digital information meaning fewer devices, fewer pages and improved knowledge worker productivity.
It’s an investment that can help deliver on many of the benefits promised by the paperless office and with a wealth of new printing options available on the market today, it’s one that can deliver huge cost and productivity improvements.
Ultimately, four decades on and the paperless office is still a pipe dream. Now is the time for organisations to be more realistic and focus their energies towards becoming paper-light and paper-efficient in ways that are both commercially and environmentally viable.