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What Ever Happened to the Paperless Office?

Back in 1975 an article in Business Week entitled “The Office of the Future.” proclaimed that we would have the paperless office by now – what happened? I see people’s desks and there seems to be as much paper as there always was – post it note, reports, phone messages, notepads. With a PC sitting on every desktop, it would seem that we wouldn’t need as much paper.

One theory

One theory is that we’ve just made it so much easier to generate paper. For certain there are a lot more things to print, documents, spread sheets and no end to the things you can find online. When it comes to printing, it’s true that you can generate a whole lot of paper with just a click of your mouse. Not like the old days where someone had to type it out first or you had to make copies, which at least people were mindful of the expense.

Do you trust your computer?

Social scientists theorize that at least for now, people still don’t complete trust their computers. Having an important report on paper gives people that sense of security that they won’t lose it when their PC crashes. Another reason is convenience. It’s just so easy to scribble a note on a sticky, plus you can put it somewhere that you won’t forget it. With a PC, you usually have all your monitor real estate dedicated to the task at hand, so it’s easy to lose track of a note or reminder.

Is this high tech?

Even in the movies they still show high tech offices with a computer on every desk that are more than likely networked together, and yet people will converge on the front desk to get their phone messages. This is definitely one paper use that should have been eliminated from all offices over a decade ago.

Then there’s the ubiquitous post it notes. I get that they’re convenient, but is this really an efficient way to store important information? Using software to handle this is easily just as fast (assuming you can type) and light years easier to search.

Good news

The good news is, we are using less paper. Paper use has dropped since 2000 so at least on the whole, we’re using less. Based on what I see in offices however, desks are holding as much paper as they ever have.

Mark Lawson is CEO of Telexis, maker of PHONEslips an easy to use office management software solution.

 

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