Can We Really Have a Paperless Office?

desk full of paper

Look at your desk and what do you see?

You’ve likely got a pile of papers waiting to be filed, responded to, to be actioned and irrespective of how organised you are and what technology you use to streamline your document flow your organisation will be managing a steady stream of paper.

Twenty years ago when I began in the print industry selling”electronic printing services” or print and mailing services, my Manager said to me ‘of course we might only have ten possibly fifteen years of using paper or a need for our services‘, in other words, paper will be dead, defunct no longer needed!

Paper less offices would be a reality.

There is a misconception that by removing paper from the office will make for a more sustainable and productive office!

There is a misconception that by removing paper from the office will make for a more sustainable and productive office!

I shuddered at the thought and I can recall that conversation well because what actually went through my mind at that given moment was ” yikes, a loo without paper, how will that work then, meaning what medium could possibly replace paper let alone toilet paper?”

I am relieved to say that paper is still being used in vast quantities daily although the volume has declined unquestionably over the last decade. Paper is used in some shape or form everyday and has a profound impact on our lives it’s a commodity I suspect that we take for granted.

I know some of you will be screaming what about the damage it’s having on the environment and the trees that are being cut down…daily; I should like to proffer the following facts:

  • 94.4% of paper comes from Europe
  • Since 1950 forests in western europe have increased by 30%
  • In Europe the forest area is increasing in size at a rate of 1.5million football pitches per year

(Courtesy of

Back in October 2005, Bill Gates Head of Microsoft said we are on the verge of a paperless office with increasing electronic communication and the convenience of web based cloud solutions and an increasing awareness of the environment has led many companies to print less and e-mail more!

But has it?

I am confronted on my visits to customers offices with mountains of paper on desks! Often with the polite excuse “sorry, I’ll just make some space for you”. Why is it there is still an inextricable paper trail?

Don’t get me wrong part of our services is print and mailing that is the cornerstone of our business and we are proud of the way we have provided excellent value for money paper based solutions for many companies over the years.

I don’t wish to see paper go in any shape or form we must support our printing industry in the UK and I am very definitely in the camp that believes paper and electronic can co-exist.

e-billing...Electronic communication and the energy that drives our ever increasing network of servers necessary to hold our data is having a significant impact on the UK’s overall carbon footprint.

Whilst electronic storage of documents and e-communications are universally viewed as being efficient, effective and manageable, it is not necessarily sustainable. In the UK it has been suggested that within the next 10 years PC’s and servers could well consume 50% of the UK’s energy requirements which is quite a staggering thought given the costs associated with importing our energy needs.

The big companies are perpetuating paperless billing citing its “environmentally friendly” because less paper means less recycling. Recently Martyn Eustace, Director at two sides wrote a compelling letter to the CEO at Google Inc. stating the organisation’s concern regarding google’s campaign to ‘go paperless in 2013’ its compelling reading particularly in light of how hard the industry has and is continuing to work to eradicate the myths associated with the print industry which include the destruction of rain forests, making paper is bad for the environment and my favourite, that print and paper is a wasteful product.

In reality, approximately 60% of consumers leave a PC on in the home and will be printing off information electronically sent for reading and filing so although a company may have succeeded in moving the consumer to a paperless process in actual fact the cost has been removed from the organisation and has been placed squarely on the shoulders of the likes of you and me.

I would counter that the cost per head for printing at home probably far outweighs the printing and mailing of a document produced centrally!

Paper is renewable, sustainable and is vital for the well being of the print and paper industry, a world without paper, shudder at the thought.

Whilst for some the utopian ideal is a paper free office let me leave you with this thought, a digital image of your son or daughter holding the award or cup they won is but a fleeting moment but a photo captures the essence of that moment, it can evoke a feeling of sheer joy and emotion because it lives on forever in your memory!

What do you think? Are you in favour of a paperless office or do you believe that paper still has a very important part to  play in our offices? Leave a comment and let us know what you think.

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7 thoughts on “Can We Really Have a Paperless Office?”

  1. As an accountant, my office is certainly not paperless! I go through a huge amount of paper and shred everything once it is no longer required. Whilst I do e-mail some invoices and statements now, I still have to send out accounts and tax return in paper form for signing. I can’t see us ever having true paperless offices.

  2. We’re a digital company, and have mixed feelings. There are times when digital ‘just works’ but other times where having the physical paper under people’s noses drives results. Branded things ‘hanging around’ the office are reminders to people – a real bonus for marketers in a crowded world of ‘digital shrapnel’ (my favourite current phrase).

    So if the printed brochure should make a comeback, perhaps we should also go back to fax marketing, now that nobody else does it!

    1. Thanks Matt. Interesting comments and I like the reference to digital shrapnel. The first thing we tend to do when an idea comes to mind is to make a note of it on PAPER. So I for one will continue to push the medium although paper and electronic options can co-exist. Interestingly, I note your comment too on faxes making a come back I can personally vouch for that given the amount of marketing faxes our offices now receive!! People, customers like a physical piece of paper to read from!!

  3. I love paper – the touch and the feel of quality paper. I always keep a handwritten journal and love to use quality pens.

    That being said in my office i use very little paper. I find with smart phone, ipads, etc there is no need to carry files around.

    I print less and less every month and actually have not used my printer once in 2013.

    A paperless world will never happen but its use is changing.

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