The paperless office

“The what?”, I hear you say. Yeah, exactly!

by Michael Smith

With the advent of the computer, the PC in offices and then in homes, we were told that the paperless office was nigh. Well, I don't know where it has ended up then for I have not seen it, as yet. Must be taking the scenic route.

Instead of less paper we seem to be using more paper and generating ever more printed materials. Because now we can print out any little document, any book, anything we want. We can even bind the books with the right little, and not so little, tools and gadgets. Which is all nice and fine but more paper.

Oh, and we were also going to have so much free and spare time once the computers were everywhere. Yeah, right! Pardon! Now people send you emails and it arrived at 10am and by 2pm they are already at you asking whether you have gotten their email. Yes, so... It takes sometimes a while to compose a proper reply, does it not.

So, instead of having made everything easier I personally think it has made things somewhat more complicated and stressful. But that was not what we were really talking about here. So, let's get back to the non-existent paperless office.

The problem that I find, and that is why I have to admit that I am one of those who prints out quite a lot of emails, is that reading an email that requires detailed and in depth reply on screen and then replying to it straight away that way if not all that easy. Unless you have one pane to read it and another to reply in, and that, in my opinion, is rather a pain. And that pun was intended.

Hence I admit that I print out a lot of emails in oder to be able to read the text properly while working on a reply and I am sure that I am not the only one who does just that.

I also still find it a lot easier to draft an email by hand – yes, pen & paper – before I then type it and send it. Old-fashioned me, I know.

So, the paperless office, I am afraid to say, is either something that is never going to be coming or it is still a very long way off.

To be very honest, in the way I do like to read, for instance, books and such, in printed form, on paper, I also must say that I rather do not have paper disappear. I also, as said, use paper to a great degree, and especially for note taking and I know that I am not the only one and hence paper must and will remain.

One things also has to be said and that is that paper and pen(cil) are reliable, don't require batteries,, it does not matter too much whether they get wet or whatever. The data remains and you can write with a pen and paper in so many different conditions where even Netbooks and hand-held computers cannot be used.

I can, therefore, not see the entirely paperless office. A lot of the storage, however could be done on computers and also many daily, weekly, monthly and other periodicals could and should, maybe, be produced paperless.

I would rather get magazines in PDF format via email or downloadable from sites than having to buy them in glossy paper. That certainly would be and is the way to go. Books too can be published that way, especially, books that are not the kind you normally would like to curl up with somewhere, e.g. those that are not novels. They too could be done in the electronic format of PDF and PDF is, in my opinion the best way for e-books. Other formats require special readers and hence make is all a farce and negate any savings.

As far as the paperless office is concerned, the only thing we can wish, really, and hope for, is an office that uses less paper. Paper will remain something that we will have to have and use and hence it cannot be totally eliminated in offices, in publishing and elsewhere. Not everything can not should it be done electronically.

Personally, and I have said this before, I am still a “paper merchant” and also a “pen & paper merchant” in that I still use that very frequently, as I have never trusted a hand-held computer or PDA, for instance, ever since I had a Palm go haywire on me and no one from the company wanted to know. Customer service was non existent. It is then that I went to the “hipster PDA” and notelets that are printable from the likes of iScrybe application and such online.

It is my view that pen and paper or even better still pencil and paper are much more reliable than any electronic device for note taking and such, simply for the fact that pen and paper won't break down for lack of battery or for the fact that it has been dropped. I have recently washed a Prodir pen and it neither leaked and it worked again straight out of the washing machine.

So, as I said before, an office that uses less paper – and not just offices – if what we can aim for. Totally paperless is firstly a more or less impossibility and secondly probably also something we cannot do anyway and also may not want to do. There is going to be always a place for paper. We can make it last so much longer, however, as well if we but reuse all of that which is only printed on one side for various things; making small notebooks is but one answer.

Years ago many businesses, those that had access to their own printing especially, used one side printed paper for the making of telephone message pads, notepads, etc. Today we all have that facility with the printers that are attached to our computers. So there is no reason for not reusing paper that has only been printed on one side.

Thick paper from advertising, press releases, and such like, whether glossy or not, can be printed with business cards on the other side via the Avery programs, for instance, and then maybe laminated so they last longer and then cut. I do this all the time, nearly. Other paper can be used to print drafts of from the computer or can be made into a variety of note pages and such like. And, once that is all done, then, finally, the paper can be sent too recycling or b e composted.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008