Will we ever become a paperless society?
When we refer to “paperless”, we’re talking about switching paper documents with digital systems. It means getting on top of the reasons your team prints too much, picking new mediums for saving and sourcing information, and digitizing existing print-outs where needed.
But if we’re honest, things aren’t so black and white. You don’t just go paperless overnight. The paperless office has been promised since 1978. But we’re still no closer to getting there.
What’s stopping us from going paperless? Let’s explore the perks and problems.
Going paperless: the perks
Say your workplace went paperless tomorrow. Wild, we know. But for the sake of this argument, let’s say it’s easy, and the perks are immediate. Here’s what you’d gain:
Managing work life using digital systems is easier than scribbling every thought, message, or action on a piece of paper.
Whether you want to create, save, store, retrieve, share or delete information, systems get things done all in one place. Collaboration and transparency are enhanced, too, especially for remote workers and teams. This way everyone has equitable access to information that helps get work done.
Stronger data security
The problem with paper is keeping information secure. If a sensitive document found its way into the wrong hands, it’s game over.
Going digital enables better data security and backup. Data recovery is also quick and painless for those times when you accidentally delete a mission-critical document. We’re not speaking from experience here…ahem.
Importantly, organizations are empowered to manage information access and ownership. By the way, you can securely control who requests and releases print jobs with PaperCut MF without reducing your reliance on paper. Shamless plug, we know, but we have to keep the lights on.
Protect planet earth
The most obvious perk to society going paperless is reducing our harm on the planet.
Saying “no” to paper is a small action to help do our part for climate change. How exactly? By reducing our dependence on paper, we can minimize the CO2 emissions produced in paper manufacturing. We can also reduce the demand for lumber by-products, like pulp for paper.
Going paperless: the problems
We’ll level with you: There are many hurdles in going paperless. That might explain why despite our best efforts, the crusade for the paperless office is still ongoing.
Who the heck pays for all this?
The short answer is businesses and organizations do. On the surface, going paperless might seem like a good way to save money upfront. But what about the costs involved in replacing legacy systems and processes? Going paperless requires software and hardware, and all that comes at a cost.
Not all businesses are in the same boat when it comes to digital transformation. Forgoing paper may be cost-prohibitive for smaller companies or those in emerging economies. It makes sense for them to keep using paper for the time being.
Change is hard
Some ‘traditional’ organizations simply can’t break up with paper. Their processes (and attitudes) are too deeply ingrained. Give up paper, and you have to manage change and train workers in new systems. Not to mention, the amount of legacy paperwork to digitize could literally take a lifetime for some businesses.
Digital systems are imperfect
In a survey of 1,000 U.S. office professionals, 54 percent ranked searching for important files as their top remote work problem. How much time each week have you wasted trawling through your workplace’s cloud storage, looking for an elusive file? Too much time, we reckon.
There will always be applications that require paper, like in a legal context, where documents must be physically mailed or delivered in person. Not to mention, everything comes at a cost—digitizing documents included. In a lot of cases, paper is a reliable workflow that can’t be replaced.
How can we become truly paperless?
Until a paperless society becomes a reality, you can make a few simple changes to print more mindfully and become paper light.
- Assess the reasons your workplace relies on paper documents. Are physical copies needed, or is printing a force of habit?
- Reduce paper usage by forming eco-friendly habits. Apply the expression, “Think before you print” — okay, we may have just coined that…
- Try out print management software like PaperCut MF for easy, secure, waste-free printing
TL;DR: we won’t become a paperless society anytime soon, but we can make small changes to become paper light and print with less waste. You can even call in print management software for smarter printing practices that help do your bit for the environment.