Is it sensible for companies to be aiming for a 100 per cent paperless approach?

Achieving a sensible approach to paperless

Much has been written about the benefits of businesses going paperless in recent years. Its positive impact on the environment and the increased collaboration that using the cloud instead can offer to organisations is clear to see. But is it sensible for companies to be aiming for a 100 per cent paperless approach?

Perhaps simply using less paper rather than going totally paperless would be more beneficial to the environment and the global paper industry, some have argued.

Here, we take a look at both sides of the argument and discuss how a healthy balance between using less paper and embracing cloud-based technologies can be achieved.

The true impact of paperless

It has been mooted that even the UK economy could become paperless and instead rely on the Bitcoin currency in years to come.

Andy Haldane, chief economist at the Bank of England, has suggested that Britain needs negative interest rates for its economy to continue to recover, with one way to do this potentially being to abolish cash and adopt Bitcoin instead.

But what would be done in the event of a technology blackout? Would retailers still be able to trade? Would the economy survive?

Going paperless may seem like the ideal, but there are a whole host of questions regarding its sustainability.

What's more, the paper industry is being adversely affected by the move towards paperless. In the US, the sector is declining at a rate of around five per cent each year, putting a significant number of jobs and livelihoods at risk.

Paper scholar Nicholas A Basbanes wrote in his history of paper, entitled On Paper: "When it comes to pure utility, modern hygienic practice is unimaginable without paper. When used as currency, people will move heaven and Earth to possess it. In the realms of intellect, every manner of scientific inquiry begins as a non-verbal spark of the mind and more often than not, that first burst of perception is visualised more fully on a sheet of paper."

But could these concepts that have been in place since paper's invention some 2,000 years ago soon be a notion of the past?

Not if the Paper and Packaging Board has anything to do with it.

What benefits can paper offer in the modern world?

The organisation has launched a campaign entitled How Life Unfolds, which aims to increase awareness of the benefits of using paper - not to discourage people from adopting cloud-based collaborative technologies, but rather to make them aware of what they could be missing out on if they do go totally paperless.

It conducted a survey of 3,200 students and found that the majority preferred to take in information from paper rather than digital documents. In addition, 80 per cent of college tutors said their pupils responded better to paper-based learning and 74 per cent reported that students were more likely to stay focused if they were writing in a notebook.

Overall, 90 per cent of both young people and their teachers prefer information to be conveyed to them on paper, indicating that paperless may not be the best approach for the classroom and should instead be saved for the office.

Furthermore, spending too much time staring at a screen can negatively impact people's - especially young people's - health, causing headaches, eye strain and potentially even mental health issues such as anxiety, which highlights the benefits of striving for a healthy balance between digital and paper-based work.

The benefits of going paperless

Yet there can be no denying that the benefits of going paperless are significant.

For a start, using less paper can be extremely beneficial for the environment, cutting down on a company's waste, subsequently lowering its carbon footprint and improving its green credentials.

Additionally, scanning documents that would have ordinarily been worked with in a paper format and saving them to the cloud allows colleagues to collaborate more easily on projects, increasing the calibre of a firm's work.

As cloud-based files can be accessed from devices in any location, there isn't the risk of losing important paper documents and staff can rest safe in the knowledge that their work is backed up and can easily be amended.

There are also aesthetic benefits to adopting a paperless approach - it helps to make a workplace look significantly tidier and many people believe documents are easier to read on a screen than in paper form.

A healthy balance between paper and technology

Taking into account the points that we've discussed, it is clear that there are indeed benefits to adopting more of a paperless approach, but there are also positive results associated with using paper for some tasks, such as when learning new information or taking notes.

In conclusion, it is recommended that organisations cut down on the amount of paper they use to protect the environment and improve the efficiency of their operations, but they also need to recognise that sometimes paper is the answer and it can offer benefits, particularly when it comes to digesting information.

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