From an organisational point of view, the less paper you use, the better.

The main challenges to a paperless office

Paper is useful, of course, but from an organisational point of view, the less of it, the better off we are. In spite of that, workplaces remain under a deluge of the stuff and most of the time we’re quite unaware of this.

It’s so rudimentary, so part of the furniture of an office and so normal to our everyday activities, that it becomes “invisible”. Most of the time we’re not aware of how much paper we work with.

This highlights an important point - because paper is so commonplace, it’s not seen as an impediment. Therefore it’s hard to cut down on its usage. In this article, we take a look at what other challenges businesses face in modernising their operations and streamlining their approach to paper.

The status quo of work

Optimising and transforming processes at work is easier said than done and in light of this fact, the appetite for change can be lacking (from all members of staff). It’s no surprise really, as, after all, we’re creatures of habit.

Even the small changes can be met with hostility because it disrupts order. We like patterns and knowing we can reliably come in and get on with our work. Traditional approaches, needless to say, are paper-focused.

The irony of technology

New technologies were supposed to diminish the need for paper - instead, rather conversely, it has boosted its usage. From emails to cloud-based solutions to devices like tablets, all advocate a digital approach to work that makes paper effectively redundant.

However, as most people can appreciate from experience, we’re still using paper, mixing up new technology with old. For example, while everyone in a startup may have their own tablet, which they use constantly, they’re likely to still print and share documents that can be shared online.

The enthusiasm for paper

There is a sense of trust in paper that makes it hard for people to give up. It’s virtues are its familiarity, its ubiquitousness and its “feel” - it’s easy to handle. As a case in point, a lot of people still prefer to read/engage with long/complex documents in paper form.

It’s fair to say that paper remains a great tool, even in the 21st century. It may well be a tech-heavy, screen-focused age (of information), but there is still real currency in using paper. Maybe its to do with the fact that we’re still early on in the digital revolution - we’re still working things out.

The complexity of work

While technology and new attitudes to work have transformed the idea of the office significantly, it has also added new levels of complexity. Certainly, we’re better connected, collaborative and creative, but it comes with a cost - business simplicity.

In such instances, it challenging for people to not fall back on paper, again because of its universal appeal. There is an irony in this because paper, across individuals and departments, in its abundance, further adds to workplace complexity. It can end up be a vicious circle, one that is often overlooked.

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