Why are we still so reliant on paper, and will we ever truly live without it?

The paperless office: could and will it ever happen?

Coined in the 1970s, the term 'paperless office' certainly has been doing the rounds. For many it was a visionary future of technologies ruling the world and all record handling being electronic. We certainly out are on our way there, but you only have to glance at your colleague's desk, or your own in fact, to see that much work still needs to be done.

So why are we still so reliant on paper, and will we ever truly live without it?

Many will turn around and tell you that cloud storage and electronic devices are costly, but we all know this isn't truly the problem. It seems to lie closer to tradition and habitual practices, with the notebook becoming a staple of any meeting or conference, and if we are to go truly digital, we need to take a more psychoanalytical approach rather than hammering consumers with sales spiel.

The potential for digital is huge. One only has to look as at notepad firm Moleskine's recent partnership with Evernote to develop a paper-digital hybrid notebook or the mass of tablets and smartphones that people use on their commute to work to engage with the news. Or why not look to the recent scrapping of the paper car tax disk disc or the electronic tax return forms to see the UK government's commitment to going digital?

Over in the USA, paper shipments have actually dropped by a third over the last 20 years, according to the American Forest and Paper Association, even if 21 million tons of paper is are still being produced every year. In UK offices, the average worker will still use up to 45 sheets of paper a day and only one per cent of offices are truly paperless, according to charity Wrap. It seems as though offices are making small steps to reduce paper loads, but its these are sluggish at best.

Take this data from OKI, for example. Yes, 24 per cent of respondents may bring their own phones or tablets to work, and 45 per cent of these people link them up to use the office printer, but they're ultimately leading to hard paper prints and copies.

According to the BBC, Mick Heys, an analyst at research firm IDC, said: "Paper is declining slowly, but the sky is not going to fall in any time soon. I now board a plane by showing an electronic ticket on my phone, but I still have a paper passport and that document is going to take a while to replace."

Cutting paper has a huge amounts of benefits. Not only are we talking about hitting green credentials or modernising the workplace, but when dealing with important documents, digital means security, accessibility and reliability. Employers need to make sure that implementing digital technology should always be part of a coordinated strategy and that the transition is as seamless as possible.

Otherwise, we could still be seeing those paper aeroplanes flying around for some time yet.

← view more blog posts