The Myth of The Paperless Office

Paper has been our friend for a long time now. We use it for magazines, catalogues, invoices, instruction manuals, books, posters, newspapers, and so much more.

myth of the paperless office

As technology advances, some people have started to see paper as an outdated medium and predict that a paperless office is the likely outcome.

Here are three reasons why they are wrong.

Paper is Environmentally Responsible

The most obvious misconception is that paper is robbing the planet of trees. We hear that the world’s forests are disappearing, and assume it must be because we printed out all those emails from Frank in accounts last week.

90% of the paper used by the European publishing industry comes from within the EU, where forests are carefully managed and replenished, and illegal deforestation is rare. Paper is becoming very carefully regulated, and the manufacturing process updated to use bio-fuels and other technology.

Put simply: paper is getting more environmentally friendly every day.

It Isn’t Paper’s Fault!

In an attempt to create more environmentally friendly offices, paper was a natural target. But there are lots of sources of CO2 emissions hiding in plain sight.

Across the globe, we send 90 trillion emails every year. The cost of that is much more than we think. A French study found that just one firm of 100 employees generated an estimated 13.6 tonnes of CO2 per year, just by sending and receiving emails.

In 2009 it was estimated that sharing a car to work could save 0.3 tonnes of CO2 per person, so if you really want an environmental office, you’d be better off letting Frank from accounts ride with you to work, even if he does only talk about spreadsheets and the last email he sent you.

Office People Love Holding Paper

The idea for a paperless office it not a new thing – it was mentioned in a Business week article in 1975. But offices of today still use a lot of paper.

In 2001 Abigail Sellen and Richard Harper published The Myth of a Paperless Office.

Reading the reviews on Amazon, some dating from 2010 suggest that the book is outdated, and that paper was indeed being phased out.

Yet here we are today, with even more ways to collect and distribute information, still relying on our handy friend, the piece of paper. look around your office. Has paper disappeared? Does It look like it will?

How many magazines and catalogues can you see? Has the marketing department shown you their latest brochure? Have the website designs been printed out for a meeting?

You can say what you like – the fact is that paper has put in a lot of hours at the office, and it’s not ready to go home just yet.

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