The idea of the paperless office was first introduced in the 1970s, as computer technology was growing rapidly and becoming more affordable and accessible. Prognosticators declared that offices would be entirely devoid of paper for business functions as soon as the early 1990s, and that everything could, by that point, be consolidated and managed digitally.
But it's been over 40 years since these bold predictions were first made, and though some progress toward achieving this goal has been made, going paperless isn't yet the standard for business operations – let alone the only method employed by companies. This development, or lack thereof, begs the question of whether or not this idea will ever fully come to fruition, or if it is just a lofty aspiration for tech industry marketers.
Given the dearth of fully paperless workspaces, the answer to this question would probably fall on the lofty aspiration side. There isn't much evidence that suggests businesses are about to drop everything and convert to digital exclusively, and here's why:
1. It's too complicated
Document management systems are billed on the premise of simplification and ease. But, Troy Wolverton of the San Jose Mercury News wrote, this isn't even close to the truth. He acknowledged that while in concept, going paperless seems like a breeze, there are various complications that are often overlooked, such as compatibility. Sure, your company might be digital, but that doesn't mean your clients or business partners are.
MSPmentor added that document management isn't enough – businesses need to invest in file sync software, as well, so that employees can access crucial data. This probably entails adoption of cloud services for the company, which brings us to our next point of concern…
2. Security issues are abundant
Here's a brief background on how the cloud words: Providers maintain massive data centers, from which they essentially rent storage space from shared servers. So, all of your data will be both offsite and occupying the same space as someone else's information. This leaves you susceptible to cyberattacks – if a hacker infiltrates the data of a company you share your cloud server with, he or she will also gain access to your own.
MSPmentor also noted that cloud-stored files are also at risk of being damaged or misplaced, even by accident. One unintentional click of the mouse could permanently destroy or corrupt your data, rendering it unusable or worse.
3. Paper is just easier
Wolverton reported that a number of businesses have used advances in digitization and technology not to eliminate paper, but to actually use more of it. The Internet has made companies more inclined to print, as there is widespread increased access to information and enhanced ease of obtaining it. He said that people find it easier to simply click on the "print" button than to go through the various steps of downloading, saving and distributing online content – especially when the cloud is involved.
Paper is also easier on the eye, Wolverton added. As employees get older, their eyesight will naturally diminish. This effect is greatly augmented by staring at a screen all day, to the extent that, after a certain point, it's hard to do. Paper, however, does not have bright backlights that irritate the senses and inhibit sight. The source spoke briefly of a technology industry veteran who, ironically, frequently prints out documents to read them. Wolverton reported that the man can read more comprehensively in print, and identifies more errors in the text.
Digital marketers would have you believe that we're on the cusp of eradicating paper from our lives, but this simply isn't true. There are many benefits that print products provide to the workplace that electronic alternatives simply cannot match. At the end of the day, paper is just easier and more manageable.