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The paperless office

Will it ever really happen?

The paperless office hasn't happened, but there is at least some progress. The majority of companies have decreased the amount of paper-based information in their organisations over the last five years. And the larger the company, the more paper is disappearing.

More than two-thirds of companies with more than 10,000 employees have decreased paper in their businesses, based on a survey of more than 2,000 executives and managers by NFI Research.

The bad news is that about half of small companies have seen paper increase in their organisations. People who work at smaller companies tend to keep more paper, with 72 percent saying they keep either everything or many things.

However, managers at large companies are making great progress, with more than half keeping as little as possible.

"The reason the paper has increased is not because I want it to," said one survey respondent. "It is instead the necessary outcome of keeping more and better records."

The great irony of the paperless office was that technology would make it possible. The reality is that technology has made it easier to increase the amount of paper used. High-speed printers make it easier to print more frequently, and print several versions until it is right.

"The restrictions on the amount of storage for computer files is causing me to print and file a lot more than I have in the past," said one respondent. "It isn't very efficient, but the paper copies come in handy."

Said another: "The technology that was supposed to create the paperless office in reality is just another version of the document. In most cases, we still create and keep a hard copy."

Paper copies of documents also have to be kept for audit purposes in some cases, and for files as electronic files are deleted.

"Since our parent company purges many important emails over 60 days old, it is necessary to print to save and file much of it," said one respondent. "I have found filing is more productive than trying to retrieve the documentation from CDs, disks or hard drive, unless it is something that requires updating or reviving."

Technology also has caused some to print just in case something happens to the technology.

"The one great hazard is when the computer decides to fry itself and with it go all the online records," said one respondent. "Though as rare as flood or fire, it does occur and in its wake there are reconstruction challenges."

Said another: "There have been far too many computer glitches to rely on that as the only back-up."

One of the fundamental reasons the paperless office will not be totally achieved anytime soon is that it is easier to read on paper. This is why newspapers, books and magazines are still being purchased and read.

There will never be a completely paperless office, because paper is so convenient. Feel free to copy this. Or print it. Or fax it. Paperless?


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