The paperless office - Myth or reality

  VoG II 22:53 29 Oct 2004

The idea that we would read everything on-line has been talked about for many years now. Unfortunately, I find that for a document longer than a page or two, I have to print it out to read otherwise I feel queasy.

All of the standards committees that I belong to are now paperless. I used to get shedloads of paperwork. Not anymore. I now get e-mails from the secretaries to the secretaries of these committees teling me that new documents are available. I then have to log onto the relevant website. Of course, all of these use different account details (either a user name or an e-mail address), so I then have to remember my account details and password. Once I get there, I navigate to the relevant document, click on it to open in Adobe Reader and then ... print it!

It would have been much easier (for me) if they had posted me a hard copy.

Or am I the only paper-full person left?

  throwitoutthewindow 23:31 29 Oct 2004

I agree. In many documents over a couple of pages you often want to refer back to an earlier section and it much quicker to find by sheafing through the paper. My complany made a big fuss about how the intranet cut down the paper bill. No, I think it cut down the paper bill for central services, but individual offices just buy lots of paper to print locally. Also, so much more is written now that is of little vlaue. If you had to hand-write you'd make sure only relalvent stuff went down. If word processeors had existing a couple of hundred years ago the American Declaration of Independcen would have been a thoudsand pages long, with hyperlinked sections, flashy graphics and America still a colony as readers wondered what George Washington's point was.

  Forum Editor 00:02 30 Oct 2004

that most people prefer to read a hard copy document in preference to reading it on-screen, at least they do if the document is much longer than a couple of thousand words or so.

I designed a web site for an industry-wide information organisation a couple of years ago, and one of the areas on the site was a place where company directors could swap policy documents - usually reports running into six or seven A4 pages of text. The documents are all uploaded in pdf format and as they all come in a standard 1.5 line spaced format they're pretty easy to read. We have over 2000 files available for download now, and feedback tells me that most people (84% of those who have access to these documents) prefer to print them and read them that way.

My own office seems to have no less paper in it than it did ten years ago, and I print everything I write and read it that way before sending it electronically. The benefit to the originators of documents is that by sending them as attachments via email, or by uploading them to web sites they transfer the printing and paper costs to the recipients - those costs, plus postage savings can amount to quite a lot for an organisation which has big distribution lists.

  Djohn 00:32 30 Oct 2004

but for all other purposes I have now gone almost paperless. Bank statements are read on the PC then stored on the hard drive, same with Credit card. Transactions to and from both are done via the net.

Phone bill is also on-line and I do not receive a paper copy from them now, I can print it out if I want but don't bother just file it away on the drive. Benefit of this type of BT account is that you can log in and see full details of your calls up to 10 pm the previous night.

Any other paper work I receive such as water bills or rates etc I scan into the PC, keep the originals until the next one comes in then out it goes. [The paper one, that is]

All my documentation concerning the car and running expenses is also scanned into the PC along with all insurance policies referring to the car and the house. They were all taken out via the internet in the first instance.

Only essential documents are kept, everything else is on the machine, backed up of course to several sources but yes, I really have noticed a big difference in the amount of paperwork I need to keep.

I also keep a personal diary of my day to day life, have done for a few years now, just a few lines each day on what has happened or not, anything important plus appointments with the Dentist - Doctor - Hospital - Optician.

I can even make or change appointment times with the Hospital and the Dentist via the net. Local Doctors practise should also have this facility by early next year, so will be able to exchange details with Doc over minor things without going in to see him/her.

  Diemmess 10:32 30 Oct 2004

What ordered lives you lead!

In reality, I suspect that the square mileage of paper consumption has increased, year on year and is still doing so. For the following reasons.

Every aspect of Government and Public Services is now required to submit reports and self audits, distributing tomes of hard copy as well as publishing on their website. They seem to compete with ever finer and bulky documents.

The burgeoning home computer market means that almost everyone is printing something. The default and only size for the less informed is A4, where once notes were made on a small pad.
Those who wrote personal letters on suitable writing paper now use a computer.

But.....I too hate manuals on a CD.. I am too easily distracted away from the reason I sought help and wind up losing the thread, but too mean or short of reason to print pages of the stuff.

As a club secretary it is important to other members that I publish all sorts of things for them in the course of a year even though the few enlightened ones settle for email

On the other hand I do claim to use less paper, publishing a 32 page village magazine (A4 folded to A5). The whole thing is done on the computer, converted to PDF, taken to the commercial printers on a memory stick and theoretically only becomes paper as a folded and stitched copy ready for distribution. (They do like a dummy paste-up) and I have had several trial prints of difficult graphics or finer formatting!)

  Diemmess 10:36 30 Oct 2004

For me, hard copy is the only way to be sure that what I wrote and what I thought I wrote, are the same.

  Simsy 11:07 30 Oct 2004

while on the loo...

I don't have a laptop...




  spuds 11:30 30 Oct 2004

Always frightens me when we hear of the paperless future.Perhaps I have a very negative approach in life, but what about people who do not have a computer due to various factors, or the possibility of internet failures, whether this is via man-made or a systems failure. It's okay saying that I download everything onto my harddrive, but what happens when that fails, and perhaps no back-up were made.At least in the paper society, the evidence is usually 'at hand'.

Give me that bit of paper anytime, so I can sit down, read it then perhaps re-read it until I fully understand what it says.Always makes me smile, when you see these large law court cases on tv and the vast amounts of paperwork being barrowed into the courts.

  Sir Radfordin 11:38 30 Oct 2004

When I was a student I would access a lot of journals online simply because it was quick and easy to search. Those I wanted to read in full got printed out, though I did try to adjust to reading on screen. The problem is no easy way of anotating documents has been invented especially with PDFs.

I have done some work with a charity and for them being able to email out agendas and meeting papers rather than having to print out endless copies and paying postage is a great advantage. If each trustee then prints out their own copy of the papers the work load is shared and papers and be distributed much quicker.

I am amazed at the number of people at work who print out emails and other 'information' documents that just need to be read.

Online bills/statements are great but all the banks (apart from Smile) I use still send me a paper copy. I don't like throwing paper away because I feel "I may one day need it" but it takes up too much room for my liking.

Gates' book "Business @ the speed of thought" talked about the paperless office, it was a mtyh then and remains one now. Shame really!

  slowhand_1000 11:46 30 Oct 2004

I worked for a printer so obviously disliked the 'paperless office' train of thought.

But the same print company developed a 'paperless' job bag system. This was aimed at printers, print brokers and any other related business.

Now before the program was developed there used to be an obvious amount of paper instructions in the job bag. When the program was introduced the paper content increased. Apart from paper copy that was needed, people were just to scared to trust the system and printed out work orders etc "just in case the system ......"

I use a similar system for my own print broker business and guess what! Yep I print the documents out, just in case.

  It's Me 15:36 30 Oct 2004

I remember much of what is being said here being taught/argued about/examination questions in office skills/ some 20 to 25 years ago when I had the dubious pleasure of lecturing in HE.

My prophesies of then have yet to fail, I just cannot see how hard copy can be eliminated. Trouble was that if the student argued against the paperless office they were ridiculed by the enthusiastic staff/experts and usually failed their exams. It used to infuriate me and I, in my turn, infuriated the blind followers.

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