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jca's avatar

What happened to the concept of the "paperless office?"?

Asked by jca (36043points) July 11th, 2012

When computers became popular (in the dark ages of the 1980’s), there was talk, maybe even before the 1980’s, of offices being paperless in the future. Despite every desk having a computer in every office, there are still papers and filing cabinets everywhere. Even in offices where scanning is done, there is still paper. What happened to the concept of the paperless office?

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13 Answers

Bellatrix's avatar

It works for some things but for others not at all (well not for me). For marks I have to approve and the like, I can do that in a paperless way and I always give electronic feedback on assignments and the like.

If I am reading journal articles, drafts of my own writing and things of that nature I prefer to have a paper copy so I can write on it, cross things out, highlight important points. I don’t always want to look at a screen and I am sure a number of people feel the same way.

So, fine in theory but not really workable for everything.

zenvelo's avatar

We have finally gotten to a paperless office since any hard copies to be forwarded are now scanned into pdfs and forwarded electronically. Our printer gets used about three times a week for boarding passes and itineraries, and for those of us who like to red-pen edit some documents before cleaning up on the computer.

But for about 15 years, from 1990 on, it seemed like the computer generated an exponential amount of paper as everyone could get a clean copy and everyone thought they needed to be cc:‘d to maintain status. I am so glad we’re finally past that.

YARNLADY's avatar

It’s still on it’s way. More and more businesses are strictly computer now.

bewailknot's avatar

I wish it would get here. We scan everything, but you have to have a paper document to scan in the first place and after scanning the document has to be shredded. So wasteful!

dabbler's avatar

If we now only did the same kind of business documentation and correspondence that was put on paper back when “Paperless Office” got popular, then you would see less or no paper.

We do lots more stuff with our paper now.
Charts, photos, powerpoints (reams and reams of powerpoints), ...
Diagrams, Rev A, Rev B, Rev 4.7.
if anything like them were printed in the past it cost a lot more and was done much less.
Laser-printers changed the whole ballgame for office printing, and combined with powerful desktop authoring resources, our capacity to produce unimportant printed matter at low cost is huge now.

tom_g's avatar

I work in a paperless office (software development).

lynfromnm's avatar

When I started at my current place of employment in 2000, I started my own project to get rid of the 25 cabinets full of old files in one storeroom. Now there is one cabinet in which we store disks. It’s great not to have all that clutter around, and we’re able to enlarge our cramped conference room. At this point it’s still policy to maintain a hard file until a case is closed, and then we scan and store it digitally.

I think that as this transitional generation of workers retires, their replacements will be a generation who grew up staring at screens and won’t miss the comfort of holding pieces of paper. You can certainly mark up and edit documents using computer software, but some of the attorneys in our office are still leery of that. For several years now, the courthouses in our area won’t accept hard copy filings from legal offices – everything has to be filed electronically.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

After taking over a hotel management training class, it was incredible to see the amount of paper the participants took back. It included a 4 inch binder full, plus a box of handouts. I conducted a post-class survey to find out if any of the previous participants ever used them. Most said no, a few said on occasion, and one said the binder was used as a door stop.

It took a year, but we finally converted to using laptops loaded with all of the presentations and documents. Even tests were conducted through computer software that instantly graded them as soon as they were submitted. At the end of the workshop, they walked out with a USB flash drive after saving all of their notes and the presentations on it. Since then, almost all of the workshops conducted have converted to this format.

jca's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer: Every training and conference I attend gives out piles of papers to the attendees. The power point presentations are also printed out and handed out. 99% of the time, the papers I receive at the conferences goes right into the garbage. I don’t have time to re-read it or room to store it.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@Exactly. I also conducted a post-class survey asking participants what, if anything, they have done with the information that they took away. Most said that they saved the information to their work computer. A few said that they’ve used the presentations and their notes to teach their employees. It felt like a home run.

phaedryx's avatar

I also work in software development. We are virtually paperless. In fact, one of the services we provide is digitizing paper documents for cloud storage.

flutherother's avatar

I work from home and I am just about paper free. The only paper is handouts from training classes.

zenvelo's avatar

That’s interesting about conferences and seminars. We had a client offsite with lost of information and gave everyone a flash drive.

And I went to an industry conference this year, and instead of a thick bound “book” of agendas and bios and participant info, we were each given a “nook” with the info and a coded pass word to download all the follow up info.

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