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Survey reveals paperless office is not yet viable

October 23, 2017

An independent survey carried out on behalf of Brother International (NZ) reveals companies do not currently consider a paperless office to be a practical proposition.

The NZ Herald reports that a survey by Perceptive, conducted in August of this year on behalf of Brother International (NZ) Limited has shown that “the paperless office has never quite arrived – and chances are it never will.”

More than 800 workers and over 600 “key decision makers” were sampled in the survey, and 50 percent of the companies involved revealed that “they cannot be paperless and still function effectively.”

“Our survey showed 85 percent of employees see print continuing to be a critical part of functioning effectively in their job,” says Brother’s chief operating officer and director Matthew Stroud. “Most are printing every day, with almost 90 percent of those questioned printing at least a few times each week.”

“The paperless office is one of those innovations that has been predicted since 1975,” continued Stroud. “It promised to help businesses become more efficient and reduce costs. However, nearly half of those organisations actively working towards a paperless office noted they realistically cannot do so and still function effectively.”

In addition, they viewed the idea of a paperless office more as “an aspirational idea” than a practical choice, though a third of Kiwi offices are striving toward this option, with 29 per cent of employees believing it would make it easier to store and manage documents. 28 percent of employees surveyed also felt that environmental benefits were a good reason to make the paperless transition.

Nevertheless, 50 percent of workers sampled in the survey revealed that when it comes to reading, analysing and editing they prefer hard copy.

“This means there is still a role for print to play in productivity, even if document management systems are digitised. In fact, a good document management system should facilitate efficient printing and reviewing of documents, as files are better organised and easier to locate,” says Stroud.

“The environmental argument isn’t so clear cut either,” he says. “While paper production of course consumes trees, many paper-producing forests are sustainable and effectively absorb carbon. The key element being a robust and sustainable supply chain that eliminates deforestation and nurtures the farming element.”

Paperless offices may not be a viable prospect right now but one option is Paper-light, which Stroud says “eliminates an over-reliance on paper” and “encourages a reduction in paper use”.

“For example, a multifunction printer could be used to scan everyday documents directly to Cloud storage, but print other documents for editing or important reports and presentations.

“Perhaps we should be viewing paperless and paper as contrasting solutions; solutions to be balanced according to office needs,” Stroud concludes.

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