Making the Digital Office a Reality

Why the paperless office is a goal worth pursuing

Myth of the Paperless Office

Muckster

Everybody remember the promise of the paperless office? Anyone in front of a monitor can testify to just the opposite having taken hold. The ubiquity of the personal computer was supposed to free us from the chaotic sea of paperwork washing over our desks every day, and yet all it seems to have done is open the floodgates further.

I have worked in the online realm for a number of years and have seen it firsthand. A very prominent client of mine wanted to build a website in order to replace what had been a glossy, printed document. The aim was to become more environmentally responsible and forward-thinking. But time and again, I received feedback that the pages didn't print well. And I would get a stack of printouts with one- or two-word handwritten comments. I rarely saw feedback in digital form.

Lisa Belkin in the New York Times today writes about her personal experience of not printing notes in order to write her column, the subject of which is the measures companies and employees are undertaking to be more environmentally responsible. This is of course all well and good: recycling, turning off lights and computers, using mass transit, doing away with plastic water bottles, etc.

What I'd like to see, though, considering that the bookends of the piece are Belkin's turn away from printouts, is how corporations are encouraging their workforce to work more digitally. While paper recycling is undoubtedly a boon, how about not printing on that paper in the first place? Use Track Changes in Word documents, for example. Or learn to convert documents and screen grabs to PDFs and using Adobe's commenting features. These are just two relatively easy tasks to learn that would go an awfully long way to eradicating the waste of the highlighter and the copy machine.