Paperless office reality

The paperless office was a phrase I first heard in anger when I was working at the Halifax in about 1989. Email was being rolled out to the great and the good in the business. Up to that point we were still issuing Memo’s and I fondly remember the Manilla reusable envelopes with a string and cardboard circle lock. The army of Internal Post workers did a great job of shifting paper around the business supporting the vast amount of memos generated.

The internal training confidently predicted the end of paper in short order. I instantly embraced this new cutting edge technology and found myself typing memos and then attaching them to these new-fangled emails so the recipients could print them out. I did the same when I received them. I think at that point I realised the sunny upland of the paperless office may take some time to achieve.

As you will know from my last post on this blog, I now work from home. This gave me a fresh opportunity to see if I could work in a way that removed or at least reduced the volume of paper I use to achieve my work outcomes. I came up with four very good reasons to do just that:

  • Space – selfishly, I did not want to add a second printer into my study and clutter things up – I like a clean organised workspace, and was trying to minimise the need for a filing cabinet and drawers
  • Cost reduction – if I could save the business some money by not having a printer and not supplying me with ink and paper etc that would have to be a good thing
  • Security – I am mindful that the security of work documents in my home, despite the alarm system, is less than a document held on our office IT filing systems
  • Collaboration – my team and I work remotely from each other and it’s quite hard to efficiently and effectively share pieces of paper: electronic files are much easier to ship around, update and share.

In the scheme of things I know that I am only making a small dent here, I still use my Filofax classic for notes, having tried Moleskine notepads and School Exercise books in recent years (actually very good and very cheap! and a reaction to everyone else using Moleskine books). So paper has not been completely eradicated. I’m also fond of a flip chart as my team know only too well.

I’m doing pretty well though. In the first 6 weeks of working at home I printed 6 pages of A3 paper on my weekly visit to Lichfield Head office. I am pretty proud of that.

I have found the experience liberating and it has given me a really good feeling, this is a good thing to do; for me, my business and the environment. For example I know that I used to print emails off and read them later, but that often included pages and pages of footers, and as much as I recycled this paper securely it was still using energy for the printing, costing the business money and was often stored in drawers until a convenient reading slot opened up … sadly the email had often been updated by then, so rendering it useless, or in need of a reprint. So all in all not a very environmentally friendly activity.

I have found the following invaluable in achieving and managing my own paperless environment:

  • My slightly larger than normal (24 inch screen) makes life a lot easier if reading long documents or in fact any document at my desk
  • Use the zoom sliders/facilities actively – it is so simple to increase the scale, and of course it retains the kerning on screen, it does help considerably
  • If reading web pages on your laptop or desktop why not save it as “Web Page, NAME” somewhere in your document folders (I created a folder called reading). You’ll get an HTML file and a folder full of images and other data contained within it don’t delete this. When you want to see the web page, just double-click on the HTML file and you should be able to see it just as it was when you saved it, whether you have a connection or not. Simples.
  • I make notes as I go to inform any response that is needed – I use a Sticky attached to my desktop (called scribble pad) or my Filofax. Tracking changes on a document is helpful too … just add your comments and save it down as your version in the correct folder will keep your thoughts front of mind even if you don’t need to send a tracked document back.
  • I have the advantage of a laptop… so I use it as such … I take it off the dock, sit down and read. That really helps me focus too, I wrote in my last post about the need to ‘change state’ and manage your mindset, this is another good example of how I find this can be achieved.

There are some traps to avoid however:

  1. There is a temptation to skim read and jump ahead, slow this down or you’ll miss things, I find I’m more prone to this on screen than with a hard copy for some reason
  2. There is no margin to scribble in so think how you want to make notes – I use tracking comments in the main at the moment for words and paper for calculations
  3. Think about when and where you want to read, you have to be a bit organized if you’re reading on a laptop… it’s bulkier than a sheet of A4
  4. Don’t be afraid to print, remember all the times you aren’t printing and for my ‘on a page A3 Marketing calendar’ it’s a must really
  5. Think about your filing – and then keep that folder clean, don’t replicate an over flowing filing cabinet – the IT team won’t thank you!

I would welcome any comments on your own ‘paper’ challenges, thank you for reading.

Paul
04 May 2017

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