Can You Ever Really Have a Paperless Office?

Gene Marks

There will never be a paperless society.  Not at least until I’m dead.  And the rest of my generation too.

I’m 50 years old and I’m pretty technically-savvy. I text, email, Skype and FaceTime.   American Airlines and Marriott to get me through the day.  I tweet, like, connect and chat online all the time.  I stream movies and read novels on my Kindle.

But I’m never going to have a paperless office. I suggest to run your business more efficiently with cloud based apps but being complete paperless? Are you over 50? Yeah, you get it.

When I go to meetings and conferences I need handouts.

I need to have paper in front of me that I can read during the meeting or while a speaker presents.  I take analog (that’s paper) notes.  I hold on to the documents and file them away.  I know there are lots of paperless meeting tools and collaboration services I could be using to be productive at meetings.  I prefer to use paper. Not going to change. Sorry.

I read the newspaper.

Does that shock you?  Well, so do millions of others.  Not only that, but I sometimes browse in my local Barnes & Noble (not all of the books I read are on Kindle) and the store is always busy with buyers.  Sure, there are nowhere near the number of Barnes & Noble stores (or Borders – remember them?) in this country today as there were 20 years ago, and there are certainly a whole lot less newspapers being printed than there were 20  years ago.  But there are still some and there are a growing number of independent booksellers.  When I leave my hotel room in the morning I see the print edition of USA Today in front of doors down the hallway.  Who’s buying these books and reading these papers? People like me.  My generation.  We still like to do this and will continue to do this until we die.

I print driving directions and boarding passes.

I’m not one of those guys holding up the line because the barcode reader isn’t reading the electronic boarding pass on my smartphone.  And although I love Google Maps, it’s not unusual for me to lose my Internet connection and profusely thank heaven that I thought in advance to print out my driving directions for a client I’m trying to find.  The Internet is great, mobile devices are awesome, and in theory there should be no need for these pieces of paper.  But that’s in theory.  In real life, a printed boarding pass and driving directions are still very much needed.

I do deals and so do my clients.

They buy property, purchase machinery, approve credit card receipts, hire employees, sign sales agreements, initiate purchase orders and authorize deliveries – all paper documents.  Many of us need to sit down at a conference room table and read through these documents.  Agreements that take up hundreds of pages need to be analyzed, commented on, annotated and re-organized. Yes, there are electronic services that do this.  But many of the people in power today – the people making the final approvals for such deals – are of an age that these electronic services are new and unfamiliar.  We have reading glasses, thinning (or in my case disappearing) hairlines, an occasional lapse in memory and some annoying pain somewhere in our bodies at any given time.  We have enough to deal with, thank you very much.  So we’ll stick to paper.

I am surrounded by paper.

As I write this from my hotel room I can look around and see magazines, privacy door hangers, channel guides, room service menus, a bible and a thick promotional catalog reminding me of all the luxurious resorts owned by this hotel around the world that I could be staying at instead of this place in Cincinnati.  On my desk in front of me is a notebook that I carry, a small, manual calendar, a receipt from last night’s dinner and oh, yes, a printed boarding pass.

Such is life for this, and every other 50-year-old who still uses paper.   Will the world ever become paperless?  Perhaps when this generation passes from the earth.


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