Scrapping Paper: The Perks of Paper Independence

C ome across the term “paper independence” yet? If you haven’t, you will soon. And since we’re here to keep you informed about the latest workplace trends, let’s explore this concept a bit further:

You’ll notice we don’t use the term “paperless”. “Companies make the decision to ‘go paperless’, but this is very difficult to achieve when you have potentially four generations working in one workplace – people who have only ever worked with paper and others who barely know what paper is unless they have to scan it to put it into their systems. So we are loath to use the word ‘paperless’, because for some it is neither practical nor productive,” says PEPworldwide:nz managing director Kathryn Anda.

PEPworldwide:nz advocates paper independence instead: “Paper independence means it’s ok if you want to print something – for example, a contract or proposal – to read it,” explains Anda. “Some of us still find it easier to read on paper rather than electronically. The key to paper independence, however, is what we do with it when we’re finished with it. You don’t need to keep it because you have an electronic version. Challenge yourself to ask, ”Have I finished with this piece of paper? Am I ready to recycle?’ with everything you deal with.”

It’s not easy to shake the hoarding habits of a lifetime. But consider the benefits of electronic versus old school:

  • Electronic information is instantly accessible across any of your devices and it’s secure: notes made electronically are automatically saved and backed up.
  • It’s easy to find and doesn’t clutter up limited office space: “If I come back to something six months down the track, or if I’m searching for a topic, typing some key words will immediately bring up my notes,” explains Salesforce.com solutions strategist Stuart Jones. “That’s more efficient than having to wade through pages of notes stored in a filing system.”
  • It allows you to collaborate easily: “I publish or share my notes electronically with others to ensure we have ‘one version of the truth’ – that we’re all working on the same, up-to-date document,” says Jones.
  • Contact information is shared more easily: “If you want someone to have your contact, they will have a better chance of finding it in their Outlook contacts than in a pile of business cards,” says Anda. “There’s a huge benefit to providing people with all your information electronically.” If you still hanker after the graphic appeal of an old school business card, consider creating a VCF (Virtual Contact File).

Struggling to break the habit of automatically printing hard copies or putting pen to paper? Here are a couple of tips to get you started:

  • Ensure whatever tool you use for recording information is easy to manage. “It’s quite challenging to get away from just picking up a pen and making a note versus opening up an application on your device and making notes electronically. So the tool you use – whether it’s Evernote , OneNote or just the notes function on your phone – must be very intuitive, user-friendly and accessible,” says Jones. If you’re not quick on your keyboard, a stylus pen is also useful.
  • If you do make notes on paper, take a photo of your notes – and then ditch the paper. “I’m not one hundred per cent paperless – I still have a notebook,” says Jones. “But I take photos of what’s in my notebook and link them to the right business context, with other relevant documents. Whoever else has access to that account is able to see my notes in electronic format, enabling me to share my knowledge. That would be impossible if it was all on a piece of paper in a folder in my briefcase.”

Going entirely paperless is often not realistic, but paper independence certainly is. Have a go at reducing your reliance on paper (and, as always, let us know how you get on). Yes, it will involve a change of mindset – but we figure you’re getting pretty good at that.