Is a Paperless Office Possible?

By Sandra Clitter  

I came across an article about “The Paperless Office” the other day ( It’s title is “Is the ‘paperless’ office here at last?”

Hmmm…seems to me that back in the dark ages – when I was just getting into business, and computers were new on the scene – that that was one of the main reasons given for getting a computer! “Get a computer, it will cut down on paper”. “Get a computer, you’ll be able to ditch your filing cabinets”. The list went on and on.

Yet, in the ‘early days’, I think that computers created MORE paper. We saved EVERYTHING a computer printed (and it could print a lot more than anyone could ever put out on a typewriter). We saved the original, and the ‘proof’ that we had entered it into the computer. We printed and kept reports that no one ever looked at (heck, there were probably many reports that no one actually understood).

Fast forward to today…many, many documents are transmitted solely via electronic means. An individual may choose to print out select reports to review the ‘hard-copy’, but more and more, they are reviewed, marked-up, returned – all via electronic mechanisms. No longer do we have to keep every bank statement – we can always recreate it if we need to down the line. Many vendors allow us to sign in to accounts to view invoices precluding the need to keep all of those (stapled to the stub of the check).

In fact, checks themselves are moving towards the obsolete as more and more transactions are completed moving money around electronically. And we no longer get copies of the checks back with our monthly statements.

When I first went into business 12 years ago, I had several filing cabinets – one for personal ‘stuff’, one for the business back-office (invoices, bills, check stubs, etc), and one for client files.

Now, I can’t remember the last time a client gave me a file in printed format. If they try to, I respectfully ask them to e-mail me the file. If they can’t do that (and I have some for whom that is still a challenge), I’ll take it back to the office, scan it, and shred the original.

Today, I have one drawer (rather than 3-4 entire filing cabinets) of a filing cabinet that is used for traditional filing. In fact, now that I think about it, I’ll have to figure out why I have that one. The other drawers seem to be storage space for unused file folders (Pendaflex, anyone?), CD backups of computer data from as long ago as 10 years (those probably don’t even work any more), magazines and newspapers that I want to save (the Philles World Series victory in 2008 seems to be very well represented!), and assorted envelopes (it seems that I can mail almost anything in an appropriately sized envelope).

Perhaps we really ARE at the cusp of the paperless office! It’s taken 30 years, but it does seem possible…ah, yes…now that I think about it, I have one client who has NOT ONE original document in the office. They don’t own a filing cabinet – every document – every single one – is scanned and filed – ELECTRONICALLY! Maybe we’re already there if we put our minds to it.

I think that I’ll go clean out that last file drawer of mine!

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