Is it possible to have a paperless office?

The introduction of the IBM PC in August 1981 promised a digital future.

One where paper would become a thing of the past.

After all, why bother printing anything when you can just store it on floppy disks?

These are floppy disks, by the way:

Source: Wikimedia

And when email rolled around in the 1990s, everyone was convinced that the postal service would up and die within months.

But the world we wound up with is far from paperless.

And the postal service obviously didn’t vanish overnight.

In fact, paper consumption is increasing every year, with worldwide consumption coming to around 412.88 million tons.

So is it actually possible to have a paper office, or is the paperless office a myth?

What’s holding up the paperless office?

There are a number of factors involved.

The first of these is just sheer wastefulness.

Like that in the United States alone, over $100 billion of paper is used each year.

100 million tons of paper is used each year in the United States alone.

200+ million tons is used by China and Japan.

Which is around 100 million tons of it.

And almost 50% of that paper winds up in recycling bins, because the forms printed on it became outdated.

Another important issue is the way some companies handle paper documents.

Like taking incoming mail, scanning it, binning the original and then putting the printed copies in storage.

And this happens in companies where a chief complaint shared by management is how much paper costs.

The same managers who’ll print out their emails for “safe keeping”.

We’ve all worked with that person – the one who tells everyone else to stop printing while they’re sitting on their laptop printing out personal emails and pictures of cats.

The legal stuff

Would you accept that the deeds to your home are stored safely in a “digital vault” by your bank.

Or would you insist on a printed copy for your own records?

Attorneys follow the basic principle of, “In in doubt, print it out”.

That’s because the world simply hasn’t reached a point where a scanned copy of a document is acceptable everywhere around the world.

Basically, companies can and do have a legal obligation to keep hard copies of certain documents.

But there is a slow shift to digital happening for most documents you might need for legal purposes.

Digital documents aren’t forever

A major selling point for digital storage is that you can’t crease it, tear it, smudge it, or spill water on it.

Unlike paper documents.

But the problem is that storing something in a digital format does not mean that it’s suddenly beyond harm.

Files get corrupted, hacked or simply lost when a laptop gets stolen.

Entire databases of information are compromised and leaked online – these usually contain personal information like your name, email address and password.

The United States had 1,200+ data breaches in 2018, with 446 million records exposed.

Source: Statista.com

Which you thought was safely stored on a server somewhere.

Heck, you’re even encouraged to print out your private key for most digital cryptocurrency wallets.

Something they call a “paper wallet”.

So it’s entirely understandable why a lot of people insist on keeping a hard, printed copy of certain documents.

How can you reduce paper waste in your home office?

The first thing is not to try to come up with some grand gesture to eradicate all paper from your working life.

It’s simply not practical.

Lots of small changes though can have a huge overall effect on the amount of paper you use.

So, instead of printing out the PDF document to make notes on it, scan it and then email it back, use some PDF annotation software instead.

This alone can save you unnecessarily printing out a document that you’re going to throw in the trash a few minutes later.

Use e-billing as much as possible – most small businesses will have several bills each month that they simply do not need paper copies of.

Use email more.

And what we mean by that is that a lot of people still think that an email isn’t a legally binding contract.

But it absolutely can be.

So you don’t eve necessarily need a paper copy for certain, non-critical types of contract.

Just check the legality of email as legal tended in whatever country you currently reside in.

And then finally you should use something like the Rocketbook.

This is a “traditional” notepad, but with a tap of your pen your documents get uploaded to your cloud storage service of choice.

Once done, you simply wipe the page clean and start a fresh set of notes.

Using this technology means you could potentially ditch those notepads that you have to buy each month.

The pros and cons of a paperless office

Pros

  • You’ll have to buy less paper, so you save money
  • Less storage space required for printed documents
  • You save money on consumables such as ink or toner
  • Documents can be indexed and searched quickly once in a document management system
  • Higher overall levels of security
  • Documents are highly transportable i.e. cloud-based
  • Your office will be tidier

Cons

  • Certain documents need to be printed for legal purposes
  • Storing documents in the cloud does not mean they are 100% safe from harm
  • There’s a kinaesthetic benefit to working with paper at times
  • The cost of setting up a high-end document management system can be prohibitive

Is a paperless office achievable?

A 100% paperless office is a nice idea, but it’s simply not pragmatic.

It’ll never happen because there will always be a need to print something out.

But modern document management systems, Intranets, digital projectors and online training systems can dramatically reduce paper waste.

And as we said above, a number of small gestures can have a huge impact.

So all you’re really looking to do is reduce the amount of paper you use.

Not 100% eliminate it.

What’s The Best Mousepad With Wrist Support?

If you’re anything like me you’ve developed some bad habits in your time.

In my case, it’s about ergonomics and especially when it comes to how I use my mouse.

I have a really bad habit of leaning on the heel of my right palm – flattening it out.

Which obviously caused a lot of pain.

So I spent a few years trying to find the best mousepad with a wrist rest of some kind.

I’ve lost count of the number of them I’ve tried and binned.

But I finally found one that ticks all the boxes for me – the Fellowes Crystal mousepad  – the one with the  gel wrist rest.

Now let me explain why.

fellows mousepad

Support

This should go without saying but an ergonomic mousepad should provide consistent wrist support.

Now, the thing is, many of them do…but not for hours on end.

What I found with all the other mousepads I’ve owned is that the wrist support part basically collapses as the day goes on.

So, without realizing it, your wrist is buried in a kind of hollow in the pad.

Then you have to pick it up, shake it out, and kind “fluff” up the gel or foam again to achieve some level of comfort for your hand.

That’s not the case with the Fellowes Crystal – it never deforms and is flexible enough for me to use it for an entire day without suffering any kind of discomfort.

Which is a first in the 40-odd years I’ve used computers.

Tracking

As important as personal comfort is to me, I also don’t want my mouse jumping around on the screen because of the surface it’s resting on.

So I need my mousemat to be made of something compatible with actually getting some work done.

I’ve never been a fan of gaming mousepads – they’re very accurate but I found them uncomfortable for day-to-day work.

The same goes for fabric mousepads because they tend to feel quite sluggish at times, so you’re left tweaking your mouse speed.

With the Fellowes Crystal you get a textured plastic surface which gives you the best of both worlds – an accurate surface that’s also not going to fade or get stained.

It also looks pretty cool too – I use the black version of this product and it does look very slick.

And it’s proven itself to be extremely accurate even with any optical mouse I use on it.

Stability

Every other mousepad I’ve owned featured a textured grip on the underside of it.

It was enough to keep it in position as long as you weren’t having a busy day.

But inevitably I’d wind up having to pull it back towards, adjusting everything back to how I like it.

The Fellowes Crystal has a kind of gel coasting on the underside too – it basically sticks to whatever surface you have it on.

And even if it does pick up any dirt or grime, it’s super-easy to clean.

So, this is another feature I love.

Durability

This was one of the biggest problems with every other gel mousepad I’ve used – the quality of the gel.

For example, I was given a TeckNet ergonomic mousepad as a Christmas gift.

The gel pad had gone completely flat after no more than 6 month.

And there was no way to revive it.

It actually started to flatten out after just a few weeks of use but I just put up with it.

The Fellowes Crystal has no such issue – the gel self-adjusts the split second you take your hand away from it.

So it basically feels like you’re using a brand new mousepad every single day.

And that makes it a real pleasure to use.

Easy To Clean

I have a really bad habit (yet another bad habit) of eating snacks and drinking coffee while I’m at my home office desk.

And I’m sure I’m not alone here, right?

But this does mean that my mousepad will inevitably get something spilled on it, and a pretty decent coating of crumbs from chocolate biscuits, etc.

After a few months your prized mouse starts to look like it’s been backpacking around the world, sleeping in the cheapest hostels it could find.

And that means it winds up in your recycling waste.

My Fellowes mousepad, on the other hand, is wipe clean.

Literally give it a wipe of a damp cloth and it looks brand new – and that’s no matter what kind of crud I’ve managed to wipe into it.

Everything from jam to pasta.

Told you I have some bad habits…

Anything I Don’t Like?

As of right now the Fellowes Crystal is everything I want in a mousepad with wrist support.

It’s far superior to similar products that cost half as much, but have thousands of 5-star reviews.

You really do need to watch out for ultra-cheap products with thousands of glowing reviews – most of them are paid for.

Anyways, I’ll update this blog post if my opinion of the Fellowes Crystal changes.

Or I find something even better!

Summing it up

I’ve been a victim of false economics at times over the years.

Like buying a $5 mousepad because the one for $12 or $15 just seemed like too much to spend on something so trivial.

Even though I’d then go through 2 or 3 of the cheaper items in the span of a year or so.

In Ireland we call that being penny wise and pound foolish.

You really do get what you pay for with this stuff, so the extra money spent on a Fellowes mousemat is more than worth it.