Remember the paperless office? For those too young to remember the aspiration…. Decades ago (it was big in the 70s) we were told that the paperless office was the future – everything would be computerised (these were the days before words like ‘online’, ‘digitised’, and ‘cloud’ had been coined) and so paper – it was probably also a time when environmentalism was on the rise – would become a thing of the past.
15 years ago, the Chief Executive of the organisation employing me at the time claimed to have a paperless office. You would enter and see a big round table (clean top) for meetings, a small round table with a desktop PC on it, and nothing much else apart, no doubt, from the odd potted plant and a picture or two on the walls. But nearby was his personal assistant’s office – piled high with paper! So technically he did have a paperless office, but…
Now, after 40 years working in the not-for-private-profit sector with charities and social enterprises, I’ve sort of succeeded in having a paperless office – mainly because I don’t have an office! My work requires me to be mobile – dropping anchor at two main locations during my three-day working week, with meetings in other places as required (which is quite often). The A10 from Royston to Waltham Cross is my workspace and everything I need to do my job is carried in a rucksack on my back and a computer bag in my hand. There’s no scope for gathering the sorts of piles of paper I would previously have ‘filed’ in a tray or two on my desk in the days when I had an office (to be periodically sorted, used, ignored, thrown away).
It’s a great discipline, it calls for advance planning – making sure I have the right pieces of information to hand for the various 1-2-1 meetings that are at the heart of my work and, after seven months, I feel I’m getting to grips with the demands of this new office-free role.
But alas, even now it’s not paperless.
A large amount of paper is still required for an impressive amount of record-keeping that is required of my day-to-day activity. The records are read in hard-copy format before being stored electronically. This somewhat flies in the face of the increasing need to conserve resources, including trees, and the expectation that data is carefully protected. Sadly, the paperwork that goes with a funded-programme of work is, in our case just that – paperwork.