The path to paperless.

Like all good journeys, it begins with the end not in sight.

There may be an imaginative idea of desks with two (or more) computer screens in an open plan environment with clusters of fiddlewood plants (ubiquitous in shopping centres these days) and the occasional staff member.

How to get to there from a four-roomed office shared by 8 staff (who are always there) using their own desks with a computer screen, keyboard, photos of the family, and (in this environmentally friendly age) a personalised reusable plastic coffee cup? Ranged along a wall are several archaic looking filing cabinets of which at least one hasn’t been used (or, indeed, opened) in the memory of the current staff!

Four rules of the road.

1. Stay in the centre of the road. If a bill / invoice / receipt arrives electronically (ie via a computer or phone), don’t automatically print it. Consider if it can be filed somewhere on your server and use a second screen to view the information while using the primary use screen to do whatever is required in processing.

2. Ignore any ‘Stop’ signs. If something arrives that appears to be ‘too hard’, almost immediately send it on to someone else. Ideally to someone who may be more experienced in handling it. On no account, print the email, then collect it from the printer and then put it in (someone else’s) basket.

3. On the motorway, constantly vary your speed. It isn’t about doing the same amount of work as the other employees. True, you may do the same hours but that’s not the same thing. The paperless office requires shifting gears to address different matters and deciding how best to tackle a problem that you might have once printed out in 40 pages (one side only). Now, you need to consider how to leave the matter electronic but still do the same work on it (and with the same notes in the margins).

4. Never indicate. Nobody really cares where you are going unless you happen to get in their way. There will be detours which looked like the correct way ahead at the time and that can be tough to get back from. However, the detour will inevitably add to the final flavour of your paperless office.

The oxymoron part?

It will come to pass only if that first step doesn’t happen.

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