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Paperless office as unrealistic as ever

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More than 38 years have passed since British-American information scientist Frederick Wilfrid first envisioned a “paperless office” in 1978 – but the reality is that printers still continue to be used daily.
According to an independent survey of over 2 400 employees from across EMEA commissioned by Epson Europe, 81% of South African respondents consider printing “vital” in terms of helping them work effectively, while an overwhelming majority (76%) felt a “paperless office is unrealistic”.
In fact, 88% of South African respondents said that they considered printing critical to the way their industry operates, with 44% of respondents revealing that they print more than 10 documents per day with the most popular printed items being invoices closely followed by letters, reports and brochures, and email attachments.
“It is clear from our research that – despite digital advances and over 41% of businesses now digitising documents in favour of keeping hard copy records – people still like to work with paper, preferring print rather than working on-screen for certain tasks,” says Jeroen van Beem, head of sales: AFIS at Epson Europe.
South Africans tend to keep and use the documents that they print out, with just 16% saying that they waste or don’t use more than 30% of the documents they print out. While this is not to say that print is any less valuable (in fact a third of employees (33%), said that their productivity would decrease if they were no longer able to print), it is a factor that is on the minds of employees, 76% of whom believe that environmental preservation is important.
“The reality is that organisations need print to help employees work effectively, but if they are careful about the technology they choose, they can reap wider productivity and environmental benefits too,” says Van Beem. “By selecting inkjet printers over comparable laser products, for example, organisations can achieve up to twice as many prints while producing 95% less waste and with much lower energy consumption; a fact that an alarming 65% of businesses in South Africa are still unaware of.”
This offers a clear opportunity for businesses in South Africa, 46% of whom do not currently implement IT in a strategic manner, and who could be missing out on considerable savings on print costs and environmental impact reductions.
“New technologies are, of course, changing the way that people work. At Epson, for example, we see this with our wearable and projector-based collaborative technologies. But when it comes to reading, scanning, editing and sharing documents like reports, emails, and attachments, office workers, from baby boomers to millennials, still prefer the tangible printed version,” Van Beem says.
“Businesses would do well to recognise this, and take advantage of opportunities to improve their bottom lines and environmental credentials through the use of carefully selected technologies that can help do just that.”