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A paper-free future?

Despite ongoing talks to move the education sector towards a digital environment, a new study highlights paper-free may never happen

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | July 17, 2014 | Business

A new study by Altodigital has revealed that far from heading towards a paperless office environment, the education sector is going the other way, with inefficient document storage practices, and an ever-increasing volume of wasted paper, energy and consumables across the UK. 

The research questioned 129 decision makers within the education sector in the UK, to help Altodigital understand evolving workplace print and document storage trends, as it continues to help establishments make the transition to a more digital environment.

Despite ongoing talk within the education sector of establishments moving towards a paperless environment, the study paints a contrary picture, with just 5% believing they will be paper-free within the next five years, or 10 years (7%). A further 81% believed the ‘printed page’ would remain mission critical to their firms’ operation.  

There also emerged a less-than-frugal attitude towards staff’s print behaviour, with 97% always printing in colour as opposed to black and white, 96% opting to print single sided as opposed to duplex, and 92% regularly printing out emails to read.

‘Doubling up’ also emerged as a trend, with 96% of the education sector storing important documents both electronically and in hard copy form, while only 42% choose to store their files electronically over hard copy.  

There appears to be little excuse for this wasteful practice; a colossal 83% already have print and document management technology in place allowing staff to track costs and manage documents in a smarter and greener way. However, the reason could be that half (50%) of managers in the education sector did nothing to inform their staff of the ‘green’ print and document technologies at their disposal.

This comes against the context of 82% having internal and external targets in place to reduce their paper consumption in the future.

When questioned about the reasons for failing to move towards a paperless environment, nearly half (48%) of decision-makers in the education sector claimed they prefer the convenience of having a hard copy document to hand, 37% ‘didn’t trust’ storing or using electronic documents over hard copies, while 41% believed printing a hard-copy document carries more gravitas than an electronic version. A further 23% thought ‘going paperless’ was too complicated and expensive, while 13% had a ‘print it out’ culture in place across their firms.

Tony Burnett, group sales director at Altodigital, said: “The paperless office is not a new trend by any means, but as the research shows, we’re seeing real resistance from staff up and down the country when it comes to putting it into practice. This is surprising given the very real benefits of moving towards a paper-free environment, such as significant cost and efficiency savings, not to mention the ability to operate in a greener capacity.

“There is also a general misunderstanding into what a paperless environment is, and it’s not just a case of printing less. A shift towards a true paperless office also involves examining how you use paper in its broadest capacity, for example, electronically filing and sharing documents, reducing storage costs and improving efficiencies.

“Perhaps we need to stop talking about going ‘paperless’ and instead focus on what is realistic; reducing our reliance on the printed page. We call this the ‘paper-less’ environment, and with the right technology and guidance businesses can escape the inefficiencies and limitations of paper-based systems.”

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