Damn you paperless office, why can't you just happen?

cut out paper letters in fromt of a pile of paper

This is killing me. A couple of years ago I read about this lady at UBC who is magically able to make her office paperless - you can check out the article for yourself. Of course I become instantly green with envy (you like what I just did right there). I must have a paperless office too! I mean, if there is an office at the University of Ottawa that is going to be the first to become paperless.... why not our office?

A couple of years later and reality of still kicking us in the gut. My desk is still a monument to paper. And so is everyone else's actually. There are a couple of hard truths that I have been ignoring.
1- I work with engineers and architects and so there is a whole lot of paper lovin' going on here (blueprints)
2- We don't have super modern equipment here... no I-Pads in every corner
3- Almost everyone here is over 50 so the ageist part of me wants to lay the blame on old school thinking

Beyond that, there are also a couple of things that I really like getting in paper format
1- Magazines... they are just so colourful
2- Concept sketches. When it is not done on paper I always think they are unrealistic somehow
3- Reminder notes. I have no good excuse for these

So the article about Lynn's group talks about the idea that going paperless was a journey and that it would take time. F@®% that, I want results now. Our office has been starting to track our work on Basecamp, we are sharing a bunch of our documents on DropBox, and we are doing our meeting notes on a laptop. We even take pictures of the white board and share it with everybody instead of just drawing it out. Okay, here is a more comprehensive list
  1. DropBox - for sharing documents online instead of printing extra copies and sharing them
  2. BaseCamp - for tracking workflow and tasks instead of sticky notes and endless emails
  3. Note pad - for taking the most bare bones notes at meetings
  4. EverNote - for meeting notes when on the go (super good for listening to presentations because you can add pictures)
  5. OneNote - for sharing concepts and ideas in a nice collage format
  6. Google docs - for collaborative work
  7. And for good measure, we use recycled notebooks and paper to take notes and post things

But at the end of the day the paper is still there!
I have even started forcing paperlessness on others. I know that I shouldn't but it seems like the only way that this is going to happen. I started using the .wwf Format to force others to not be able to print pdfs (this is a pretty nifty tool be the way). Sometimes at meetings, I don't send people the agenda ahead of time and only post the agenda on the projector.

And despite all this, paper still persists. What are we missing? What else should we be doing as a best practice?  We tried to get into signing PDFs but that is extremely complicated. We post things on our Social Media sites but people still want their posters.
Please help, I want a world without paper but a world without paper doesn't seem to want me.

~jON - campus sustainability manager
photo credit - jonathan rausseo


Katherine Sullivan said...

You go girl!...boy...man

Anonymous said...

Great article Jon! Only I think you are missing a very important point!

By implementing survey software into your routine, you will leap towards having that paperless office you are dreaming of!

Whenever I need to create a Survey I use FluidSurveys, So everything from the survey creation, data collection, and report/analysis can be done online. And you will cut down on the expenditure of all that messy paper and time spent on data collection.

Anonymous said...

and of course be sustainable while you are doing this! :)

uOttawaSustain said...

You actually make a really good point Ylimay. The last couple of years we have been doing surveys for various sustainability issues. I think that we have actually used a couple of hundred sheet of papers (I know.... the shame) but they were made from recycled content and FSC certified.

I am going to use this advice to put this year's surveys on-line. Thanks Ylimay.

WaqasT said...

Great article, something I enjoyed reading. There are far too many advantages of going paperless, one of which that has attracted me is that I can automatically pays invoices using services that manage my paperless processing.

uOttawaSustain said...

Thanks V. I totally forgot to mention this but we do have paperless paystubs. I have almost forgot what it is like to have an actual paper stub.

Sam said...

Woah, taking pictures of white boards? Isn’t that tiresome? Have you tried using interactive white boards that can record every meeting detail and can be shared with your colleagues? Since we are living in the modern world, we really can’t help but to wish for the comfort that technology can bring us. So, how is the paperless office campaign going?

Sam Jephson

uOttawaSustain said...

Hey Sam,
We are slowly coming along at our office (can't say much for the rest of the University).

I have been doing the whole paperless meetings thing lately and explaining why to everyone at the meetings. I think it is starting to sink in with my colleagues.

We do have interactive whiteboards but I still haven't taken the time to learn how to use them.... I really need to get on top of that. You know, I am actually going to make that one of my "green" new years resolutions.

Thanks Sam!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the tips! Some people just dream of making their workplace paperless, but know nothing on how to actually execute that plan. Your suggestions here on what sites we can use to make that happen are amazing. There's just the issue about file security bussiness transactions staying confidential within the network, but I think those can be arranged by consulting professionals. This is a very awesome blog you have here, and I'll definitely read more!

Curtis Pilon @ SpectrumInformation.com

uOttawaSustain said...

Thanks Curtis! We appreciate the love. ~jr