It’s 2015: isn’t it time paper documents stopped dragging companies down?

People have been talking about the ‘paperless office’ for decades – since 1978, in fact, when ‘automated office equipment’ company Micronet trademarked the term to describe its vision of a future office where floppy disks and microfilm replaced typewriters and filing cabinets. In 2015, despite the digital revolution that’s tranforming every aspect of life, it seems the paperless office is still some way off being realised.

This is according to a new report from Adobe called ‘Paper Jam: why documents are dragging us down,’ which looked into the attitudes of business professionals around the world and how they actually get work done.

The study, which looked at more than 5,000 office workers across the UK, US, Germany, France and Australia exposes how antiquated business processes and outdated ways of working with documents are having a dramatic impact on productivity, efficiency and employee satisfaction.

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In fact 83% of them feel their success and ability to be productive at work are still slowed down by outdated ways of working with documents, with 61% of professionals worldwide saying they would change jobs solely for the sake of dramatically less paperwork.

But excessive paperwork is more than a frustration: it’s a bottleneck to getting real work done, and one that is affecting career advancement for many. 60% of office workers feel mundane and inefficient processes distract them from more important tasks, and over half (54%) of professionals believe these inefficiencies stop them from doing their best work.

It seems there’s a disparity between people wanting to be able to access documents as easily as other forms of popular digital content today, and the reality. Those documents lag behind other content and media types in going digital.

Respondents say that accessing important information from anywhere is a priority, whether for work (64%) or personal use (60%). However, respondents reported that only 6% of their documents are stored in the cloud. Moreover, respondents say that 63% of their photos are digital and the majority (55%) of music is digital, but only 43% of their documents are available and accessible in digital format.

People have embraced digital formats for other types of content in their personal lives, but they still cling to traditional paper at work. When asked about going paper-free for various tasks, more than four in five agree it saves time, is fast and easy. However, 74% of professionals say they are reliant on paper documents at work and 50% admit to being emotionally attached to paper documents.

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Further, people report feeling uncomfortable with the idea of having digital-only copies of important personal and work documents. 44% of respondents believe they will still be reliant on paper at work five years from now – a far cry from where we thought we’d be back in 1978.

‘Other content types like music and photos – and the ways we interact with them – have moved forward. Why not documents?’ said Kevin Lynch, vice president and general manager of Document Services, Adobe. ‘The rise of mobile will exacerbate this document gap even more. This should be a wake-up call to businesses that their productivity is taking a hit and they need to do something about it.’

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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