Heck Yes We Want Paper in the Office

Productivity apps, voice memos, PDF readers, Slack, Trello, MS Teams, IM … all these are seemingly indispensable to life in the office as we know it. Yet a new survey shows that workers turn back to basics when they need to really focus and produce.

“There’s no question that digital tools have in many ways made the workplace more efficient. But we get blindsided by our digital environment when there are certain tasks for which paper is just more effective,” said productivity expert Holland Haiis regarding the Workplace Productivity Report sponsored by the Paper and Packaging Board. “If we jot down our top three objectives for the day on paper first thing in the morning, we avoid getting lost in our inboxes. We’re much more likely to retain information if we annotate a hard copy. And taking a notebook to meetings rather than a phone or laptop helps us actually connect to coworkers and solve problems more rapidly.”

It makes sense. When I need to put my head down and knock things off my list, the last thing I want is an email notification or IM popping up. Not only is the immediate distraction frustrating; the distraction tends to linger and often leads down unrelated rabbit holes, chit chat and then an invite to lunch. 

Image source: How Life Unfolds

I’m all for lunch, don’t get me wrong, but there are times when a distraction-free environment is crucial. And this is where paper comes in. Workers surveyed for the study found screen overload and digital tools made them ultimately less effective in the long run. What helped? Using paper.

Image source: How Life Unfolds

“As we become more and more reliant on email, instant messenger and other digital platforms, paper is integral to keeping us on track amidst among the myriad many pop ups and notifications,” notes this post from How Life Unfolds, part of the Paper and Packaging Board.

Interesting side note: as the workplace struggles with the current COVID-19 outbreak and large numbers of workers start working remotely, we hope employers realize the potential drawbacks to a solely digital communication style. When you send everybody home with their laptop, send a ream of paper and some good notebooks and pens along too, and don’t demand they stay online and available at all times. Sometimes our best work gets done when we unplug.