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Paper and Returning to the Office

As widespread vaccination finally pushes the pandemic to an end, thousands of businesses across the country are developing the processes and procedures that they’ll use to reopen their offices. Many offices have not had employees in-house for over a year. Naturally, things are going to look different when offices do reopen. Even with high vaccination rates, residual fears of an outbreak will likely lead to changes in office policies.

For example, it’s likely that the office party is still a while down the road, along with client and corporate team lunches. And with many offices moving to a hybrid model of in-person and remote work places/work environments, many meetings may remain permanently online. However, many aspects of pre-pandemic office life will return.  

The Return of Paper

One aspect of the office that can return is the use of paper to communicate ideas efficiently, effectively, and safely. According to publication CIO, paper is a portable, universal and familiar way to share and annotate documents. It can be easier to broadcast a policy or ideal more widely through use of paper copies as opposed to digital messages. Paper also continues to be the standard for items such as legal contracts or any document that requires greater security than a digital signature.

While teams may be wary of using paper in an office seeking to minimize risk of COVID-19 infections, it’s important to note that the risk of infection from surfaces is incredibly low. In their own studies, the CDC has shown that the risk of infection from surfaces can be as low as 1 in 10,000. The risk of employees contracting COVID-19 from a paper handout is low enough to be considered purely hypothetical. The use of paper for disseminating company bulletins, newsletters and other memos is still considered safe by all medical guidance and guidelines.

In fact, in some ways paper’s use as a medium has increased during the pandemic. Many individuals appreciate paper’s easy disposability as a single-use medium. Paper can be used once, and then easily recycled. As much as 93% of corrugated paper is recycled, making paper one of the world’s most recycled products. Paper’s widespread and efficient recycling means that employees can be assured that their frequent use of paper is not contributing to environmental degradation and destruction.

The Value of Paper in the Workplace

As we move back into the workplace some might ask the question, what is the value of using paper in the workplace? Can’t we continue to rely solely on digital means to communicate? To answer this, it’s important to note the distinct physical and mental advantages of using paper. It’s often easier for readers to review and annotate a paper document when compared to a digital version, and research suggests that reading off of paper helps readers both absorb and retain information longer when compared to reading off of screens.

The cognitive value of this is epitomized by Amazon’s rule banning PowerPoint in executive meetings. Early in his career at Amazon, founder and CEO Jeff Bezos banned the use of PowerPoint, directing instead that executives write and print out six-page memos that use full and complete sentences. The team then sits silently and reads for thirty minutes before taking time to discuss the ideas in the memos. Bezos believes that spending this time reading and digesting ideas from paper, rather than a presentation on a screen helps to focus time, energy, and creativity.

It's clear that using paper in the office provides benefits in communication and collaboration to leaders and teams. As your office begins to reopen, we invite you to see how NORPAC can help you improve your business.