Going paperless

have reached an age where I feel the need to relieve my life from unnecessary burdens, both literally and figuratively. Although I am the President and CEO of a particularly active company, and despite the multitude of issues I have to deal with on a daily basis, I chose to shrink the surface of my desk and ordered a small, discreetly and artfully chiseled desk measuring 1.20m x 0.60m. At home also, my wardrobe shrunk and my car became smaller. Even my everyday routines in work and life are more austere, but in a liberating way, doing more with less, going lean, going for less. Perhaps my weight should be next on my list of goals.

Both my work and my colleagues’ work is what one would call “cognitive”. And cognitive work is both typically and traditionally recorded on paper. Hyphen SA is a company that produces cognitive work, material and content. So you can imagine its needs in paper, copies, prints and written communication. Since the very beginning, I regarded such extensive use of paper a burden and a cause of clutter and mess. There were also the practical issues of keeping the offices clean and orderly, dust accumulating on paper, the costs of paper and filing, document security and the fragility of paper products. The need to do away with paper was imperative.

Since the company was founded in 2003, great efforts have been made to limit paper use and to use recycling programmes efficiently. In the editing department, paper was swiftly replaced by PDFs in the first educational and communication publications, making us the first Greek company to have established the use of the e-pencil in our editorial work, saving thousands of A3 sheets and hundreds of coloured ink cartridges.

Our endeavours continued as our paper needs became smaller, taking the form of post-its for reminders and messages, bills that needed to be paid, accounting services, correspondence, faxes, etc.

Our company established enhanced policies with the use of applications technology. We started paying our bills online, we introduced electronic invoicing early on, post-its became desktop notes or Skype messages and faxes were replaced by PDFs. A Knowledge Management System was created and is still evolving alongside the company’s needs, its purpose being to file knowledge, content and events.

We were then faced with the human factor itself, the paper user. We were met with manuscript resistance. Man’s relationship with the pencil bears no comparison. The speed, the practice, and the personal stamp evident through handwriting and hand movement whilst the writer thinks proved more powerful than any ecological conscience or will to save money. It was impossible to replace notebooks, calendars or to-do lists, which is understandable since the latest research has shown that handwriting contributes to the development of various cognitive functions. After all, how can one replace a notebook when taking notes during a seminar, or use a lap-top just to write down a couple of ideas whilst sitting on a bench? Truth be told, I myself worship handwriting.

However, a tablet changed my life with its multiple applications for electronic handwriting. Prices for a tablet stylus start from 5 euros and there is a vast variety of materials, technologies and designs to choose from, depending on individual taste. These specific applications for note taking provide every option for marking, highlighting and even inserting interactive material in the text, which is then converted into PDF format, ready to be sent anywhere and via any software. Applications like GoodNote have turned my iPad mini into my personal notebook which I carry everywhere.

Even as we speak, all company staff notebooks are gradually being replaced by electronic tablets and styluses. Simultaneously, all payments, invoices and accounting are digitally processed, while the company’s tools for communication and publicity avoid paper, depending mostly on Android and iOS applications. The existing recycling programme with two reputable recycling companies is flexible and ongoing, and 85% of essay and first draft editing is completed digitally.

According to the company’s estimates, in 2016 alone we will save 22,000 euros worth of paper and related materials (ink cartridges, storage, machine leasing, etc.), while the staff will gain in quality of life, order, cleanliness of environment, flexibility in choices and security of content and files. We are hoping that our corporate CO2 footprint will also be worthy of mention. Ultimately, we aspire to be a much greener company, and personally, I hope to be emotionally unburdened through adherence to my philosophy which is aligned with cognitive, rather than material, ownership and use.


Copyright © 2017 Yannis Stergis
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