We recently surveyed 3,500 business leaders across all industries to discover how paperless their offices are in 2018. Some of the findings were quite surprising, and some of them were comparable with what we read in research today.

When asked how often they use paper in their position, surprisingly just under half of the responses, at 44.23%, said that they use paper in their position on a daily basis, with only two percent admitting they never use paper. The pie chart below summarises the frequency across industries of how often employees use paper.

Pie Chart of paper usage

The paperless movement has been around for a long time and talked about for even longer. But the real question is have people actually decreased the amount of paper that they use in their positions? When asked had they reduced the amount of paper they used in the past year, a large majority answered yes. But surprisingly when asked how often their co-workers used printers in their workplace, over 60% of respondents answered ‘all the time’ or ‘a few times a week.’ So although people have continued to decrease the amount of paper that they use within offices, it is still a regular occurrence to use paper at all levels within the company.

When it comes to storage options, most companies (almost 70% of responses) use a mixture of both physical (filing cabinets, good-old-boxes) and digital (local or public cloud) means to archive their company’s data. Whether they store the same documents in both places, we don’t really know.

When questioned about which file format they use most regularly to share documents and collaborate with co-workers, PDF proved to be the dominant file format. The .doc file format came in second and .XLS was in third place. The below bar chart outlines the percentage of recipients who answered to different file types for this question.

Bar Chart of file types

Even though progress may seem slow when it comes to getting rid of paper in offices, business leaders keep steadily pushing the paperless idea. PDF solutions, alongside other market-leading cloud storage and collaboration products, are at the forefront when it comes to enabling paperless offices. Below is a wordcloud of the most commonly used words to describe how recipients have decreased their paper usage over the past five years. What we can see is that ‘PDF’, as the most frequently used word, is the biggest driver in reducing the amount of paper used in companies. ‘Less paper,’ ‘sharing documents’ and ‘cloud storage’ close on its trail in our survey showing that digital file-sharing and cloud storage are in every business leader’s mind.

WordCloud of common words

But what does this mean for the paperless movement across the world today? It is quite clear from the figures that people have moved away from using paper when doing menial tasks and have started using document management systems and document sharing to communicate with co-workers regularly. But more needs to happen. With the advent of new digital document management systems and software coming out every day there still is a gap in knowledge between how to become paperless and genuinely becoming paperless. Companies need to be more aware of the paper usage in every department and come up with innovative new ways to reduce this level. This could be as simple as introducing PDFs to share documents with co-workers to proof and annotate. We need to take ownership of our paper usage and start to use document management systems thoroughly.

Where can we start? We can begin at the lowest level, by decreasing the amount of printing that we do on a daily basis. On a higher level, we can adopt a more digital-first ideal towards archiving documents, collaboration and document storage. We can continue working towards becoming more aware of the strengths of the software and applications that we use on a daily basis. Instead of using an application or software for one thing only we need to look at the features that it provides and use those features to the best of our abilities.