Pushing Past Paper: The Journey toward the Paperless Office

We’re all familiar with riddle, “What’s black and white and read all over?” The answer may be newspaper, but this could easily describe the paper housed in many a tax and accounting office.

Despite the fact that we lead predominantly digital lives, physical paper still looms large. From copies and print-outs to brochures and catalogs, it quickly adds up. In fact, the average person in the U.S. goes through an estimated 10,000 sheets of paper.

10,000 sheets of paper = one Douglas fir tree

Moving toward a paperless office, however, isn’t a new trend. Instead, it’s a concept with a 50-year journey behind it.

Punch Cards Give Way to Electronic Storage

The initial idea of the paperless office first emerged in the 1960s, when computers started becoming less a novelty than a necessity in many offices. Even though punch cards still were a popular technology for data processing, new generations of mainframe computers had the rudimentary ability to write and store data electronically.

The 1970s saw the arrival of desktop computers. Although large mainframe systems—which often occupied an entire room in an office— were still in use, early desktop models nonetheless harnessed comparable processing and storage power. The introduction of the 5¼-inch floppy disk in 1976—a popular format adopted by many desktop models—made portable the writing and storage of data.

The Desktop Printing Boom and the Beginnings of Cloud Storage

By the 1980s, the desktop computer was becoming mainstream in many offices. And so, too, were printers. Throughout the decade and into the 1990s, the laser printer would reduce significantly in both size and price. Not surprisingly, then, that the average workplace paper consumption doubled between 1980 and 1995.

But the 1990s also saw the beginnings of commercial cloud storage solutions. And with internet connection speeds scaling up in both speed and accessibility into 2000s, these services had a similar trajectory in improving capacity, security, and usability.

The Practical Benefits of the Paperless Office

Today, going paperless is less a hypothetical construct and much more a practical reality. For tax and accounting businesses of all sizes, making this transition may have immediate time- and cost-savings. For a deeper dive in current trends driving the paperless office, check out the post “Paperless Technology Trends for Accounting Firms”.

A paperless office is just one of the benefits made possible by moving to the cloud. Download 8 Ways the Cloud Improves Client Service and Profitability for to see the full picture.


Caroline O'Reilly

Content Marketing Manager

All stories by: Caroline O'Reilly