2015 may be the year of the sheep, but in the FTA office we are celebrating the dawn of the soft copy era. Our admin staff look well overdue for a holiday after spending the last three months moving our databases completely online. No scanner has ever received such a workout, nor has a cleaning company been faced with so many bags of shredded paper.

Oh, the paper.

Now, don’t get me wrong. While our staff may all still ride dinosaurs to work and go hunting for their next meal, our systems are not so primordial that we still use quills and notebooks.

Puh-lease. The only notebook we have has keys and a mouse, and on the off chance we do need to jot something down, we have yellow notepads for that. That’s right, yellow. Fancy that, coloured paper! What will they think of next?

The bulk of the work involved dealing with the archives. Separating files, removing staples, scanning paperwork and shredding until we could shred no more. And while we are still haunted by the musky scent of the shredder overheating, I thought this would be a good time for a reflection on the alleged “efficiency” of this move.

Just look at FTA – we’ve been around for 3 years and somehow we’ve produced enough scrap paper to survive an apocalypse (how scrap paper will help us survive remains to be seen, but really, it’s hard not to be impressed by how many boxes of it we’ve collected). Countless binders of legislation, file notes and case details had blossomed like mould in every room. Poor Ben had been missing for weeks behind boxes of miscellaneous paper.

Although it was a tedious process (read: very, very, very tedious), it’s marvellous to think how much space there is now. There’s so much room for activities! And think of all the trees that have been spared by our decision to go paperless. Improved air quality in your area? You are welcome, my friend.

So now we are officially paperless – in the sense that we no longer print anything and everything that is remotely relevant to a claim – what should we print? Is there an etiquette? Should I only print the finalised work, or is there an allowance for certain documents to cross the dimensional barrier between the onscreen and the hard copy? What is most “efficient”?

Heck, what does “efficient” even mean?

Some would define it as “touch typing”; others, the use of multimedia platforms to complete work on location. Now, you might type at snail’s pace, or so fast that you frequently set your keyboard alight. What’s most important is the quality of work you produce, and I believe a middle-ground is always the best option – what with OH&S and all. Plus having to clean up after fire extinguishers is even worse than archiving. Trust me, I’d know.

So, where does this leave us? I’m still not sure. I mean yes, it is easier to navigate documents on a screen, but I don’t think this replaces the joy that only hard-core margin-scribbling or excessive highlighting can bring.

Whether soft copy strategies will make our lives better or worse remains to be seen. In the meantime, I’m going to go and dictate my next email report into my software voice recorder, then upload it for my secretary, who will dictate it into a voice recognition program because the software doesn’t like my voice. Then she will print out a draft for me to alter by hand, which I will then return to her for the dictation of the corrections, before exporting the document as a PDF. Now if that isn’t efficient, I don’t know what is.