More than 35 years since British-American information scientist, Frederick Wilfrid, first envisioned a ‘paperless office’ in 1978, the idea still seems a long way off.

The research, commissioned by Epson Europe, found that 86% of workers in Europe consider physical documents to be 'crucial'.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) indicated they’d prefer to read reports and brochures on printed paper, citing the ability to ‘share/handout’ (53%), ‘read’ (44%) and ‘edit/annotate’ (41%) as key factors. In addition, 62% believed that errors were more likely when editing an electronic document as opposed to a printout. Overall, an overwhelming majority (83%) felt a ‘paperless office is unrealistic’.

In the UK, the printed page remains a crucial feature of office life, with 86% claiming that a ban on printing would “limit their productivity”.

Rob Clark, Senior Vice President of Epson Europe, said: “It is clear from our research that – despite digital advances – people still like to work with paper, preferring print rather than working on-screen for certain tasks.

“The reality is organisations need printing, not only to help employees work more effectively but reap wider productivity. People collaborate effectively for many tasks digitally; for many others, a printed page is key, or an interactive whiteboard, an augmented reality headset or an in-person huddle. Businesses need to provide their employees with the options to use the best technology and processes for each task in each circumstance, from the humble printed page to the more sophisticated digital collaboration tools.”

Renowned global futurist, Jack Uldrich said: "The paperless office hasn’t materialised for the same reason that microwave ovens didn’t replace all traditional ovens. Every technology has unique benefits, and paper is no different; it’s arguably the greatest instrument ever invented for conveying, sharing and disseminating information. Recent scientific studies have demonstrated that people understand and retain information present on paper at a far higher level than information presented electronically, which may explain why 61% of respondents agreed that there is more chance of making errors when editing an electronic document than editing a print-out."

Whilst paper remains important, the research demonstrates how inefficient printing systems are limiting productivity. European office workers spend nearly 19 hours every year walking to and from their printer, marching over 110 kilometres in the process! In the UK, the average distance to a printer is 13 metres, second only to Germany.