I am forced to sit here and suffer through another long afternoon of pretending to work largely because I have become more efficient as a worker. I wouldn't even go as far as to say that I've automated everything because, in truth, I haven't automated anything. I've simply succeeded in cutting down the number of steps it takes to complete certain tasks, eliminated needless components of the job, and don't have to amass a library of printed pages to do one simple thing on the computer. Combined with a relatively high level of aptitude for quickly executing brain-wasting computer work, my total output exceeds that of a normal worker by High Noon.
Mind you, I'm running my own internal statistics, and it is a rare occasion indeed that such numbers should be trusted or taken at face value, but I assure you, any discrepancy between my findings and reality are not due to any nefarious deed on my part. I'm fairly confident that any independent and unbiased panel of experts would come to similar conclusions, perhaps pushing my time-efficiency estimate back by a maximum of two hours.
The difference is largely generational. Walk in the front door of my office, and you will find a large wall of file cabinets. What they contain, I do not know. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt that some of the documents contained therein are kept necessarily in print form. There are legal entanglements I don't anticipate experiencing that might loom over those with a different job description, but regardless of this fact, I'd bet a quick combing of the archives would effectively reduce the lot by at least half. There was a day when that sort of pack rat mentality probably served the office worker well. A reliable filing system was tantamount to maintaining the stability of an office's everyday operations, and in many ways, it still is. But the filing of today does not require paper. There is virtually nothing that can't be done without the aid of a printer or even a fax machine (why we still have one of those, I can't imagine) because all paper does, except in very rare instances, is slow you down.
This is all obvious stuff, chapter headings in the Child's Office Primer, and non-adherence to a paperless office can more often than not be attributed to a lack of desire or effort to train the brain to utilize the tools available to it. It's adherence to the Old School, the paper trail, which is no more than a crutch these days.
I don't mean to engage in a Young vs. Old argument here, though the lines do tend to fall slightly along those lines. Hell, one of my high school English teachers was a coder and programmer at seventy-six, an age at which one surely has plenty of excuses to resist adopting new ways of doing things. If he would have spurned everything post-dating the electric typewriter, he could have been forgiven for beholding the swelling tides with the scowl of a seasoned curmudgeon. To this date (he, sadly, passed away a few years ago), his final knowledge of computing probably still exceeds mine, so what I'm on about here is not complicated.
Administrative tasks have been simplified to the extent that it's almost silly to rent office space anymore. There is nothing in my job description that I couldn't do from the comfort of my own home without ever stopping to pull up my pants. Same goes for everyone else, and since I am in a vindictive mood today, I'll just go ahead and shift the blame for my having to dance through this intricate pantomime of artificial busyness to everyone else.
If we all work together, goddammit, we'd spend less time at our jobs, get more done both professionally and personally, and save a few trees while we're at it.
Who's with me?
Correction (10/21/2009): Due to a silly grammatical oversight, the title originally read "Children of the Office, I Implore Thee". Thanks to commenter vet's bringing the error to my attention "thee" has been changed to "you."