Read all about it: Paper documents are still relevant

Keanu Reeves may be immortal, but his anti-hero protagonist John Wick is living on borrowed time. There’s a contract on the retired assassin’s weary head. The amount? A cool $14 mil. More than enough to get every contract killer in New York up off their feet!

But what does this have to do with paper documents?

If you’ve seen John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, you noticed the entire affair with that $14,000,000 contract was arranged in an “Accounts Payable” section using paper files and Commodore 64 legacy computers.

No digital files. No scanners. No Adobe Acrobat. And definitely no thumb drives. Just aisles and aisles of paper records managed by a legion of neck-tattooed secretaries.

As Laurence Fishburne’s character in the film put it so succinctly:

“Can’t track it, can’t hack it, can’t trace it.”

He was talking about his flock of carrier pigeons, though, but whatever. The concept still applies. Hackers can download billions of files in minutes, they’re not going to get your paper documents so easily.

So every time some high-profile data breach makes with the negative headline waves (like Marriott’s embarrassing security breach of 500 million account profiles), many companies rightly wonder…are paper documents better after all?

Most businesses aren’t running contract mercenaries but they still need serious data protection. And the more information that’s saved digitally, the more of a giant juicy target it becomes for hackers. But look, this is the 21st century! We all know that electronic records are necessary.

Still, paper remains relevant.

Legal and Financial Documents

Legal and financial services will always want to keep those original ink-signed documents around, and usually those signature pages are attached to a big stack of accompanies pages. This can quickly amount to a lot of floor space to save those files, but it’s worth it.

Takeaway: Keep those paper documents for the ink signatures

Personal Notes

Many executives and other staff rely on notebooks and notepads. They’re portable, easy-to-use, and don’t require a battery. Some people type up their personal notes later, but others let them remain eternally etched in ink on the pages. In such cases, those notes should always be kept for potential later use. Jerry Seinfeld, the world’s richest actor, kept every piece of paper he ever wrote jokes on.

Takeaway: Paper is an invaluable way to take personal notes, but make sure to keep them!

Hiring Process Paperwork

What’s the deal with hiring processes? Many organizations will print out copies of applicant resumes and CV’s to pass around for hiring committees to take notes on. These notes may later get consolidated onto a giant HR spreadsheet used to capture rationales for why Applicant X was or wasn’t advanced along in the candidacy process.

And guess what? Such information ought to be kept, just in case an applicant decides to complain if they weren’t selected. This goes for notes taken during actual candidate interviews, too. Interviewing is hard enough for the person getting grilled, but trying to give answers while an interviewer is typing notes on a laptop is just too much. Do them a favor. Use paper.

Takeaway: Keep everything in case you get sued!

Brainstorming Session Jams

How about those big brainstorming marathons where new ideas are being tossed around like confetti at a wedding? These types of freewheeling sessions are often done best with pen and paper (much of which gets wadded up to rebound off the recycle bin).

If your team likes to use whiteboards, snap a photo before the board is erased. Get someone to type up those million dollar concepts that were hastily scribbled in marker. If it makes sense to print them for distribution to the team later, do it!

Takeaway: Paper is the quickest, most convenient way to capture brilliant ideas.


A lot of workers use MS Outlook’s built-in calendar or Google calendar or just an app on their smartphone to keep track of appointments. But many workers track time better with a portable book calendar or keep one of those giant wall calendars for in-your-face management.

The thing is, those are all records you might want to keep. Many people will refer back to their calendars to see what date a meeting or appointment took place. Even those big wall calendars get folded down and filed away as the months go by.

Takeaway: Keep to refer back for notes and dates.

Employee Policies and Guidance

When reading, 79% of people tend to scan text on a screen instead of truly reading it. If they absolutely must read, research shows they do so 25% slower.

In particular, document types like employee policies, guidance, and training materials should be available for offline reading. A worker who needs to sit down and really understand a certain nuance or detail might miss it if they’re skimming over a webpage. But hand them a binder with highlighted pages, and they’ll read it more thoroughly…especially if they can take it away from their desk and relax in a room with a bag of Cheetos and no distractions.

Takeaway: People read paper.

Draft Contracts

Thinking about John Wick again for a second—the entire underworld seemed to operate on a set of rules which tolerated zero compromise, didn’t it? Breaking a rule meant facing a consequence, and that usually involved something unpleasant and disgusting.

No matter where your company may be in the drafting phase of some new contract or some lengthy set of legal terms and conditions, it pays to have printed copies for all editors and reviewers to read. Rules matter, after all. Contracts are legally binding agreements.

There’s an advantage to sharing documents for multiple users to comment on, and no one can argue against the merits of Google docs for collaboration and Grammarly for suggested writing improvements. But most experienced editors will tell you, things get missed when reading a digital file that do NOT get missed on a paper one. Part of that simply boils down to eye strain from reading while staring into a giant rectangle of white light. No matter the reason, you can’t afford to overlook a critical point.

Takeaway: If you don’t want to miss anything, print it out and read it.

Managing Paper Documents

Over time, managing files and documents—paper or electronic—gets cumbersome for businesses. It’s a physical product that takes up space (Either valuable office real estate or on a server). It also requires lots of TLC when it comes to organizing your files library style so people can find what they need later, as well as training so that everyone maintains that structure.

So, either medium—paper or electronic—is going to need an effective system of records to manage all those files.

In the world of John Wick, the Continental Hotel housing that illicit accounts payable section has one thing going for it that most industries don’t. It’s Hollywood fiction!

That army of workers solely devoted to passing around and stamping records? Most businesses don’t have anything like that, which means they have to pick and choose how to best use their employees’ time.

Offsite Records Storage lets you securely, and simply manage both hard-copy and electronic files. Because make no mistake, unlike John Wick, paper isn’t ready to retire anytime soon.