Break The Addiction: Why We Print So Much and How to Print Less at Work

What is it that makes us strike ctrl+P time after time, even when we know it increases costs and decreases sustainability within the office? There are actually many reasons—from bad habits to physical discomfort—that make us waste more paper, ink, toner, and time than we should.

Let’s take a look at the most common reasons we overprint. After all, just knowing what prompts us to print too much at the office can help us stop our own bad print habits. Once we boost paper reduction ourselves, it’ll also be easier to encourage our team members to do the same. 

1. Our Eyes Get Tired

Does this routine sound familiar?

  1. Wake up. Scroll through news stories, emails, and social media on your phone over your morning coffee.
  2. Go to work. Spend eight hours staring at your computer screen.
  3. Come home. Unwind in front of Netflix or a video game.

That’s tons of screen time. It’s something most people get too much of these days—and it can literally hurt! To combat eyestrain and those related headaches, we need to give our eyes a break. This leads us to print out our work on paper vs. viewing it directly from a screen.

Simply put, our eyes aren’t meant to stare at screens all day. The contrast of the screen, the subtle flicker and glare make your eyes feel tired. They truly do prefer looking at paper instead of the unnatural light stemming from your computer, phone, or TV.  

We can’t argue with tired eyes. Nor with WebMD. But we can offer a couple suggestions.

For one, we’re huge fans of f.lux, a software that adjusts the hue of light produced by your computer monitor based on the time of day and the type of lighting you’re in.

This automatic, gradual change helps to ease eye strain—and it just might help you resist the urge to print. If your peepers can’t take it any more and you must print, you can still keep costs down by remembering to print in black and white and double sided.

Other ways to break a screen addiction:

  • Adjust the light coming from your monitor
  • Take ten minute screen breaks every hour
  • Put the phone down more often

2. We Focus Better on Paper

In a survey of college students, Naomi S. Baron, an American University linguist who studies digital communication, found that 90% of students are likely to multi-task when reading online, but only 1% of those students are likely to multi-task if reading a hard copy.

Even the less digital savvy can understand these staggering results: It’s easier to get pulled into watching a cat video if you’re editing a document online than if you’re pouring over a print out on your desk.

In addition to being distracted while trying to complete an on-screen task, we’re also less likely to comprehend what we’re reading even if we’re focused on it.
Because we’re so used to skimming and scanning online information, it’s easy for us to translate this superficial reading habit to more in-depth on-screen reading when scanning can lead to missing crucial information.


If distractions seem to always get the better of you, before you print, give these distraction-eliminating online tools a try. These tools allow you to block the sites that distract you the most (maybe Facebook? Or Reddit?), for a specific period of time, giving you a distraction-free window of time to get stuff done, including saving your organization money. 

Other ways to break a screen addiction:

  • Limit online distractions
  • Save social media for after-work
  • Close all unneeded browser screens

3. We are Creatures of Habit

Old habits die hard.

If you’ve been printing notes before meetings throughout your entire career, switching to digital notes is going to take some time. Part of the trouble of breaking the habit of printing is lack of knowledge of alternatives.

Let’s take contract signing for example: Your employees may not know about e-signature tools like HelloSign and instead opt to print, sign, scan, and email or fax a document after signing it out of habit. Or check out document automation tools like Laserfiche which can help your team go paperless.

There are also fantastic software options like PaperCut which encourages employees to print smarter with pop-up suggestions. After all, very few people over-print maliciously—sometimes a pop-up reminder is all we need to nudge us into better printing habits. These pop-ups can include reminders to print in black and white instead of color and to print two-sided. You can even set them up to even show the cost of the print job an employee is sending to a printer.

Many employees don’t have visibility into just how much printing costs their organization. Showing employees the costs of their print jobs can lead to more mindful printing and lower costs. If Karen from accounting sees that printing her presentation in slide view for the whole team is going to cost $42, she might think twice.

Other ways to break a paper addiction:

  • Set print rules
  • Try new paperless tools
  • Start slow—one new habit at a time is less overwhelming

Ready to have a reduce you paper-use and integrate healthier habits into your office space? We’d love to help! Contact the imageOne team today by setting up a free, 15-minute consultation. Together, we’ll make your print workflow better than ever.

What is it that makes us strike ctrl+P time after time, even when we know it increases costs and decreases sustainability within the office? Connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn and keep up with my company imageOne. Check out my website or some of my other work here.