Don’t print so close to me
As lockdown measures are gradually relaxed and employees return to the office, will social distancing in the workplace signal a change in office printing behaviour?
The changing face of the office
Companies worldwide have been forced to embrace remote working. As office workers adapted to a new normal, Quocirca’s latest snapshot Home Printing Study found 75% of UK home workers stated that their productivity levels stayed the same or increased, with just under half reporting increased productivity.
As lockdown restrictions begin to be lifted, the conversation is shifting toward what the future office will look like, or indeed if staff need to return to offices at all. The demise of the traditional corporate office has been mooted by a number of organisations – Twitter, for example, announced a ‘work from home forever’ option and Facebook expects half of its employees to work remotely over the next five to ten years.
On the one hand, the demise of the traditional office could deliver much needed cost cutting measures and in turn, help companies combat some of the effects of the global recession, but on the other hand, is working from home full-time really what office workers want?
A permanent transition to a hybrid work model is likely, with organisations staggering the days employees are in the office or offering more flexible levels of attendance. Consequently, many large offices will be operating below capacity. After Barclays reported a fall in first quarter profits, CEO Jes Staley said: “The notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past.”
A dramatically changing workplace
Quocirca’s November 2019 Global Print 2025 Study shows the pandemic has accelerated what the research indicated would have been an inevitable transformation in workplaces by 2025. 42% of respondents said that they expected the physical office would only be used as an occasional meeting point by 2025, while 65% stated that flexible working would force a rethink of company culture.
The study also found that businesses were already recognising the value of collaborative technologies, with almost 60% reporting that it was likely that face-to-face meetings and interactions would decline.
Keep your distance
For print suppliers, the transition to a hybrid working environment, with a greater proportion of home workers, offers both challenges and opportunities.
Businesses will have to make substantial changes in the workplace to ensure the health and safety of their employees. Commercial real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield has developed a six-feet office concept to help its clients prepare for their employees to return to the office. Indeed, as workers start to return to the office, they will be faced with social distancing and changes to communal and breakout spaces. To limit the spread of infection, the latest UK Government guidance recommends limiting or restricting use of high-touch items and shared equipment such as printers.
There are several considerations when it comes to revaluating office printing. Will the MFP, once the central hub of the office, be behind closed doors? How can printer suppliers change to enable touch-free printing? Can vendors ensure cloud-based print management platforms, mobile printing or workflow-enhancing apps are as low touch as possible? Or, should print suppliers be conducting fresh audits, looking at whether a shift back to a distributed, as opposed to centralised, model is required and consider if personal printers are the future, at least in part?
In this new normal, print vendors and their partners will need to steer their businesses forward by adjusting their products and services to address the changing printing and imaging needs of customers and the health guidelines imposed on them by governments.
The one certainty in all of this is that no one can predict how long social distancing will have to be enforced. It is probable that many of the measures that will be implemented in the coming days and weeks to minimise or even eradicate the use of shared devices such as printers may not be temporary. There may be a second wave of Covid-19 and almost certainly future epidemics to deal with. The days of chatting around the water cooler or catching up with gossip next to the communal MFP may well be a thing of the past.
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