Hint: Yes, but how we work with paper is forever changed.
As companies work through how to bring staff back to the office, how they work will drive many changes in policies and required infrastructure. One of the critical pieces to assess is print workflows. Our own company is planning for big changes in how our team members work together, and like you, it’s affecting how we work with paper.
Until a vaccine for COIVD19 is readily available, offices are going to have to enforce policies that protect the health and safety of their employees. That means reduced office capacity and enforced social distancing at the office. When you have to stay 2 metres apart from everyone, how work gets done will change. First, not everyone will be able to physically be in the office at the same time, and second, even if they are in the office they can’t work in close proximity.
The Three Workflow Styles and Paper Usage
Work in most offices can be divided into a few “workflows”. The first is individual administrative work - dealing with emails, organizing tasks, setting calendar appointments, etc. Next is individual focused work - the time that staff is working on individual tasks and projects to the exclusion of all other distractions, and finally there is collaborative work and meetings.
People print on paper for all 3 of these workflows today. In administrative mode - some people print out calendars or specific emails because they like to see the information they are working with on paper. Similarly, in focused work, they may print out revisions of work to see how it looks and to produce final copies of output. And in collaborative mode, they may be printing out information to share in a meeting with colleagues or customers. Even in offices with paperless policies a lot of printing still occurs.
All these print jobs generate demand in terms of paper output and printing supplies, but it also creates office traffic as users walk back and forth between their workstations and the printer. (And the breakroom for a coffee).
COVID IS Dropping Print Demand
There is currently a significant drop in print demand during the pandemic as in-person meetings are replaced by GoToMeeting Video Conferencing, and Office365 online document collaboration. Additionally, staff will be discouraged from printing superfluously either out of concern of their own health, or by enforced policies from IT as frequent trips in the office could increase the likelihood of virus spread.
Still some printing will occur and offices will need to plan for new workflows accordingly. For example, marketing professionals may still have a high need for marketing materials, direct mail, labels, etc. Finance departments may still need to print invoices for customers. These identified high output individuals may be better off getting their own specialized print devices placed closer to them to reduce the number of trips through the office.
What About After There’s A Vaccine?
The likelihood that things will go back to normal is low. A readily available vaccine is likely a year to 2 years away at this point, and while we are working in this new mode, we are training staff to be paperless. There’s a good chance that they will build collaboration habits that will not be undone when the pandemic is over.
Now Is The Best Time To Reimagine Your Print Setup
It’s probably a good idea to do an assessment of your setup, as you may be oversized for the amount of print volume you’ll be doing in the future. The good news is that there’s an opportunity to reduce some of your printing costs, and reinvest some of that into long term collaboration tools. Perhaps replacing printed materials at meeting