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The future of print in the hybrid digital workplace

New research from Quocirca revealed IT decision-makers (ITDMs) predict office print volumes will bounce back, but recovery may be short-lived as the transition to a hybrid workplace gathers pace

Cloud deployment, data security and the urgent re-evaluation of print deployments are all high priorities for IT decision-makers as they work to implement a secure, converged hybrid environment to support remote workers following the COVID-19 pandemic.


Quocirca conducted a snapshot survey amongst 303 ITDMs from organisations with more than 500 employees in the US and UK in July 2020 to explore the measures they are putting in place to support employee printing needs. The results indicate that the transition to support long-term remote and/or hybrid working is well under way and organisations are investing in infrastructure to maintain productivity and print security for a distributed workforce.

Key findings include:

*Almost half (48 per cent) of employees are expected to remain working remotely post-pandemic, a rise from the 39 per cent that worked remotely before the crisis.

*71 per cent expect print volumes to remain the same or increase (rising to 75 per cent among US-based respondents).

*83 per cent of ITDMs say their organisation’s IT department is somewhat or very concerned about the security of employees printing sensitive documents at home.

*46 per cent have revised their BYOD device policy to account for home printers and a further 37 per cent plan to do so.

*Digital rights management (DRM) implementations are in place or planned for 88 per cent of US and 82 per cent of UK organisations.

*49 per cent have already deployed cloud-based print management with a further 36 per cent expecting to do so.

Commenting on the results, Quocirca Director Louella Fernandes, said:

“The acceleration of remote working precipitated by COVID-19 is seeing ITDMs move greater print flexibility and support for remote worker productivity up their agenda. As a result, many organisations have already implemented digital signatures and alternatives to hard copy workflows, as well as cloud print management. “Concerns about remote print security remain, with implementation of digital rights management already in place or planned for most organisations as they aim to control what can be printed from an application level.”

Print recovery may be temporary
While print volumes plummeted during the lockdown phase of the crisis, ITDMs largely expect volumes to return to the same levels, or even increase, as offices re-open. The US is most positive, with 75 per cent of respondents stating they are expecting the same or increased volumes.

However, the factors driving increased printing appear to be short-term, with ITDMs citing the need to catch up on work or print revised safety manuals to reflect pandemic changes as immediate drivers. Over the longer-term, increased familiarity with digital alternatives could see volumes dropping again.

Priorities differ
The research revealed different priorities in the US and UK. Overall, US ITDMs were more advanced in their approach, with higher percentages having already implemented measures across all areas. While implementing e-signatures and digitisation are the top priorities for both countries, ITDMs in the UK were more focused on changing the layout of their print fleet – this was the third most commonly selected action, while it ranked eleventh for US respondents. In contrast, US organisations were more in favour of issuing approved printers to remote workers, giving this third highest priority compared with tenth in the UK.

Overall, US organisations are more focused on supporting workers in their homes, with 58 per cent having enabled the remote submission of remote print jobs to office MFPs and 51 per cent having established processes to reimburse employees for home printing costs. US organisations were also more likely to have implemented digital rights management (DRM) compared with UK organisations.

Measures aimed directly at preventing virus spread were also in evidence, with half of US and 44 per cent of UK organisations having deployed contactless printing as a result of the pandemic.

“As print suppliers pivot to meet immediate market demand, the focus will be on supporting distributed print fleets, enabling secure remote working solutions and building them into managed print services. However, over the long-term, becoming a cloud-first business will be key to offering solutions that solve immediate problems but also deliver strategic value as the hybrid workplace continues to evolve,” Louella concluded.