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Working from home is the new norm

Steve Holmes, EMEA Regional Director, PaperCut, says that whether the shift to home working as a result of the coronavirus pandemic is here for the next year or forever, employers will need to constantly evolve their workflow, tools and practices and that includes finding better ways to print

While working from home is not a new concept, the pandemic has seen it embraced on a far greater scale by a workforce keen to reduce their exposure to the virus, and also eager to enjoy the vastly improved work-life balance that comes with it.

You only need to look at the near deserted motorways, the empty underground and the non-existent weekday rush hour, to see the visual proof of the nation’s reluctance to return to the ‘old ways’ of working.

But whether this shift in work location is here for the next year or forever, it does mean that employers will need to constantly evolve their workflow, tools and practices and that includes finding better ways to print.

Tracking print from home
Most companies will have intelligent print management solutions in place to reduce print costs and print volumes, and get the valuable insights in order to make print and employees accountable; but it shouldn’t stop there. When employees are physically together in the office, there’s a collective thoughtfulness around what’s being printed. But has that carried over to the remote working location? Do employers know what’s being printed and are those prints secure?

There are sound reasons for closely monitoring printing from home and encouraging different print behaviour. The first driver is – unsurprisingly – cost. At a time when some businesses have experienced a decline in growth during the last quarter, the cost of home printing is sobering; within the industry, it is estimated that printing to a desktop device can cost up to five times more compared to an office-based A3 multifunction device, increasing the risk of print costs escalating exponentially.

The second driver is security. Back in the office-work days, print management solutions could be effectively combined with robust policies to reduce document-based data leaks; not necessarily so at home. And the expectations of GDPR haven’t gone away; now more than ever, companies need to keep a watchful eye on what is being printed and whether those prints are secure.

And with the rising growth of mobile or cloud-based solutions with security needs built in, now is a great time to help customers rethink the solutions they’re leaning on to keep them secure, saving cost, eliminating waste and honouring their environmental responsibilities too.

Control print costs and volumes for remote staff
The flexibility of options available to support simple multi-location-based print means that employers have a choice in how they design their policies and workflow. Print double-sided, eliminate email footers and encouraging grey-scale, are all great options for controlling costs.

But from a security and print volume perspective, a workflow that allows for pressing print at home and collecting in the office may be the safer way to go, especially where there’s a lot of confidential data at risk.

Once the employee is ready to collect the printed pieces from the office, a quick visit to the printer, a click on their mobile phone to release the print job, and bingo! The employer can see what’s being printed, the employee didn’t need to touch the printer, the print jobs weren’t sitting around on the printer waiting for all to see, and the IT person shouldn’t have had to tear their hair out to make it all work.

An unexpected benefit of the pandemic is that it has accelerated many businesses’ digital transformation plans, creating great opportunities for the channel. Think solutions consulting. It’s a sure thing that these events will accelerate employers’ interests and readiness to embrace easily scalable and flexible cloud-based solutions in particular and the channel will play a crucial role in consulting to address and meet the security concerns that will accompany it.

How will print need to change?
On a practical level, much of the workplace as we know it will change thanks to social distancing guidelines. We will see a greater distance put between devices and people.

Sanitation stations will pop up across the office and you’ll be wiping down your printer, the same way you used to wipe down your gym equipment.

But we should also expect employers to be seeking touch-free options for the office, so mobile release of print jobs will become a popular request, as well as print security that’s as secure as the Crown Jewels.

On a more holistic level, we anticipate that the channel will work closely with its customers to usher in this new digital era. This, combined with a change in print behaviour, will ensure that organisations enjoy a better way to keep data secure, reduce their print costs and waste, and find more flexible and touch-free ways to operate in a post-pandemic world.