How office printing will continue to evolve with hybrid work
In this article
- Impact on organizations
- Impact on knowledge workers
2020 was a turning point in how people work, and businesses operate. Organizations had to switch to a work-from-home model almost overnight. As a result, hybrid work has become a new reality, and many professionals now work remotely (entirely or part-time). Remote work has sparked many notable changes for printing in the workplace, and printing is a fundamental business need. In a survey conducted by the Adobe Print Team, we found that around 30 percent of surveyed organizations increased their print budgets post-pandemic. In this article, we explore some of the changes impacting office printing — from the lens of an organization and a knowledge worker.
Impact on organizations
The pandemic led to a reality wherein employees were scattered at their remote locations using their private networks while the printers remained at the office premises. Employees set up their home offices in an ad-hoc manner, and many organizations had to allow their workers to purchase printers (and they reimbursed the cost). Some organizations even shipped printers to their employees to print at home. As home printers are primarily A4, we expect organizations to increase their focus on A4 printers as printing gets distributed while offices continue to use A3 printers. Organizations will also have to bear the cost of ink/toner/consumables and other services, and we expect them to look for ways to minimize this cost.
As organizations bear the cost of printers and supplies, they also want to minimize non-work-related printing. As printing is now happening on a home network or via multiple networks like mobile, cloud, etc., it is more vulnerable to attacks. We expect that security and print management will be a big concern for enterprises, and they will look for solutions that enable them to provide secure printing and monitor the usage of the printer device.
Many business processes require a higher level of print quality than the standard home printers can deliver. We expect organizations to prefer more capable, higher-end A4 printers when they enable their employees to print from home. Organizations will also look for workflows that help their employees achieve better output quality from existing printers.
As employees are now situated remotely and on a different network than the printers in an organization, there is a business need for network-agnostic printing, which removes the dependency of having the user and printer devices on the same network. Also, employees are not just working from desktops — they are increasingly using mobile and tablets and occasionally printing from them. Therefore, there is a need to support multiple devices across multiple networks, which is achievable with Cloud printing today. Per our survey, 69 percent of enterprises already provide cloud printing workflows to their employees. More and more organizations will look toward implementing cloud printing solutions for their workforce.
Impact on knowledge workers
Let us now look at the impact from the point of view of a knowledge worker. With increased work currently being done from home, people who did not have a home printer earlier feel the need to acquire one. As more professionals start having printers at home, they would need to be their own IT Support, for example, setting up printers, installing drivers, changing cartridges, etc. One can only expect some professionals to be tech-savvy — hence printer manufacturers will have to focus more on making their devices and interfaces easy to set up, use, and troubleshoot.
Those with printers at home used them for occasional, ad-hoc printing tasks like photos, children's homework, etc. Now they send work-related print jobs regularly to the home printers, leading to more printed pages. This increased workload creates a demand for home printers with higher duty cycles.
As professionals print longer documents at home, there will be an increased need for printers that support duplex printing, as users would want to print on both sides of the paper to reduce volume. Per our survey, about 35 percent of users consider duplex printing a top feature while purchasing a printer for work use at home.
We have seen an increase in the number of professionals using coworking spaces to work remotely. Professionals would want seamless printer connectivity without the hassle of installing drivers. We expect increased driverless and cloud printing adoption to enable such scenarios.
Those professionals who do not own a printer nor have access to a coworking space may want to walk into a print shop/kiosk or order their prints online. Sharing work-related documents externally with these third parties poses additional security risks. We expect a rise in demand for secure print kiosk solutions and print delivery services to cater to this need.
The new normal of hybrid and remote work has brought significant changes to office printing and accelerated our transition into the future. There are new opportunities for print device manufacturers, solution providers, and enterprises to make the most of these changes.
PDF as a Page Description Language (PDL) can address some of these opportunities and new requirements. PDF as a PDL brings higher quality and efficiency to the printing process as it can embed all content and definitions within the PRINT file while keeping its size low, enabling quick transfer over networks. A PDF allows for additional workflows for quality enhancement and document security, which enterprises today require. All driverless print paths and Cloud-based print solutions today prefer PDF printing. As we look at this pivotal junction for office printing today, Adobe will continue to make PDF printing technologies better, faster, and future-ready. To learn more about how PDF is addressing the changing document processing requirements of a growing hybrid workforce, download our IDC Analyst Connection Whitepaper here.