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November 15, 2013

No Printer at Home but Plenty of Printing at the Office

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

While the paperless office brings many benefits, for most offices the dream is still far off in the distance.

A recent survey conducted by OKI (News - Alert) found that 92 percent of workers still print daily, with almost half of these users printing more than 10 pages per day. A strikingly high number, 15 percent, go so far as to print more than 50 pages on the average day.

Clearly, the paperless office has not yet arrived.

One reason for this is that home printing is actually on the decline, with many workers now going without any sort of printer at home. Ink is costly and there is less to print, the thinking goes, so instead of maintaining a home printer many workers are cutting down on home printing and instead printing their documents at the office. I admit that I, too, am one of those people.

About 24 percent of workers currently bring a tablet or smartphone into work with them, part of the bring-your-own-device trend that’s sweeping the office world. OKI found that 45 percent of these BYOD users are printing at the office from these devices, and it is a pretty safe bet that not everything printed comes from their work account on their BYOD device.

“While no one would suggest that organizations suddenly become heavy-handed about employees printing when they need to, it's frustrating to witness the lack of any document management strategy,” noted a recent article on IT Pro Portal.

The blog suggests that a big part of the problem is measurement—nobody is enforcing proper printer use at the office.

This theory is reinforced by the OKI study, which also found that only 27 percent of respondents said their employer had a printing policy that was being actively enforced. Nearly half said there was no such policy at all.

“Measures can begin simply – for example, ensuring that for everyday work, double-sided printing is the default option,” noted the blog from IT Pro Portal, and “energy can be saved by turning printers off at night.”

The blog also suggests another useful technique:

“For more dramatic results, diverse and ageing printers can be replaced with new multi-functional devices that use less energy and enable paper-free document flow, such as scan or fax to email,” noted the post. “This not only cuts down printing but prevents the possibility of sensitive and confidential documents left lying around.”

This is really the ultimate solution. With digital devices having become so ubiquitous, the only thing keeping workers from a paperless office is inertia and habit. Smart businesses would be wise to follow the exact same model as their workers: When printers and fax machines stop working, don’t replace them. Instead, move to a digital workflow at that time.

There’s a lot of waste from personal use of printers and fax machines at the office, more so now that workers have begun to ditch their own printers at home.

Businesses need to go all digital, too, or they will soon find that people are indeed still printing.

Edited by Blaise McNamee

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