person printing on the floor
People still have the need and desire to print — even millennials. PHOTO: jan mesaros

The evolution of the digital workplace is creating new challenges and generating new questions about optimizing employee productivity.

The office has transitioned from rigid and fixed to remote, flexible and adaptable thanks to a steady flow of new digital technologies. But not all traditional efficiencies should be ignored in the process.

Strategies like telecommuting, office hopping and BYOD have taken off because employers want to ensure their people are as productive as possible — a goal driven by mobility and autonomy.

But here's the thing: People are most productive when their preferred tools move with them. And while mobile devices enable them to work and stay connected almost anywhere, printing documents is more of a challenge.

Even in our screen-heavy, digital-everything world, studies show people still have the need and desire to print — even millennials.

When IDC asked respondents how often they print documents in an office environment, 65 percent of respondents of all ages said "very frequently," which was defined as every day or three to four times a week.

The study also found millennials are twice as likely to print jobs that run from six to 15 pages, compared with respondents 36 and older, who typically print three to five pages.

Not Paperless Yet

While the dream of the paperless office still persists, it's far from a reality.

The solution is mobile printing: This will allow employees to be more productive and make workflows frictionless, giving them new ways to accomplish tasks. 

According to consecutive InfoTrends studies in the US and Europe in 2014 and 2015, respectively, most business users want the ability to print from their mobile devices.

But InfoTrends identified several barriers that currently inhibit this potential from being reached, including “knowing where to find an accessible printer” and “technical connectivity problems to the printer."

Mobile Printing: Enabling Productivity

So why bother to print?

As much as electronic devices and paperless workflows improve automation and reduce the need for paper, there are still reasons for physical documents.

Printed documents have grab-and-go functionality that isn’t possible with a document living in a cloud. They can also be easier to read than a document on a small screen.

But if you’re an employee who doesn’t use a PC connected to a network printer, printing becomes a cumbersome.

The ability to print from mobile devices makes the BYOD culture more productive; all an employee needs to do to print is hit a few buttons from whatever device he or she is working on, from wherever he or she is, and the paper comes out of the connected office printer instantly.

And if Tim Cook proves correct and the PC does in fact disappear, all employees will need mobile print capabilities across all their devices in order to be able to print anything at all.

Even remote employees can print remotely (as long as they are on a device connected to the office’s VPN or server) and know that the document is being printed at a designated office location for a coworker’s review.

Empowering the Workplace

The modern office exists in a digital world full of tools meant to solve problems, create efficiencies, and foster communication and productivity.

Workplaces are allowing employees to go mobile with their work or use their own devices to help boost output, but sometimes these well-intended actions have negative consequences.

It can be challenging and frustrating for employees when they try to go mobile and/or use their preferred device, but don’t have the same capabilities they would if they were chained to their work PC in a cubicle and that includes printing.

Mobile printing can help provide standardization across the sea of devices used in today’s workplaces and give employees the capabilities they expect to have in an office, no matter how unconventional the setup or where people do their work.