- Roughly 75% of printing companies were already making technological enhancements that would help support a remote workflow prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Pandemics, protests, and the effects of a recession have all gripped the United States, ratcheting up tension, depression, and anxiety. The sudden and forced shift to a remote workflow also caught employees by as much surprise as it did executives and owners.
- Over three quarters of employees (76%) stated they would likely stay with their current employer if flexible, remote work options were allowed.
By Colin McMahon
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a lot of changes, and some of these changes are looking more permanent with each passing week. Remote workflow, long a subject of speculation and debate in the United States, is increasingly solidifying into business as usual. Workers are getting used to reporting to home offices and, in many industries, managers are developing effective techniques to ensure productivity remains high, despite having limited in-office hours.
Although essential workers will always be required on-site, it will be up to executives and decision-makers within print organizations to determine who must physically report to work. Once that is accomplished, a remote workforce can be maintained, uplifted, and continually refocused. This article highlights several of the technologies and strategies that businesses must consider as they shift toward the new normal and a greater remote workforce.
The Value of IoT and Automation
Before organizations can even think about employees and workflow, they must first ensure they have the right technologies for the job, and that these software and hardware solutions have been implemented properly. According to data from a 2018 Census that Keypoint Intelligence conducted in conjunction with FESPA, many print organizations were already prioritizing training employees on solutions that would help enable remote workflows a couple of years ago. These solutions included cloud services and design/creation tools, interactive customer collaboration tools, e-commerce portals, and digital asset management platforms. Only 24% of printing companies had not made any of these investments, suggesting that over three-quarters were already working toward facilitating a remote workflow prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Recent Internal Investments
N = 1,399 Respondents
Source: 2018 Print Census, Keypoint Intelligence & FESPA
At the same time, however, training is only one part of the equation. Print providers that are hoping to be successful in this transition must also invest in software and hardware solutions. Specifically, these investments must be targeted toward Internet-connected devices and cloud-based software solutions. More importantly, the usability of these solutions is key. In-person training can be expensive and risky, particularly during a pandemic. Savvy print providers should evaluate a solution’s intuitiveness and ease of use prior to making a purchase, because doing so can make a big difference with training and program integration.
All of this is necessary to improve the effectiveness of automation—something that is already impacting the print space but will only be accelerated by COVID-19. Before companies can successfully reduce the number of employees needed on site, they must ensure that they have the right technologies to execute their normal work procedures, monitor workflows, detect machine errors, and identify and correct problem spots from a distance.
Changing the Workplace Culture
Even with the most technologically optimized facility on the planet, a print provider might still not make its financial and operational objectives. The human component must also be considered in the transition to a remote workflow, and this is largely the most important factor of all. In addition to being a year of unexpected events, 2020 has also been a time of unprecedented stress. Pandemics, protests, and the effects of a recession have all gripped the United States, ratcheting up tension, depression, and anxiety. The sudden and forced shift to a remote workflow also caught employees by as much surprise as it did executives and owners.
A few things have hampered the shift to a remote workforce, including the belief that a company can’t have a culture without a physical office location that helps cultivate one. Although this belief is not necessarily true, camaraderie requires effort in both settings. With a remote workforce, there are no “watercooler conversations” where employees can vent and swap life stories. There are no impromptu office visits to discuss ideas or lay out plans. Without a virtual replacement for these in-person interactions, morale may suffer—and some would argue that virtual conversations, no matter how well-constructed, are simply no substitute for face-to-face encounters.
Print companies need to prioritize the happiness of their employees. In addition to being the decent thing to do, keeping employees happy and engaged can help foster productivity. There are some falsehoods and pitfalls associated with remote working, and organizations must overcome them to ensure that their remote employees remain engaged and operating at full capacity.
Flexibility is King
There may be another compelling reason to embrace remote working policies. According to data compiled by SmallBizGenius, businesses that allow remote work had a 25% lower employee turnover rate than those that did not. This same research also showed that over-three quarters of employees (76%) would be more likely to stay with their current employer if flexible, remote work options were supported. It should also be noted e research also showed that over three quarters (76%) of employees stated they would opt to stay with their current employer if flexible, remote work options were allowed. Furthermore, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the overall rate of remote workers has increased steadily. In fact, the size of the remote workforce has grown by over 100% since 2005.
All of these statistics combine to suggest that remote workforces were already becoming more common even before this tumultuous year. If print companies want to attract and retain the best of the best employees, they must be forward-thinking. Today’s workers value flexibility and the ability to work from home, so it’s important to consider how a productive day in the office can translate to a remote setting.
The Bottom Line
COVID-19 has sparked many changes, and some of these might prove to be irreversible even after the pandemic ends. The shift toward more remote and flexible operations has accelerated, and many employees will continue to expect these accommodations even after the pandemic subsides. Today’s printing companies must be nimble and willing to accommodate the standards of a modern workplace, and Keypoint Intelligence can assist in this regard. Our first online panel about this topic addressed the challenges of remote productivity in detail and discussed how to optimize employee effectiveness and happiness during the pandemic. If you’d like to learn more, we invite you to watch our presentation in full.
To ensure that we cover all aspects of the equation, Keypoint Intelligence’s next online panel will explore the value of automation and how print companies can ensure they are equipped to move forward in the future. In today’s changing world, the businesses with the best adaptation strategies will likely experience the most success. Printing companies that meet the challenges of COVID-19 today can position themselves as leaders in the future.
Colin McMahon is a Research Analyst at Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends. He primarily supports the Business Development Strategies and Customer Communications services. In this role, he creates and refines much of InfoTrends’ written content, including forecasts, industry analysis, and research/multi-client studies. He also assists with the editing and formatting processes for many types of deliverables.