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Epson State of the Market Survey Reveals That Flexible and Hybrid Work Environments Pose New Challenges

A new global business survey commissioned by Epson shows that more than 90% of IT decision-makers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have seen an increase in print costs during the past 12-18 months during the hybrid working environment, with more than half of all UAE-based respondents (57%) reporting an increase in print volumes.  During this same period, 61% of respondents were challenged by balancing business continuity with sustainability goals.

The Epson State of the Market Survey was conducted by independent research firm Coleman Parkes and the UAE results are part of a wider survey of 3,000 IT decision-makers from across 30 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Among other things, the survey explored the significant challenges companies encounter in moving between onsite, remote and hybrid working systems as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The results from the UAE highlight the complexities companies face is aiming to meet sustainability goals, contain rising costs and control printer servicing and use by employees and indicate a widespread lack of awareness of the ecological and financial implications of the different printing systems available. Keeping control of printer hardware during remote working was cited as a key pressure by 66% of respondents, with almost three-quarters (72%) admitting that IT is losing control of the print fleet.

Almost half of the respondents (48%) found it challenging to focus on sustainable printing policies in the last 12-18 months due to hybrid working environments.  The hybrid working experience has led to a majority (61%) now claiming they will make significant changes to how print should be managed in the future, and 59% highlighting the need to focus on more sustainable printing solutions going forward.

Regaining this control will be a major step toward redressing both cost and sustainability issues. When asked, 89% said that management and control of the printer fleet is a specific part of their environmental and sustainability policy, so seeking further clarity on sustainable printing solutions could be a quick way to address this challenge. Epson’s Heat-Free technology – available in models suitable for both the small or home office and the large corporate environment — has been proven to reduce energy use and COemissions by up to 83% compared to laser printers.

A major tension revealed by respondents was the difficulty in prioritising sustainability concerns alongside managing new challenges caused by the sudden transition to hybrid working environments. While 83% claim they’re now seeing a focus on sustainability considerations when looking to invest in printers, the majority (72%) of participants are unaware that inkjet technology offers a greater sustainable advantage than laser, and although 66% acknowledge that CO2 emission savings could be made by changing the type of printers in use, just 36% are considering heat-free solutions.

Hussam Alzughayyar, Sales Manager Epson Middle East, commented, “IT leaders in a number of the Emirates’ fastest-growing sectors, including education, healthcare, and retail, have faced unprecedented pressure in adapting IT and printing needs to meet a new world of work during the pandemic period and beyond. Survey results demonstrate that printing will remain a vital aspect of business in the UAE and as a result, Epson will collaborate with its partners to optimise current print resources while investing in new technologies that support productivity and efficiency targets.”

He further added, “Organisations across the UAE are keen to adopt more sustainability measures, and closing the gap in understanding around heat-free business inkjets can help address this and other challenges identified — whether it’s saving time and money, using less energy and emitting less CO2, requiring less intervention, or using fewer consumables than lasers.”

Indicating the overall health of the country’s print sector, a significant majority (68%) said that printing and print technology would become more important to their organisation post-pandemic. Changes in printing due to the pandemic and the impact of hybrid working:

  • Escalating costs: The vast majority of organisations surveyed in the UAE (96%) saw an increase in their print costs over the past 12 – 18 months, with an average increase of 16%.
  • Loss of control due to home printing: The main concerns around home printing include security, being accountable for assets outside the office environment and receiving maintenance requests for products bought individually by employees.
  • The emergence of hybrid habits: Printing behaviour itself is also changing. There is an increased focus on only printing important documents and printers being under great stress at key times when stored printing was executed as people came into the offices. Almost half (49%) believe they will move to more centralised banks of printers in the next two years as a result, while almost three-quarters (70%) of organisations are already running a centralised group of printers within the normal office/work environment. Forecasted workplace patterns vary; just over a third (36%) of respondents report that employees will be brought back into the workplace incrementally, and 40% report that employees will all be working in the office when safe to do so.
  • The increasing importance of print, with demand for speed and reliability: A majority of respondents (68%) believe print and print technology will become more important to their organisation over the next 12 months. Following the pandemic, more than half (53%) of survey participants report continuing to need greater reliability of printers, 60% believe that printing will remain important with regards to managing critical data, and 47% state they will need faster print speeds to meet demand.
  • Sustainability goals at risk: A majority of respondents (86%) believe environmental and social impact considerations will become more important to their organisations in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic but more than half (60%) admitted sustainability has taken a back seat during the past 12-18 months. While 63% of respondents expect to see a drive to more sustainable printing as a result of hybrid working, more than half (66%) believe that the proliferation of new printers to support home working means that they will not hit their sustainability goals.
  • Energy usage is a key challenge: Although 90% of UAE organisations surveyed monitor their printer fleet’s energy consumption, only 62% have a clear view. There is, however, a strong desire to improve understanding of savings that could be made by changing the way the print fleet is managed (71%) and by changing the types of printers in use (66%).
  • Widespread misperceptions: While the survey exposed an education gap on the range of business benefits delivered by inkjet printers, respondents did identify them as easier to maintain, providing a better quality of the print, and being cheaper to run.
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Chris Fernando

Chris N. Fernando is an experienced media professional with over two decades of journalistic experience. He is the Editor of Arabian Reseller magazine, the authoritative guide to the regional IT industry. Follow him on Twitter (@chris508) and Instagram (@chris2508).

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