Unexpected Ways to Improve Productivity at the Retail Corporate Office

Today's retail technology managers are responsible for bottom-line results. But they may be surprised to find that their decisions may contribute to business losses.

A recent survey conducted for Brother International Corporation by Clarus Research Group shows that poor allocation of centralized business devices can drain corporate profits. Compared with offices that have a greater number of shared printers, employees at offices with centralized copier/printers spend, on average, an additional three minutes each day on printing. Over the course of a year, this could mean an extra 13 hours spent at the printer. For an office of 500 employees, this could translate to 6,500 wasted hours - and it's happening right under their noses.

Centralized devices lead to distractions
Workers can get distracted at multiple points when retrieving paperwork from a distant printer. Some of the most common productivity killers include long walks and multiple side conversations that occur on the way there and back.

Managers have long-believed that water coolers were the hub for social conversations that sap valuable work hours. However, the survey shows that 61 percent of employees have conversations at the copier/printer and that they are four times more likely to always engage in conversations compared with just 31 percent who have conversations at the water cooler.

In addition, the survey indicated that those who engage in non-work conversations at the printer are 98 percent more likely to stop at colleagues' desks to chat about personal topics, but only 28 percent are more likely to discuss work-related matters. And these employees are 42 percent more likely to get intercepted by those also interested in chatting. Many technology managers would likely have reconsidered their plans to use centralized printers if they knew this information before deploying the units.

There are a number of other downsides to this strategy as well. Centralized printers also have an impact on printing behaviors. The survey reveals that organizations with centralized copier/printers are more likely to minimize printing because a long walk to the device is inconvenient. They are also more likely to forget to pick up documents after sending them - then attempt to attend meetings unprepared, without hard copies of documents.

The solution: IT to the rescue
The good news is that retail technology managers can remediate many of these problems and help put an end to the waste. Most managers are tasked with improving efficiency and cutting costs through technology solutions. In many cases, this is an easy fix that will help the bottom line and earn favor across the C-suite.

Armed with this knowledge about printer deployment-related waste, there are a number of ways that retail technology managers can make significant improvements. Identifying the challenges and allocating the right print devices in closer proximity to workers can produce measurable results. The survey shows that employees with printers located in their own departments were far less likely to lose productivity. They were 36 percent more likely to engage in mostly work-related conversations while waiting for a print job to finish, versus those who also have printers outside their department.

In some cases, retail technology managers resist change based on potential push-back from business users. However, in this case workers have indicated that they need better printer allocation and the accompanying productivity results. More than half of all employees surveyed want their company to replace centralized copier/printers with more efficient devices for more user-friendly printing. And nearly half of those with centralized printing, prefer a shorter distance between their desk and the copier/printer/scanner. Those with centralized printers were also more dissatisfied with the reliability and efficiency of their devices were more likely to feel that their company printers do not work well and take too long to finish printing jobs.

It's time for retail technology managers to consider these potential business losses. Everyone from the CEO to the business user is looking to the technology leaders to make these improvements. The good news is that balanced printer deployment is an easy fix. The business may benefit from cost savings and efficiencies, the technology manager can become a hero and workers can become more productive. It's a win-win-win scenario.

Dan Waldinger is the director, services and solutions marketing, Brother International Corporation. With more than 25 years of industry experience, Waldinger leads the Brother SMB initiative, Don't Supersize. Optimize. Under his leadership, Brother provides resources, self-assessment tools and solutions for SMBs to help reduce document-related costs and increase efficiencies.

^Research Methodology
Research conducted by independent research company Clarus Research Group (http://qorvis.com/clarusresearch-group) between September 5th and 11th 2014. Sample size is N=1,000, aged 18 – 64, working full time in an office, more than 10 people in the office, using shared printers. In some instances, results have been rounded to the nearest tenth of a percentage point.

*Market size based on “Statistics about Business Size from the U.S. Census Bureau,” dated 2008

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