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The use of print in today’s digital workplace

12th September 2016

 
The death of print has been a hot topic of discussion over recent years, particularly so in the consumer world. And was especially hot earlier on this year when the Independent titles became the first major national newspaper to become digital-only. When you look at the Independent’s numbers – online revenues seeing a 50% growth year on year, and a sharp decline in printed sales – it’s perhaps easy to see – sadly – why the Independent, as a printed publication, has now gone.
 
Clearly, the above could easily be interpreted as being the demise of printed media. However, another trend being witnessed is the rise of niche quality printed publications. What these two contrasting developments show – well what we think it shows, anyway – is that the use of print is now very much about quality over quantity.
 
Furthermore, given that the workplace tends to mirror the consumer world – primarily shown through the adoption of consumer technologies – we think that the workplace will also adopt the consumer world’s view of print:
 
Quality over quantity.
 
There are a number of reasons as to why we think the use of print in the workplace will evolve in such a way, reasons that all relate to a bigger movement:
 
 
 

‘Going paperless’

‘Going paperless’ is a journey that many leading organisations are now on. It’s deemed to be a key objective for digital workplace transformation, one which when satisfied helps businesses to benefit from:
 
Improved collaboration – It’s far easier to access, share and collaborate on a digital document.
 
Better storage – Digital documentation is more manageable, secure, and accessible.
 
Search and retrieval – The ability to find the right document at the right time, on your device of choice, is better achieved when content is digitised.
 
Cost savings – While of course, there will be substantial upfront investment when ‘going paperless’, over the long term huge savings can be made. Notably through reduced printing costs and printing maintenance, and through work being done more efficiently – translated into time savings and more effective allocation of time. Consequently bottom line savings and increased productivity can be experienced.
 
Environmental impact – Organisations improving their environmental impact, is now no longer a nice to have, but an absolute must. ‘Going Paperless’ has become a key component of being a greener and more environmentally friendly organisation.
 
Mobile first – Mobile is a huge driver for going paperless. Employees are only ever going to continue to leverage their mobile devices to access business applications and documents. Organisations that fail to take a mobile first stance, will quite simply, be those that get left behind.
 
 
 
 

Going Paperless considerations

What should be evident, is that organisations are trying to reduce the amount of paper they use – which clearly will include the amount of printed communications. However, when organisations talk of going paperless, it is important that they understand just what this entails.
 
It is simply not about banning all paper from the office. Instead, it’s about organisations making it clear that employees do not have to use paper to distribute, record or file information, but they have the option to do so if they’d like to.
 
Trying to eradicate paper completely is not realistic. Employees will always want to use paper – often for reviewing critical information, or sketching concepts.
 
Plus, when it comes to printed communications, we think these will always provide value. But, as we discussed at the very beginning of this article, they too will abide by the quality over quantity mantra – especially so for heavier printed communications such as magazines and employee handbooks.
 
 
 
 

How should print be used in the digital workplace?

In a previous blog post we looked at the best ways for communicating your companies vision with employees – you can read the post here.
 
Within the blog post we identified the best materials to use for doing so, which included a vision book and an employee magazine – we’ve actually put together another blog all about why there is still a need for a printed employee magazine, which you can read here.
 
A vision book and employee magazine are the types of communications that we think should always be made available in a printed format – as they help to bring the values of an organisation to life when placed in certain ‘stand-out’ areas within an organisation. High quality printed communications can also become keepsakes for employees, a point that along with the obvious investment made in quality printed materials, will help to further emphasise the importance placed on the values and communications.
 
Also, it’s important to remember that in the digital workplace, employees are often overloaded with digital information. And so printed communications can act as a great way to grab attention when employees are away from their computers and digital devices.
 
Therefore, just like you would use illustrations and quotes on hallway walls, printed signage, or printed postcards to engage non-desk workers, the same approach can be taken to reach desk workers in their physical environments too.
 
 
 
 

Augment print with technology

When it comes to print vs digital, there needn’t be a single victor. Print can be combined with technology, by using augmented reality.
 
Now, we’re sure you’re aware of what augmented reality is, but just in case you’re not; simply put, it is technology that enriches the real world with digital information.
 
Essentially it is a way to bring printed information to life, by adding further information that employees could interact with through the use of their smartphone.
 
We actually used augmented reality on a T shirt that we designed for an innovation campaign. It was the perfect technology to use, given the tech savvy audience that we were designing for. You can see an example of our work below.
 

 
 
 
 

3D printing

While many associate ‘printing’ with paper, when ‘printing’ is proceeded by ‘3D’ it takes on a whole new meaning. 3D Printing is set to become a mainstream technology that will invade both our home and working lives.
 
As it’s name suggests, 3D printing involves the creation of a 3D object, made by the laying down of successive layers of materials. And although the purpose of this post was to take a look at traditional forms of print in the workplace, we had to make reference to the more advanced printing technique – as 3D printing surely ensures that print will never become extinct in the workplace.
 
3D printing is set to disrupt the workplace, particularly within the manufacturing industries. Yet it will very likely be used in nearly all forms of work.
 
 
 
 

In summary

We do envisage that print – the traditional kind – will always have a place in the workplace. But print will be used as part of a multi-channel approach, and more often than not follow a quality over quantity approach – creating materials that employees will have as keepsakes.
 
Organisations should also always be looking at how to improve the performance and usability of printed communications, and augmented reality is one way in which technology can help.
 
Finally, and just to safeguard our view that print will never die, we briefly introduced 3D printing. It is after all, a form of printing, and one that will transform industries in the not so distant future.
 
 
If you need any help with your printed communication materials, then please do get in touch. It’s something we’ve been doing for the past 27 years, for some of the biggest organisations in the world.
 
Until next time…
 
Rima.
 
 

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