Arrival of paperless office may have been accelerated by lockdowns

paperless officeOne of the least talked about potential casualties of the recent lockdowns is the printed page. In a sign that the arrival of the paperless office may have been accelerated, total worldwide page volumes printed from office and home devices plummeted nearly 14 percent year in 2020 after several years of stable but slow decline. According to the research from International Data Corporation (IDC), 2.8 trillion pages were printed in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic and the dramatic shift from offices to work from home models are behind the sharp decline, even for those who can manage to get a printer to work in the first place.

The shift in work environments also produced different dynamics for pages printed on laser versus inkjet devices. Laser MFPs and printers are mostly located in the office environment. Due to the impact of lockdowns and the shift to working from home offices, laser pages declined sharply, down 16 percent year over year in 2020. This decline was even more pronounced for A3 devices. In contrast, pages printed on inkjet devices increased 4 percent over 2019. Inkjet devices at home that were mostly used for personal printing prior to the pandemic were quickly brought into use for work and school-related printing.

According to IDC’s 2021 end-user survey, about half the pages printed by office workers working from home during the pandemic were work-related documents. IDC conducted a large global survey (n=4,700) with full-time employees whose work location was impacted by COVID-19. This survey was designed specifically around the impact of COVID-19 on page volumes in the work from home segment.

IDC expects worldwide page volumes to rebound 2 percent year over year in 2021 but will not reach pre-pandemic levels. From 2022 onward, page volumes will return to a declining trend, falling faster than prior to COVID-19. While many workers are expected to return to the workplace full time, a greater percentage are expected to work from home either full time or part time than before the pandemic.

“Pages printed at home will not offset declines in offices as organizations and governments continue to pursue paperless initiatives and digital transformation agendas,” said Ilona Stankeova, senior research director, Imaging Devices & Document Solutions, IDC Europe. “In 2025, there will be around 2.3 trillion pages printed. Despite the decline this amount still represents about 4.4 million pages being printed globally every minute covering the area of 39 football fields every minute.”

In addition to a baseline forecast, IDC provides forecasts based on optimistic and pessimistic scenarios. In the optimistic scenario, the five-year CAGR for worldwide page volume will be -1.9 percent. In the pessimistic scenario, the worldwide page volume CAGR will be -5.1 percent.

Image by jan mesaros