The Digital Workplace – Will Printing Play a Role in the Workplace of the Future?

digital workplace

Does printing belong in the digital workplace of the future? (Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash)

If you think of the digital workplace of the future, printers don’t play a role. The unanimous opinion is that digital tablets will take over the role of printed paper. But will printing really become unnecessary? We take a look at the trends impacting printing in the future.

Take a moment to think about the digital workplace of the future. Do printers spring to mind? Probably not – nearly unanimous opinion is that digital tablets will take on the role of printed paper. But will printing really become unnecessary in the future?

Printing is expensive, annoying and can easily go wrong. These are reasons enough that the workplace of the future might seem better off without it. So instead of trying to optimize printing, should IT departments bet on printing becoming extinct in the near future? It’s a valid question, especially as printing hasn’t become any easier. New end devices, more and more mobile employees and desktop virtualization present IT admins with plenty of challenges. To look back at some studies from 20 years ago that prophesized the end of printing would be too easy. Obviously, we haven’t got there, but printing is definitely in a phase of upheaval. A number of trends will significantly impact printing.


The urgent need to print something is diminishing all the time. While a PDF boarding pass was once a revolution for air travel, a barcode on a smartphone now makes it obsolete. And when was the last time you had a paper bank statement in your hands? From payrolls to insurance policies, the trend is to accelerate to the cloud – leading to a reduced demand to print. Add to the fact that governments too are striving to digitize. As a result, many paper-bound processes we are used to today will certainly disappear.

Paper – The most Underrated UX

But will printing really disappear? Or is the demand to print shifting? Or is IT taking decisions without really knowing their users? I personally believe that printing is the most underestimated user interface. The example of the boarding pass shows that people still like to print out their digital boarding pass – even though the vast majority of them have a smartphone. Why? Having something in your hand, that you can file away or take with you in “black and white”, gives you a sense of security and ownership.

Documents which are now often in the cloud like pay slips and insurance policies, are still frequently printed out at home – what’s really being saved is postage. Companies should also keep in mind that customers consider printed information to be more valuable, something which influences their purchasing decisions and price sensitivity.

It’s not that I love paper – I’m in constant fear of losing notes and I love my eBook, but I’m definitely in the minority. In recent years, sales of hardcovers have increased more than those of eBooks. And studies show over and over that printed information is absorbed and understood far better than data read on a screen. If you look at how much energy is invested in the user experience when creating websites and apps, it is astonishing how bad printing support can be. Often, the most carefully compiled texts and perfectly-styled corporate identity becomes a mess when printed to paper.

Digital Workplace = More Printing?

The demand to have something in your hands, and for better readability is one of the reasons why digitization sometimes leads to not less printing, but to more. And ever-stricter regulations regarding product labelling, means there is no end in sight for the growth of label printers.

How Companies can Prepare for Printing in the Future

One thing is clear – printing will change. Much will depend on the user. Companies need to analyze where printed information can give them a competitive edge or benefit their customers’ experience. Businesses need to take note that:

  • Printing is complex. If employees print less frequently, they are out of their routine and fail more frequently when trying to print, making support costlier.
  • New end devices should not be excluded from the existing print infrastructure.
  • Future possible labelling requirements (and necessary printing infrastructure) should be taken into consideration.
  • Websites should be built so that they can be easily printed and match corporate identity.
  • Printed information has a positive influence on customers perception of products and services.
  • Printed teaching materials are absorbed faster when training employees.
  • Cloud-based print management solutions significantly reduce the print management workload, simplify user guidance and even eliminate print servers.
  • Home printers are disappearing. Employees will want to print private documents in the office. Cloud solutions help here too.

It’s recommended to have a strategy in place to deal with the changes due in printing behavior. The workplace of the future will undoubtable have to deal with the topic of printing. However, ensuring fast, easy printing in complex, innovative environments is not going to become any easier, and users who print less frequently actually end up requiring more support. So, a number of challenges remain, even if print volumes do start to decline despite decades of the opposite.

Do you need advice on your printing processes? Then send an e-mail to [email protected].  Our experts will be happy to advise you.

Linda Martin Avatar
Linda Martin