Working remotely is an adjustment, let alone during a pandemic. Since many offices are currently closed to employees, businesses are reliant on technology and other web-based solutions to support their workflows. But what about organisations that still need a physical presence? Some tasks, like printing, can’t be digitised. Or can they?
COVID-19 may be inspiring swift digital transformation across the board, but even that can’t stamp out the value of print. Whether it’s an essential part of your everyday processes or mandatory for staying in compliance, these print options can fully support any remote workforce.
Making sure remote employees have access to a printer is one thing. Making sure it’s safe for them to print is another. For processes that require a paper trail, businesses need a modern network that makes it possible to print from anywhere. Notice we said ‘from’ anywhere and not ‘to’ anywhere.
To be clear, remote employees should still be printing to the standard network printers in your office, even when working from elsewhere. It’s the best, if only, way to keep sensitive business and personal data secure. An unprotected home printer, especially one that’s connected to the internet, is like a beacon for hackers looking to exploit unknowing users. By keeping everything in-house, you mitigate risk and prevent cyber criminals from accessing documents as they’re in route.
Printing remotely can look different for different organisations though. For instance, you may enable your networked printers to accept documents via email. Remote workers can send files to the printer’s personal email address where they will be automatically printed upon arrival. Or, you may instruct employees to send documents to printers you share on their local networks when possible.
However, the most secure way to print when you’re away from the office is to establish a virtual private network (VPN). Employees can directly connect to the VPN server where they’ll have protected access to shared files and printer drivers on your business network.
Keep in mind that the needs of your remote employees aren’t static. The past few months especially have required all of us to stay flexible as we adjust to our new normal. As your processes shift and change in this rapidly evolving time, it’s a good idea to track the print usage of your employees so you can adjust accordingly.
Remote workers may need new or different forms to complete what was once standard protocol. They could find that some of their printing needs have increased as new regulations get put into place. Point is, if you want to understand what it is your employees need to be most successful at their job, pay attention to how they’re using the company printer.
By doing so, you can better ensure the supplies they use most often stay stocked. You may even be able to save the company some money by making it easy for employees to access just what they need. Could some employees be moved to black and white ink only? Should you allocate more full colour print supplies like weighted or glossy papers to help your marketing team generate more business?
In any event, monitoring usage is easiest when using modern printers and updated network software. From there, you can tailor the remote printing options that work best for your staff’s workflow. Just make sure employees know what you’re monitoring them for and how it will be used to make their jobs easier. Keeping morale up is important, and that often requires transparency on the employer side.
Even if your most essential workers are operating remotely, that doesn’t mean the IT systems needed to support their day-to-day are.
Healthcare workers are a good example. In a profession where every day was already different, right now they’re having to adapt on the fly and work under increased pressure. Since shortages of medical personnel are particularly common during times of crisis, many have found themselves going wherever there’s a need. That often means working in new environments from week-to-week. As they cross state lines the printed documentation needed can be completely different.
Having the ability to print remotely from their smartphone or personal devices can take the pressure off. By simplifying the printing process, getting access to lawful administrative docs or hospital forms won’t get in the way of them saving lives.
Other print technology and apps offer similar, helpful tools that can serve the remote workforce well. Many can turn your smartphone into a multi-functional printer, scanner, and fax that has the ability to send and receive files over a secure network. From there cloud-based programmes allow the electronic documents to be accessed and printed from anywhere.
In all actuality, it may be a long time before your company operates a completely paper-free environment, even if most of your staff is working outside the office. But printing remotely doesn’t have to be difficult. With the right hardware and up-to-date technology, your print options are numerous. Regardless of how long employees are away from the office, solidifying a solution for them to safely access a company printer is a simple way to improve their productivity – and give them some sense of normalcy.