Economic conditions in the US are still volatile. While the Federal Reserve has raised interest rates multiple times, the job market and inflation seem unaffected. Yet, prices for important goods like eggs, beef, soft drinks, coffee, and even bath tissue continue to hit startling highs.

In the past twelve months, the cost of meat has increased by double digits. Fresh pig prices rose 12.1% to an average unit price of $3.33, following a similar trajectory as both beef and chicken. Meat producers like Tyson foods blame more robust consumer demand, higher labor and fuel costs, and rising feed prices for farm animals for the continued price hikes.

Similarly, milk, coffee, and toilet paper have seen rising costs of over seven percent. In addition, soft drinks have spiked exceptionally high, at a 14.1% increase over the previous year. All of these price increases are putting a strain on customers’ wallets, causing households to cut back on purchases, and companies are starting to feel the pressure. Experts seem to think so, pointing to the massive tech industry layoffs in January of 2023.

But what does a new labor market mean for office printing?

Experts predict remote workers may have to return to the office

During the COVID-19 response, many businesses and employees discovered it was not only possible but potentially lucrative to change to a remote or hybrid office model. To keep generating money and conducting business normally, companies scrambled to make remote work the norm for many office positions.

Today, around 36% of organizations have decided to begin bringing their remote employees back into the office for at least a couple of days per week. Some big names like Apple, Google, and Twitter are just a few of the businesses attempting to make the shift back to “normal.”

Employees are increasingly protesting the change. Over one thousand employees working for the New York Times stayed home. Employees at Apple launched a petition to continue working remotely. But staffing experts and consultants note the weakening labor market is beginning to shift some negotiating power from workers to employers, enabling many businesses to demand that employees come into the office, at least part-time.

The move back to in-office operations is sluggish as the labor market is slow to cool. However, analysts predict a return to the office will pick up more steam if hiring continues to slow down and layoffs multiply over the coming months. In the first months of 2023, job listings with zero on-site requirements have decreased by 11%.

But increases in in-person offices are not a bad sign for business print services. In many cases, it bodes well for the future of office printing as employees again enjoy the benefits of being closer to large-capacity on-site printers. On-site operations will also be likely to lead to reliance on printed documentation for physical review, handwritten edits, and sharing.

However, as the job market continues to resist the Fed’s efforts to curb employment demands, employees still hold a great deal of power. In addition, most workers (65%) say they’re more productive at home, and studies prove they’re right. So, what happens if hybrid continues to be the norm?

Print security increases in importance.

With the number of remote offices remaining high, printer security is high on the list of business security concerns. Over 68% of businesses have reported data breaches of some kind from their printer and printing data. And, with lockdowns already a focus in other areas over the past two years, many companies see printer security as a high priority.

According to recent research, 70% of businesses expect their spending on print security to increase in 2023. But the burden of keeping printers and the print network safe lands squarely on the IT team. However, IT must balance improvements in printer security with many other tasks, including technology support, server maintenance, and product development.

Adding an additional focus, like print security, could easily overwhelm an already overburdened department. And printer security is a task most businesses have long ignored. Currently, only 26% of IT managers are confident in their company’s current level of printer security.

Thankfully, partners like managed print services can provide secure print networks and equipment to ensure business information is fully protected – without overloading the IT team. Whether businesses continue to maintain hybrid and remote operations or opt for a total return to the office, rapidly expanding cyber criminal exploits are making knowledgeable print partners a key component in helping reduce and eliminate vulnerabilities in office printers.

Gen Z is beginning to influence how businesses run

What % of the workforce is Gen ZBy 2030, Gen Z may make up 30% of the workforce. This generation has shown to be independent, ambitious, and frequently entrepreneurial. But nearly half (48%) consider printing an important part of business.

Despite their love of records, cash, and everything they consider “throwback,” Gen Z is still a very digitally focused group. They communicate largely with mobile applications, dominate TikTok, and would rather text than talk. So, bridging the gap between digital and print will be a primary focus for the office printer technology of the future.

Today’s office printer services already provide unique ways to accommodate the up-and-coming generation with options like mobile printing, scheduled printing, and easy scanning to transfer hard copies to digital. While new equipment and software to make these connections can set businesses back a pretty penny, managed print services providers can offer the latest equipment in affordable packages to meet the changing needs of any office dynamic and space.

Final Thoughts

Economists, businesses, and employees continue to argue about how the future office space should look and operate. But no matter how things shake out, there is still a wealth of opportunity for printers, print suppliers, and managed print services.

Whether it is a hybrid office requiring remote printers and services or a single corporate office needing multiple high-capacity machines, leaders agree that office printing is essential to running a business. Print partners that focus on security, up-to-date technology, and meeting the changing needs of their customers could easily see a wealth of opportunity in the coming year.