There will likely be occasions when employees need to print personal documents at work. In fact, it is often viewed as an unwritten job perk. Many employers understand that these employees don’t have a printer at home. However, as business owners, they also don’t want to see the office printer get abused or printing supplies go to waste.
In a recent survey, 92% of respondents admitted to using the office printer for non-work tasks, mainly because they don’t have access to a personal printer and it’s the most convenient way to print.
Another survey revealed the most common items employees print for personal use. Topping the list are plane tickets, personal emails, CVs, personal letters, documents for family members, job applications, and bank statements.
The way in which your employees use the office printer is something that you’re going to have to manage carefully about as a business owner. By putting a few guidelines in place and approaching this workplace trend in the right kind of open way, you will be able to effectively address the personal usage of office printers.
You probably already have a policy that covers the use of company equipment. But, it won’t hurt to also develop a printing policy within the context of the current overall policies. You can choose to either allow some limited personal use of the printer or strictly forbid the practice. Either way, the printing policy should clearly set out how you plan to control printing behaviour. Some rules to enforce, include:
Experts believe that banning personal printing can actually do more harm than good. When employees aren’t allowed to print, they’ll likely arrive late for work, leave early, or sneak to an internet cafe during business hours due to their printing needs. Prohibiting personal printing probably isn’t the right move as it can lead to lost productivity.
They argue that similar to how you’d offer employees free coffee at the office to prevent them from slipping away to the coffee shop, personal printing can be considered as a privilege that helps foster a culture of support and productivity.
Another benefit of allowing personal printing is that it shows employees that you trust them. And when employees feel trusted, they tend to perform better.
This does not mean that there aren’t any downsides to giving employees the freedom to print as they wish. The misuse of the office printer can become a serious problem, increasing the costs related to printing.
If there are signs that employees are acting irresponsible in their use of the printer, investing in a document management solution can help curb the abuse.
With the software installed, you’ll be able to see who prints what type of documents, which printers they use, and if they print in color or black and white.
This gives you the option to allocate a printing quota to departments or charge employees on a pay-per-print basis.
With single and multifunction printers being such an integral part of modern businesses, almost every business owner will at some point have to deal with the issue of personal printing at work. There’s no one right answer to this — every company will have a different idea of what is the most practical solution. What’s important is giving it some thought, setting reasonable expectations, and laying some rules that everyone is comfortable with.