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Measuring personal printing in the office

About 67 per cent of Canadian office workers admit to printing or copying personal documents at work

Personal printing and snooping are the most common of questionable office use of copying devices, according to a recent survey of Canadian office workers.

From churning out driving directions to photographs to resumes, it seems Canadians are being sneaky about printing personal materials at the office. The survey, paid for by Canon Canada and conducted by Ipsos Reid, alleges the top five office offences use office printers,copiers or multifunction printing devices (MFPs).

First on the list is personal printing at work: 67 per cent of Canadian office workers have printed or copied personal material using the centralized office printer/copier. Driving directions are printed most often (39 per cent), followed closely by resumes (34 per cent) and photos (18 per cent). Interestingly, men are more likely than women to print driving directions at work (45 per cent versus 35 per cent, respectively).

The No. 2 offence is snooping by the printer. It seems when waiting for a print job to finish, many Canadians tend to peek at documents left by colleagues at or near the machine. Over one quarter of office workers (28 per cent) admit to reading materials left near the printer, which could potentially include confidential information.

Mason Olds, vice-president and general manager, of Canon Canada’s Imaging Systems Group, said the list will hopefully provide business owners and decision-makers with greater insight into how office equipment is really being used by employees within their work environments. These results should be a wake-up call to pay closer attention to printing and copying usage within the workplace and the impact it can have on security and the bottom line, Olds added.

The No. 3 alleged misdeed is staff attempting to fix devices on their own. Although office equipment is increasingly user-friendly, vendors often recommend that employees contact their IT department/office managers or service technicians to fix any problems. But according to the survey, when employees run into problems with the office printer/copier/MFP, most are eager to take on the role of office handyman – even though they may not be properly trained on how to fix the problem. Specifically, three out of four workers (76 per cent) admit to trying to fix a machine themselves if they see an error message appear or the machine stops during a printing or copying job.

The No. 4 felony is failure to track printing costs. Of the 365 employees who have used a multi-function printing device (MFP) with an input codes feature in the past six months, two-thirds (67 per cent) admit they don’t know how to input client codes or passwords on their MFP. This means the employer has no method to track printing costs or bill back costs to clients.

The No. 5 alleged transgression is not printing in colour while admitting it is more effective: 69 per cent of employees say they have printed a document in colour that was more effective than black and white, but 43 per cent of the same group say they never personally print in colour. Employees who never print in colour cite a lack of access (45 per cent) as the key reason. Interestingly, a significant number of office workers believe that the cost of colour printing is higher than it actually is. Thirty per cent of office workers think that the cost of printing in colour is 31 cents or more, when the actual average cost of colour printing today is 13 cents per page.

Olds said the fact that employees admit to not knowing how to input codes into printers and copiers is a clear indication that businesses are not effectively tracking printing costs.

As well, even though the cost of printing colour has dropped dramatically, and that most people know that colour is more effective, employers are still limiting access to colour printing, he said.

Clearly, there needs to be a shift in thinking in the business environment when it comes to more cost-efficient – and effective – printing, Olds added.

Other key findings:

The survey also shows a generation gap, with 18 to 34 year- olds more likely to print personal materials (73 per cent) than employees age 35 and older (65 per cent).

Quebec employees lead the country when it comes to attempting to fix office equipment themselves, with 82 per cent admitting to it, compared to 76 per cent overall.

Although printers today are part of the corporate network, employees still turn to the office administration team for help. Employees are twice as likely (13 per cent) to contact the office manager or administrator versus IT (6 per cent) when the office printer stops or an error message appears.

The survey polled 1,126 workers across Canada over the age of 18. These employees work at companies with 10 or more employees and have used a centralized office printers, copiers or multifunction printing device in the past six months. With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate to within 2.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what would have been, had this entire population been polled.