COVID-19 Trend: Printing Needs Have Increased for Residents and Staff

by Joe Summers

Printing Demands Crumple the Notion of Going 100% Paperless

As multifamily companies continue to extend the scope of their sustainable environmental practices, one movement that has gained traction in recent years is the idea of “going paperless.” In theory, going paperless essentially means eliminating paper flyers, guest cards, sticky notes and other paper products in favor of digital alternatives and cloud-based technologies.

It sounds simple and, of course, good for the environment. 

But in practice, going truly paperless is an unrealistic goal. Take a look around the typical leasing office and it’s easy to see that still it’s far from the reality, as many property staff depend on paper materials to help educate residents on important topics. With thousands of digital communications flooding residents’ inboxes on a weekly basis, it’s often the paper communications that are most likely to be noticed, read and engaged with. While going paperless is an admirable idea, it’s not a feasible business model at the property level. 

Nor is the idea realistic for residents, particularly under current circumstances with more people working remotely and attending school virtually than ever before due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a recent survey, 51.8% of respondents reported that their printing needs have held steady or increased since working or schooling from home. Many parents especially depend on paper printouts so that their children can learn and complete homework assignments, versus relying on entirely screen-based education.

Fortunately, printing for residents and property staff does not have to be unsustainable. In fact, many paper providers now focus on sustainably tree-farmed paper that does not harm the environment. In fact, apartments that offer a shared printer service (versus every resident owning their own printer) can save up to 550 lbs of e-waste and 4750 kW of energy per year, according to printing industry averages. 

Workplaces and educational institutions previously provided the materials and equipment required to conduct business or schooling. Now, residents are increasingly turning to their communities to help facilitate those necessary functions, especially printing.

More than 85.9% of residents surveyed said that they would use wireless self-service printing, copying and scanning services if their community made them available. Nearly half of responding residents said they would use those services often or daily. 

Given the continued demand, going paperless just isn’t practical.

Contactless Hasn’t Meant Paperless

As leasing offices tapped technology to accommodate virtual and self-guided tours early in the COVID-19 crisis, a continued shift to paperless operations naturally may have felt like the next step. 

But stop to think about how many printed notifications have been posted on doors, walls and windows throughout multifamily properties in recent months. Paper postings announcing office closures, amenity restrictions, community policy changes, cleaning schedules, contact numbers and eventual re-openings have all graced the interiors of apartment communities more than ever before. 

If we think back pre-pandemic, those paper postings have always been a part of apartment living. They formerly included notices for scheduled renovations, fire alarm inspections or resident events, and they’re just currently serving a heightened purpose.

Since the emergence of the coronavirus, those highly visible and continually changing public notifications have been essential sources of information not only for residents but also for guests and visitors who aren’t privy to the community’s internal electronic communications. More importantly, those printed notifications have helped to keep onsite team members safe. By disseminating vital information and answering questions that might have previously prompted a person seeking answers to visit the office in person, paper postings are effectively minimizing team members’ required exposure to residents. 

Modern printing technology also limits shared surface contact with the printers themselves. By enabling people to send print jobs from their smartphones or other electronic devices to a central printing center within the community, the only thing team members or residents have to touch is their printouts.

Residents Count on Communities for Printing Capabilities

As more residents have set up home offices and in-home classrooms, their paper needs have changed significantly. 

While leasing teams were already weary of residents contacting the office to ask, “Can you print this for me?” it has now become an almost constant burden for on-site associates. Work documents currently need to be self-printed with unprecedented regularity, as do homework assignments and other academic forms.

Residents prefer the ability to print on their own. Among survey respondents, 50% reported that printing/scanning/copying services would help to accommodate their current needs, with 40.8% stating they would pay to make those services available.

As it turns out, the demand for paper and printing services at multifamily properties isn’t going anywhere. If anything, it’s increasing. And with fewer employees expected to return to an office setting even when the pandemic clears, the trend is here to stay.

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