The Location of This One Device in Your Office Can Suck Away Productivity (Infographic) Hint: Do you have a centralized copier?

By Dan Waldinger

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Today's technology managers at small-to-medium-size businesses (SMBs) are responsible for bottom-line results. But they may be surprised to find that those decisions might contribute to business losses.

Related: Should You Lease or Buy Your Tech Equipment?

A recent survey conducted for Brother International Corporation by Clarus Research Group showed that poor allocation of centralized-business devices can drain corporate profits. Compared with offices that have a greater number of shared printers, employees in offices with centralized copier/printers spend, on average, an additional three minutes each day on printing.

Over the course of a year, that seemingly minuscule amount of time could mean an extra 13 hours spent at the printer. For an SMB of 500 employees, this translates to 6,500 wasted hours. That's a potential annual productivity loss of $336 million* for U.S. SMBs -- and it's happening right under their nose.

The IT challenge: Centralized devices lead to distractions

Workers may get distracted at multiple points when retrieving paperwork from a distant printer. Some of the most common productivity killers include long walks and multiple side conversations on the way there and back.

Managers have long believed that water coolers are the hub for social conversations that tap valuable work hours. They may be wrong: The Brother survey showed that 61 percent of employees surveyed have conversations at the copier/printer and are four times more likely to always engage in conversations, compared with just 31 percent of employees who acknowledged having conversations at the water cooler.

In addition, the survey indicated, those who engage in nonwork conversations at the printer are 98 percent more likely to stop at colleagues' desks to chat about personal topics, while only 28 percent are more likely to discuss work-related matters. And these employees are 42 percent more likely to get intercepted by those also interested in chatting.

Had they know this before deploying those centralized printers, many SMB IT leaders would likely have reconsidered their plans.

There are other downsides to this strategy, as well: Centralized printers have an impact on printing behaviors.The survey revealed that organizations with centralized copier/printers were more likely to minimize printing because a long walk to the device is inconvenient. They were also more likely to forget to pick up documents after sending them -- then attempt to attend meetings unprepared, without hard copies of documents.

Related: The Best Places to Work Aren't In the Office

The solution: IT to the rescue

The good news is that SMBs can remediate many of these problems and help end the waste. Most modern tech leaders are tasked with improving efficiency and cutting costs through technology solutions. In many cases, an easy fix will help the bottom line and earn favor across the C-suite.

Armed with this knowledge about printer deployment-related waste, SMBs can make significant improvements in several ways. Identifying the challenges and allocating the right print devices closer to workers can produce measurable results. For instance, the survey showed that employees with printers located in their own departments were far less likely to lose productivity. They were 36 percent more likely to engage in mostly work-related conversations while waiting for a print job to finish -- versus those who also had printers outside their departments.

Of course, change can be hard: In some cases, SMB technology leaders resist change based on potential push-back from business users. However, in the case of printers, workers have indicated that they need better allocation and, with it, the associated productivity results.

More than half of all employees surveyed said they wanted their companies to replace centralized copier/printers with more efficient devices for user-friendly printing. And nearly half of those with centralized printing preferred a shorter distance between their desks and the copier/printer/scanners. Those with centralized printers were also more dissatisfied with the reliability and efficiency of their devices and more likely to feel that their company printers did not work well and took too long to finish printing jobs.

In sum, it's time for SMBs to consider these potential business losses. Everyone from CEOs to business users is looking to his or her respective company's top technology leader to make these improvements.

The good news is that balanced printer deployment is an easy fix. The business may benefit from cost savings and efficiencies, the technology manager just might become a hero and workers may become more productive. It's a win-win-win scenario.

*Market size based on Statistics about Business Size, U.S. Census Bureau," 2008.

Click to Enlarge

The One Device in Your Office That's Sucking Away Productivity (Infographic)

Image credit: Brother International

Related: Don't Have a 3-D Printer Yet? This Startup Wants to Change That.

Dan Waldinger

Director of Marketing, Brother International

Dan Waldinger is the director, services and solutions marketing, for Brother International Corporation. With more than 25 years of industry experience, Waldinger leads the Brother SMB initiative, Don't Supersize, Optimize. Under his leadership, Brother provides resources, self-assessment tools and solutions for SMBs to help reduce document-related costs and increase efficiencies.

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