British office workers print up to 120 billion pages every year

New research (1) from Fujitsu Siemens Computers reveals that British offices are responsible for printing up to 120 billion pieces of paper every year, the equivalent of a paper mountain over 8,000 miles high. 

The average British office worker prints off 22 pages every working day.  However, the findings show that much of the printing done in offices is unnecessary, with over half of workers (53%) admitting to having printed the same document several times by mistake.  Two in five (43%) have picked up someone elses print-out by mistake and, perhaps more concerning, 8% admit to printing emails before theyve read them.

The findings paint a concerning picture of carefree printing habits in British offices where less than half of workers (47%) say they are careful about printing documents and avoid printing hard copies unless absolutely necessary.  A quarter (23%) of office workers admit to not giving much thought to printing off documents and a further 13% do not worry about how many documents they send to print as long as they recycle them. 

The blame for superfluous printing does not lie solely with the employees.  Two-thirds (64%) of office workers say their companies have no printing policy in place to advise them on what documents they should or should not print.  This is despite the fact that one in three (33%) workers said that they would change their printing behaviour if their company had a policy in place.  Only 16% of workers said that their company emails carry a footnote asking the recipient whether its necessary to print out the email.  This practice of including an environmentally aware message is much less common than legal disclaimers, which are included on 48% of company emails.

Fixing the office printer would appear to be a commonplace event for most office workers with three-quarters of employees saying that they have fixed a printer or copier themselves by retrieving a piece of paper thats got jammed.  Sixty-two per cent of workers have changed the toner and 36% have asked a colleague to help un-jam or change a toner cartridge.  Forty-four percent have called helpdesk or IT and nearly one in four people (23%) admit to just walking away from an out-of-order printer in the hope that someone else will fix the problem.

Paul Parrish, managing director of Fujitsu Siemens Computers IT Product Services, commented:  Sadly the paperless office remains a myth for many.  Office printing continues to be out of control with very few companies having any transparency on their print costs.  This is compounded by the fact that there is a general lack of guidelines for employees around printing practices and most people readily admit to not really thinking twice about hitting the print option on an email or document.

Printing and copying are significant costs for any business and can represent as much as 5% of its total revenue(2).  Despite this outlay it would appear that the majority of companies do not seem to have any centralised function taking responsibility for their printer environment and as a result few businesses have an accurate picture of how much their printing is costing them.  Aside from the considerable environmental benefits that can be realised, better management of consumables, maintenance and support, and document management can reduce businesses spend on their printer estate by as much as 40% and significantly increase their efficiency.

Peoples reasons for printing documents differ between individuals.  The main explanations given for printing are the need to share documents with others for review (41%), complying with company rules (35%) and not liking to review documents on the screen (31%).  However, one in five workers (19%) just want to keep hard copies for their own files, 12% print off documents to review whilst theyre travelling and 7% make revisions to hard copies that they then hand over to their secretaries.

Companies have different policies for the recycling of paper and other waste.  Two-thirds provide the facility to recycle paper, just over a half (53%) provide recycling bins for confidential waste and 31% provide bins for recycling plastics.  Despite heightened awareness around the need to recycle a worrying 17% of office workers just throw all waste, including paper, into their waste basket.

(1) Research conducted online by YouGov Plc amongst 2,011 adults between 17th and 20th August 2007. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). The omnibus research conducted by YouGov uses a large sample size that reflects the demographic profile of Great Britain. Given this it is possible to extrapolate figures for Great Britain from the research results within appropriate confidence intervals.

Calculation workings:

During an average working day 22 pages are printed off per GB adult working in an office; this represents 119,633,800,000 (120 billion) pages printed by GB office workers per year.

500 pages equates to 5.5cm in height; 120 billion pages equates to 1,320,000,000cm or 13,200km

13,200km equates to 8,202 miles

(2) IDC 2004, ROI focus Shifts to Imaging and Output Infrastructure


About Fujitsu Siemens Computers

Fujitsu Siemens Computers is the leading European IT provider with a strategic focus on next-generation Mobility and Dynamic Data Center products, services and solutions. With a platform and services portfolio of exceptional depth, our offering extends from handhelds through desktops to enterprise-class IT infrastructure solutions and services offerings. Fujitsu Siemens Computers has a presence in all key markets across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, with the services division extending coverage up to 170 countries worldwide. Leveraging the strengths, innovation and global reach of our joint shareholders, Fujitsu Limited and Siemens AG, we make sure we meet the needs of customers: large corporations, small and medium enterprises and private users. To meet international standards for corporate social responsibility, Fujitsu Siemens Computers is a member of the United Nations Global Compact.

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