WFH or not, Office Equipment Remains Crucial
While it is still early to make long-term predictions on what direction the office equipment market will take in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, some recent trends may offer guidance as to how the next decade will shape up.
Last year the office equipment and furniture market brimmed with enthusiasm. The creation of separate spaces catering for different functions and establishing more community areas and shared spaces appeared to be the most up-to-date fads. COVID-19 quickly tabled this ardor.
Home office scenarios spiked in hopes that social isolation would help keep the virus at bay. This has caused some significant changes in the life of office spaces.
“Offices significantly reduced their printing and related services demand (by about 40-50%), while home offices invested in simple IT infrastructure, including printers or MFP [multi-function peripheral] devices,” Miklós Fábián, national sales manager at Epson Europe B.V. Branch Office Hungary, tells the Budapest Business Journal.
Fábián adds that they have not identified complex home-based IT infrastructure developments, such as centralized print management, which could mean that home office developments are expected to remain temporary, until people can return to offices.
The market appears to be waiting to see what will happen next. “Most companies in the Hungarian market, unlike those in Western countries, do not yet financially support the provision of tools and conditions for working from home, so most people try to use existing tools at home,” András Mosolygó, CEO of Vivax Irodabútor, and the owner of IDdesign, tells the BBJ.
In both his stores, Vivax Irodabútor and IDdesign, the number of individual buyers increased; however, professional products are purchased less often due to higher prices.
Those who are stuck in home offices, often on reduced pay, do try to boost their work from home (WFH) setup, but they are trying to keep expenditure down.
“Although our [Epson] sales of the very economic EcoTank printers and multifunctional devices increased by nearly 20% in 2020, we lost market share against the cheapest, entry-level ink cartridge technology equipment. This also suggests that customers looked at the current demand as a temporary solution, not considering more economic long-term investments,” Fábián points out.
Capital is not the only limiting factor when trying to maximize possibilities in a home office. Most homes are just too small to allow for the setting up of a separate, well-equipped office.
“The most basic equipment is a quality office chair that can be properly calibrated to the user’s physical abilities and where the depth of the backrest and height of the seat can be adjusted,” Mosolygó said.
His shops stock an increasing number of chairs that meet orthopedic standards, as health is paramount. In addition to that, a correctly sized and properly placed work desk is important.
“It is very advantageous if height [of the desk] is electrically adjustable. Unfortunately, the demand for this for home use is still very small, as the prices are higher,” Mosolygó adds.
The office equipment market has seen some ubiquitous trends. “Our technologies are developing in the direction of network or cloud-based managed services. Another important trend is to be eco-friendly, having less impact on our environment,” Epson’s Fábián says.
“I think this will be more in focus, when people move some IT tools into their homes. They are more sensitive to environmental effects, as soon as these affect their homes and families,” he explains.
Unsurprisingly, smart devices are also increasingly gaining popularity in offices. “Smart lamps, smart tables that can be adapted to the physical and mental abilities of a given person, are becoming more common,” Mosolygó of Vivax and IDdesign confirms.
“For example, lamps adapted to the circadian rhythm, which can increase the brightness and color temperature in the case of dropping attention. With adjustable work desks, you can also choose to move the table to a sitting or standing position, essentially moving employees to increase mental and physical well-being,” he says.
How the coronavirus pandemic and its effects will change office space usage, and hence the office equipment market, is hard to see yet. There are two possible approaches.
“One is that office attendance could drop by 20-30%, so offices will be less crowded and vacated areas will be transformed into community spaces, reducing the currently congested layout,” Mosolygó says. A perk for companies, but not so much for office space lessors.
“The other scenario, I think, is that the original occupancy of the offices will be restored next year, as personal presence and contact is needed in several industries, and employees also need personal contacts,” he continues.
Nevertheless, the gains of this period will carry on; the number of business trips may not return to pre-COVID levels, which is “good for the entire planet” as Mosolygó sees it.
Fábián agrees as far as reductions are concerned. “I hear conversations of the possibility of reduced office areas, the introduction of a shared-desk policy, part-time home office and other revolutionary ideas, “ he says.
“Personally, I believe in most cases companies and employees are waiting to return to normal working processes, including office work, face-to-face meetings and visiting partners and customers. Development of the related equipment is more based on technological and ecological changes rather than COVID-generated trends,” he adds.
As this decade unfolds, companies may consider more carefully whether they will allow employees to do home-based work to an increased extent, if it fits their processes well. Nevertheless, there are industries where such an approach is impossible, such as public services, where offices will reset to the previous standards.
“I do not expect major changes in offices in the next 10 years, provided we return to our standard life as before the COVID pandemic,” Fábián concludes.
This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of January 29, 2021.
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