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The Margin Q2 2021

The Margin Q2 2021

The copier has always been avital part of office life. Besideit being an essential businesstool, it was often around theprinter that there was someform of expletive-laced discussion about itsfailure to print or scan a document.
And then we all went home, and our OKIs,HPs, and Konica Minoltas fell silent, theirblinking lights from a forgotten print job theonly illumination in the darkened office.

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It’s hard to get a picture of actual officeattendance nowadays, but anecdotally,it seems that many businesses are stillfollowing a hybrid model, with staff only atthe office on certain days, for a meeting,for example. The roads are also quieter,parking lots emptier. In many ways, we’restill coming to terms with this great shift tohome work, and some have found it easierto adapt than others. As I write this towardsthe end of May, I read aGuardianstory aboutan employee at a tech firm in Taipei whosays there’s still a strong culture of mistrustamong her bosses. At the time, Taiwan washeading into another strict lockdown, forcing,as the article said, businesses to confront itsentrenched culture of ‘presenteeism’. As oneperson was quoted as saying, Taiwan’s workculture is incapable of trustingits employees.
The picture seems to be a little differenthere, and it appears that many corporates inSouth Africa are finding that staff are moreproductive. I spoke to Marc Pillay, the CEO ofKonica Minolta in South Africa, who told methat his wife, who works in HR at a major bank,has not set foot in the office since the firstlockdown last year.
One measure of this shift is that there's a lotless printing going on. In the media industry,and particularly in newspapers and magazines,printers used to be humming the whole day aseditors, layout and graphics people, as well assub-editors, lined up to collect pages of copyfrom the machines. The belief was that youcould only proof a page ‘on paper’, and thatsomehow it was easier to spot discrepanciesand mistakes. This, in fact, has turned out notto be true, and it’s just as easy to spot a typoon screen as it is when printed. That was justthe way it had always been done. But still,as you’ll read in a couple of articles in thisissue, printing is not dead; in fact, it’s makingsomething of a comeback. What Konica Minoltahas realised, and doubtless the other vendors,is that there’s now an opportunity to managethe digital workflow in a company.
You’ll also read about how the world ofevents and conferences has changed, andhow it’s much easier, though perhaps not assatisfying, to attend conferences online. It’scertainly easier for the speakers, but perhapsnot as lucrative. And I do wonder about theglobal hospitality industry.
Meanwhile, we use less petrol and spendless time getting to, and preparing for, theoffice. I think we’re more efficient. But it’s notall good news. Many people have lost theirjobs, and those who remain are probablyworking harder. We know the world haschanged, but we’re only just getting to gripswith what it means.

Matthew Burbidge
Editor
matthew@itweb.co.za

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