How remote work is affecting the office supply market

Office supply dealer updates and trends during COVID-19

April 28, 2020

Home Blog How remote work is affecting the office supply market
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With very little advance notice, employers and employees were firmly pushed into the WFH (work from home) world because of the coronavirus. Many had no prior experience, no remote policies and procedures to turn to, and no desire to support the remote work trend.

As the calendar turns to May and shelter-in-place restrictions are gradually lifted, it’s clear that getting workers back into business locations will not be as quick as it was getting them out.

New mandates for physical separation and workplace sanitization will be established for most business locations, and limitations on the number of people that can be working in proximity means that remote work is here to stay and staggered work days may become a new norm—at least for some length of time and to some extent.

This article will explore the new questions and needs businesses have to ensure their people can productively and securely work from home as long as necessary.

Impact for employers

Remote workforce

Today’s most pressing office product question: Who pays for home office expenses and how do we manage ordering?

There has been a surge in demand for office supplies as newly remote workers set up their home offices. However, not all companies are paying or offering to pay for remote office products. A random sample of 600 people working from home amid the COVID-19 pandemic from spend management software company Procurify found that nearly half (47%) said their employers have not offered to cover office supply expenses, and 41% believe they wouldn’t be reimbursed promptly for WFH expenses.

Yet many companies and law firms do understand the need to ensure WFH productivity, security and business continuity; they simply want to approach it on a pragmatic, as-needed basis. We are seeing a trend in clients looking for pre-packaged home office solutions that include office supplies along with necessary furniture, equipment and IT items.

Some of our clients are having their remote workers continue to direct their purchase order requests to procurement or office management staff. Some are working with their dealers (especially dealers like Office Depot that have retail stores and/or direct online ordering) to ensure all contract terms and pricing are being honored.

Regardless, realize that you could see greater off-contract spending. Everyday supplies such as paper, pens, batteries and extension cords are readily available to order online or in a retail store.

  • Make sure you communicate with all employees the importance of honoring the office product contracts and ordering procedures you have in place.
  • Monitor receipts that are submitted for expense reimbursement as numbers of small end-user purchases can quickly add up to significant added costs over time.
office product updates

Other office supply dealer updates in regards to remote workers:

  • Office Depot is making home office furniture deliveries on Saturday.
  • Staples is doing Saturday deliveries on a case-by-case basis.
  • Office Depot and Staples stores are considered essential businesses and remain open, depending on pandemic restrictions in specific locations.
  • Smaller and B2B dealers can be at a disadvantage in the remote work landscape as they lack some of the capabilities and consumer reach of Staples, Office Depot and Amazon.

Onsite workforce

When businesses start to reopen, new mandates for workplace sanitizing, maintaining physical separation, and following other CDC recommendations will likely be required in many locations. As employees start returning to the workplace, masks, gloves and sanitizing wipes will be in high demand and short supply. Healthcare facilities have priority for PPE supplies produced in the US. Dealers such as Staples and Office Depot are bringing in masks and gloves from China and adding a surcharge of 7% to 10% to offset air freight expenses. Meanwhile, a related item also in high demand is the contactless thermometer.

It will be vital to add these new items to your office product contracts to enable compliance with those mandates, ensure pricing and supply, and keep your workplace safe. If you haven’t begun checking into them yet, it’s important to get started. Our spend management team can ease the way.

LAC Group’s spend management team will continue to monitor trends and compile data to analyze office supply and office equipment costs in 2020 in comparison to 2019. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or need some hands-on support and expertise to manage your office supply costs.

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Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee

Vice President Kevin Lee oversees all office supply negotiations for LAC Group's spend management clients, heading a team of specialists performing technical analysis, vendor negotiation and program implementation.
Kevin Lee

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