Research: Back to work – but where?


Are US workers planning to return to the office in 2023? If so, what does this mean in terms of future demand for business products?

A new research study by OPI and Martin Wilde Associates (MWA) investigated exactly that in October 2022. MWA asked approximately 400 buyers of business supplies where staff in their organisations currently worked and what the outlook was for 2023. 

The US Business Products Consumer: Trends and Behaviours 2022-23 has the answers. While the majority of respondents had staff who currently worked only in the office, the largest share (63%) said employees worked both in the office and at home. About a third of survey respondents had staff who worked solely at home at present.

By the end of next year, 57% of staff […] are expected to be back in the office, compared to 44% currently

Return to the office

However, when these buyers were questioned about what percentage of staff worked in each of these locations at present and how they expected the pendulum to swing by late 2023, a clear shift back to the office is forecast.

By the end of next year, 57% of workers on average are expected to be back in the office, compared to 44% currently. This shift appears to be largely at the expense of hybrid working, which is forecast to fall from 41% now to only 24% in 2023. However, the share of employees working only at home is actually predicted to increase slightly from 13% currently to 18% next year.

Overall, there were significant differences in responses, depending on size of company as well as business activity, so the above numbers are averages.

The survey also looked at other contributory factors which will drive future demand for business supplies. Size of the workforce, projected revenues, how much time is being spent in the office by hybrid workers, and even any expected changes in the amount of office space required by the 400 US businesses in 2023 were some of these circumstances. 

Again, MWA found some significant differences in the projected changes of each of these elements due to business size. Research results further revealed that annual budgets for most of the products covered by the survey were widely expected to increase in 2023.

Seven broad categories were covered by the study: traditional stationery, office paper, computer & printer supplies, office furniture, breakroom supplies, cleaning items and PPE. The extent of the aforementioned budget hikes also depends on these specific segments.

Working out the trends

The US Business Products Consumer: Trends and Behaviours 2022-23 contains detailed information about the iterations – and repercussions – of the evolving workplace. It does not merely refer to changes in demand for individual items – for example, which ones will be dropped or purchased for the first time – but also to the method by which they are purchased, the average order value and the frequency of orders.

Finally, the 120-page report investigates which channels are being used to purchase each of the seven product categories, and which channels are being added – or dropped – by respondents.

The way people work is changing. This new study reveals what US workplaces want today, what they will require in future – and what it all means for the US business supplies industry.

To order your copy, go to Trends2022