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    Even before COVID-19, work-from-home arrangements were increasingly common as digital transformation turned virtual collaboration from an occasional job perk into a popular alternative to brick and mortar operations. According to a survey conducted by MIT, 15% of respondents had worked from home prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 and 34% switched to a teleworking arrangement during the pandemic. These results suggest that as many as half of all Americans are working remotely. What’s more, many companies—including Big Tech giants Amazon, Microsoft and Salesforce—are making work from home arrangements a permanent feature of their operations. As more businesses adopt teleworking, many are discovering that home office environments pose a unique set of challenges for producing ad hoc and small batch business correspondence.

    Traditionally, ad hoc and small batch correspondence was not managed in the same way that organizations produce high-volume customer communications. Instead, this type of correspondence was controlled at a department or line-of-business level. The emerging concept of hybrid mail provides a bridge between the two domains because it enables the authors of ad hoc correspondence to leverage the infrastructure, processes and controls built into a customer communications management (CCM) system. With hybrid mail solutions, remote workers engaged in creating ad hoc correspondence can be more productive, cost-effective and secure knowing their documents are being produced and fulfilled in a compliant, trackable fashion.

    Europe has long recognized the versatility of hybrid mail, but North America has lagged behind in adopting this solution. While the EU created open standards concerning hybrid mail in 2006, the USPS and Canada Post did not endorse any of the available hybrid mail solutions. By contrast, endorsements and subsequent adoption by various postal entities in the EU led to widespread adoption of hybrid mail and European postal entities rapidly became huge print service providers. Their “one-stop shop” premise was simple: Generate correspondence in selected desktop applications and send it digitally to a designated vendor, which would print your document, apply all possible postal discounting and deliver your communications to customers.

    Although North America has been slow to adopt hybrid mail, many vendors have already created solutions for enterprises that enable hybrid mail’s key benefits, including higher employee productivity, significant cost savings, regulatory compliance and creation of an audit trail for the entire mailing process. The main obstacle to adoption is that no one in the enterprise officially “owns” these problems for ad hoc/small batch correspondence. Unlike high-volume transactional statement or bill production or direct mail campaigns, where costs and processes are tightly controlled and managed, desktop correspondence has always been viewed as a departmental or line-of-business cost of doing business.

    The solution is simple
    To describe the hybrid mail model very simply, the remote worker creates and digitally sends documents from any location to a virtual “printer” that leverages centralized production processes to automate the printing, handling and fulfillment of ad hoc and small batch correspondence. A secure, easy-to-use interface allows remote staff to choose simplex or duplex printing, as well as monochrome or color. They can add personalization, attachments and inserts, such as a corporate boilerplate paragraph or appropriate regulatory compliance language, and can select electronic delivery per the recipient’s preferences. High-integrity, web-based document tracking and audit details ensure accuracy, provide proof of mailing and mitigate compliance risks.

    During the ongoing pandemic when many are working from home, the greatest advantage is that hybrid mail reduces the hassle factor of dealing with fulfilling mail at home, especially eliminating the need to pack everyone up for the daily round trip to and from a post office: no mask, no time wasted, no standing in line, no chance of infection.

    Advantages for print service providers (PSPs)
    PSPs can also find much to like in hybrid mail solutions. Many of these third-party providers need to replace print volume and revenue lost during the pandemic. Hybrid mail solutions give them the tools needed to offer a value-added service to differentiate themselves to existing and potential customers, as well as generating incremental volume and revenue for them. PSPs can implement hybrid mail solutions to assist enterprise clients in better managing the ad hoc and small batch correspondence from remote workers, improving their productivity, saving some of their out-of-pocket costs and helping them efficiently conduct business from anywhere.

    Even as companies open their offices after months of closures, teleworking is becoming a permanent fixture in the American workforce. Up to 74% of business leaders plan to move their previously on-site workforce to permanently remote positions after the COVID-19 threat is gone. Enterprises and the PSPs they work with can meet the challenges of generating ad hoc and small batch correspondence from remote locations by adopting hybrid mail. With so many benefits, hybrid mail delivers fantastic ROI with very few drawbacks, making it an ideal solution for a post-pandemic world.
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