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Context: Toner sales reveal slow return to offices

Analyst house Context has found that it is able to reveal the different reactions across Europe to working back in the office by charting the sales of toner

Offices in major cities across the UK are still largely empty as staff continue to work from home, with the situation in the UK behind other European countries in terms of workers returning to their old desks.

The government had wanted life to return to a more normal footing, but the trains and buses are still largely empty and offices across major cities in the UK remain manned by a skeleton crew of workers that have opted to return to their desks.

Analyst house Context has come up with an interesting way to put some numbers behind the assertion that workers here are slower to return than their European counterparts, with the analyst house charting toner sales through the channel as a way of tracking the return to office normality across Western Europe.

The firm found that toner is one of the products that is closely linked to workplace presence, and examined four-week rolling sales through distribution in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

The results were that the UK lagged behind other most other European countries in terms of staff returning to offices, with only Norway, Denmark, the Baltics and Brazil registering slower rates of a shift away from mass working from home.

There are a host of reasons that could explain the situation in the UK, with concerns about public transport, issues around the effectiveness of the Test and Trace system and a lack of vaccine all being contributors.

“Our Return to work index shows the power of IT channel data in discerning wider societal and macroeconomic trends,” said Context CFO and global managing srector, Adam Simon.

“The UK may be lower down the table due to many factors, not least the government’s preference for issuing advice rather than orders to businesses. But it’s clearly data that they’ll want to keep a close eye on, give the major economic implications,” he added.

The impact of the shift to remote working can also been seen in the deals being struck by private equity firms over the past few months in the enterprise software market.

Research of the mergers and acquisition (M&A) market from Hampleton Partners naturally revealed a decline in transactions, dropping by 5% with 602 deals recorded in the first half. But there was $34bn worth of transactions, and Covid-19 fuelled more activity in areas that supported working from home.

Videoconferencing in particular has been an area where investors have been looking to get involved. Examples of deals struck during the pandemic include Verizon picking up BlueJeans in April and Marlin acquiring Lifesize back in March.

“Covid-19 is re-shaping the enterprise software M&A market. Both private equity and strategic buyers are focusing their sights on companies helping to improve communications, streamline processes or facilitate remote working capabilities; businesses that help fuel the e-commerce boom, like supply chain logistics software critical for improving last-mile fulfilment; and, of course, healthcare software,” said Miro Parizek, founder of Hampleton Partners. 

“Looking forward, we anticipate robust M&A activity as buyers jockey for position in the new, post-pandemic, business environment,” he said.

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