Where’s the paper, the ink, the light bulb? US offices grapple with supply shortages | WSAU News / Talk 550 AM · 99.9 FM

By Elizabeth Dilts Marshall and Maria Caspani

NEW YORK (Reuters) – While news of the Omicron coronavirus variant threatens to derail US companies’ plans to return to offices, employers are trying to get employees back into the office. said they were facing another, unforeseen challenge: keeping the lights on.

Global supply chain disruptions due to factory closures in Asia, congestion at US ports and nationwide labor shortages have resulted in shortages of industrialized microchips and construction materials. generous father. Now, these problems are causing shortages of everyday office supplies, everything from printer ink and toner to paper to light bulbs.

When anthropology professor Sara Becker returned to her office at the University of California, Riverside, in early November, she noticed some light bulbs had burned out during the eight months she worked remotely. An assistant in her department contacted the facilities unit for a replacement, and Becker was asked what percentage of the lightbulbs in her office were out.

“I’m an anthropologist not a mathematician!” Becker joked on Twitter. Becker said in an email interview that, instead of counting light bulbs, she sends pictures of her dark office to the facilities department, which university spokesman John Warren said , this place is lacking lighting materials and lamps.

For office workers and workers, these supply problems – which can trickle down to headaches in the workplace – only add to the obstacles companies face in attracting people back to the office. room.

Variants of the coronavirus, such as Delta, have forced companies to push back the date by which they expect most employees to start returning to the office. It is possible that the Omicron variant, first spotted in the United States on Wednesday, will delay the opening even further.

Now, securing general lighting supplies will take longer than usual, said Cheryl Carron, facilities manager for global commercial real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle. 8 to 13 weeks.

“It was a significant challenge when we looked at how we got people back to work,” Carron said in an interview. “It’s a really important need and we take it for granted.”

Companies across the globe have sounded the alarm about the supply problem, which has driven up prices for raw materials from chemicals to steel. Concern dominated this past earnings season, with executives mentioning it, up 412%.

U.S. Customs data shows that imports of glass bulbs for use in incandescent lamps fell 25% from the fourth quarter of 2020 to the first quarter of this year, the period when supply chain problems first occurred. affect supply. Imports have since rebounded but remained below pre-pandemic levels. The United States buys most of its incandescent light bulbs from Taiwan.

In addition to light bulbs, a source from one of the major retail banks, who asked not to be named, said replacement parts for heating and air conditioning systems across their branch network were in short supply.

During a recent earnings press conference, ODP Corp CEO Gerry Smith, which owns the Office Depot and OfficeMax supermarket chains, said the company anticipates ink and toner shortages through early next year. And one Midwest law firm asked employees in an email last month to cut back on printing because they were too short, according to a copy of the email seen by Reuters. The law firm did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Peter Lorenz, director of facilities and office operations at law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, said they are also experiencing paperwork shortages and delays in acquiring light bulbs at their City office. New York City, a 360,000 square foot (33,445 square meter) space that once housed about 500 employees before the pandemic.

Supply has picked up again since mid-October, Lorenz said, when employees began returning to the office as part of a hybrid work model, in which they split their time between those workplaces. and work remotely.

“I think a lot of suppliers have stepped up so they have a pretty good inventory of what we need,” he said in a phone interview.

If there’s a silver lining to this facility management issue, says Carron of Jones Lang LaSalle, it’s a lesson building managers have learned from last year’s pandemic shortages. .

“They have toilet paper,” she joked.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Dilts Marshall and Maria Caspani; additional reporting by Herb Lash; editing by Megan Davies and Jonathan Oatis) Where’s the paper, the ink, the light bulb? US offices grapple with supply shortages | WSAU News / Talk 550 AM · 99.9 FM

Dais Johnston

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