Breaking News
Get Actionable Insights with InvestingPro+: Start 7 Day FREE Trial Register here
Investing Pro 0
Ad-Free Version. Upgrade your Investing.com experience. Save up to 40% More details

Where's the paper, ink, lightbulbs? U.S. offices struggle with supply shortages

Stock MarketsDec 03, 2021 12:26PM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
 
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Office lights are illuminated in a high rise building at dusk, as Governor Ralph Northam's (D-VA) stay-at-home order continues due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in the Rosslyn section of Arlington, Virginia, U.S., April 30, 2

By Elizabeth Dilts Marshall and Maria Caspani

NEW YORK(Reuters) - While news of the Omicron coronavirus variant threatens to derail U.S. companies' return-to-office-plans, employers trying to get workers back into offices said they are encountering a different, unforeseen challenge: keeping the lights on.

The disruptions to the global supply chain caused by factory shutdowns in Asia, congestion at U.S. ports and a nationwide labor shortage have led to widely publicized microchip and building materials shortages. Now these issues are causing shortages in everyday office supplies, everything from printer ink and toner to paper to lightbulbs.

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

"I'm an anthropologist not a mathematician!" Becker joked on Twitter (NYSE:TWTR). Becker said in an email interview that, instead of counting bulbs, she sent photos of her darkened office to the facilities department, which, university spokesman John Warren said, is short on lighting materials and lamps.

For offices and workers, these supply issues - which can trickle down to cause workplace headaches - are only adding to the obstacles companies face in getting people back to the office.

Variants of the coronavirus, such as Delta, have already forced companies to push back the dates when they hoped most employees would begin to return to offices. It is possible the Omicron variant, first detected in the United States on Wednesday, will delay openings further.

Now, just securing general lighting supplies is taking eight to 13 weeks longer than normal, said Cheryl Carron, whose duties include heading facilities management for global commercial real estate company Jones Lang LaSalle.

"It's a significant challenge as we look at how we bring people back to work," Carron said in an interview. "It's a real critical need and one we take for granted."

Companies across the globe have sounded the alarm on supply issues, which have boosted prices on raw materials from chemicals to steel. The concern dominated the last earnings season, with mentions of the issue by chief executives jumping 412%.

U.S. Customs data showed imports of glass bulbs for use in incandescent lamps fell 25% from the fourth quarter of 2020 to the first quarter this year, a period when the supply-chain issues first hit supplies. Imports have since rebounded but are still below pre-pandemic levels. The United States gets most of its incandescent bulbs from Taiwan.

In addition to lightbulbs, a source at one of the big retail banks, speaking on condition of anonymity, said replacement parts for heating and air-conditioning units across its branch network were in short supply.

In a recent earnings call, ODP Corp Chief Executive Gerry Smith, whose company owns the Office Depot (NASDAQ:ODP) and OfficeMax superstore chains, said the company anticipates a shortage in printer ink and toner until early next year. And one Midwestern law firm asked staff in an email last month to cut back on printing because they are short on paper, 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 also experienced paper shortages and delays in obtaining lightbulbs at the firm's New York City office, a 360,000-square-foot (33,445-square-meter) space that used to be occupied by about 500 employees before the pandemic.

Supplies have been ramping back up since mid-October, Lorenz said, as employees began returning to the office as part of a hybrid work model, in which they split time between that workplace and working remotely.

"I think a lot of the suppliers have sort of bulked up so that they have a pretty good inventory of what we need," he said in a phone interview.

If there is a silver lining to be found in this facilities management headache, Jones Lang LaSalle's Carron said, it is in the lessons that building managers learned from last year's pandemic-triggered shortages.

"They've got toilet paper," she joked.

Where's the paper, ink, lightbulbs? U.S. offices struggle with supply shortages
 

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at Investing.com’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
Post also to:
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's Investing.com's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.
Continue with Google
or
Sign up with Email