Shared Printer Courtesy

This tip was based on a viewer question submitted through

QUESTION: Some of my colleagues tie up the printer by printing huge reports and spreadsheets.  It’s inconvenient and sometimes it seems down right rude, but it’s also part of the work. Should I say something? What’s the protocol on printer use?  Also, who should replace the toner and paper when the machine runs out?

RESPONSE: Most importantly, anyone sharing office equipment must use it with the utmost respect, care, and courtesy.  You must also be sensitive to the needs of others. Remember, if you expect everyone with whom you work to clean up after themselves, you must model that behavior yourself.

Consider instituting these guidelines for your shared printer:

1.   MULTIPLE PHOTOCOPIES. If you have a big print job, perhaps requiring more than ten copies of more than five pages each, consider printing one set and photocopying the rest. Photocopiers are typically faster and less costly to operate than printers. The efficient worker makes every effort to plan ahead in sending large print jobs to the photocopy department for duplication.

2.   SCHEDULE AROUND OTHERS. If you must send a large job to the printer, try to schedule it when your co-workers go to lunch, or on a break, so you can complete your work uninterrupted.

3.   BREAK UP LARGE PRINT JOBS. When you must complete a large job during prime work time, break up the large job by printing 25 copies at a time, allowing co-workers to print their work between sets. Overall, let small print jobs take precedence over large print jobs.

4.   KNOW WHO IS IN CHARGE. Designate an attendant, and have it be part of their job responsibilities, to restock the paper shelf and other equipment supplies, as needed, and know who to contact when repairs are required.

5.   ESTABLISH A SUPPLY SYSTEM. Do your part in maintaining the supplies needed to operate the machines. Decide as a group that the printer should never be left empty of an ample supply of paper in all bins, and that everyone understands the system. As a reminder, mark the last ream of paper with a large marking pen: “LAST REAM! Contact (name) at (extension number) to restock shelf” and remind everyone to contact the attendant when they open that ream. Depending on the needs of your company, you may want to mark the last two reams.

6.   KNOW BASIC MAINTENANCE. Every person using shared equipment should be trained on how to use it properly and to take care of everyday situations, such as how to un-jam the machine, replenish paper bins, and, as appropriate, replace the toner cartridge.

7.   LEAVE THE MACHINE OPERABLE. If the machine stalls or jams, or an indicator light appears, take time to undo the jam, fix the problem, or alert the attendant before leaving the machine. Never leave a machine in an inoperable state without letting others know.

8.   AVOID WASTING PAPER. When using letterhead, colored paper, or any other type of specialty paper, be sure to remove all extra sheets before leaving the machine. Leave the bins with an ample supply of plain white paper.

BONUS: KEEP IT CLEAN. Avoid eating, drinking, or setting food and drinks near the printer. Accidents do happen.

NOTE: If you would like an authorized FREE copy of the above guidelines to post near your shared printer, please email us at and we’ll be happy to send you a copy, suitable for framing.

FORWARD THIS NEWSLETTER. Pass this article to anyone you know who works in an office with a printer.  In fact, make a copy of this article and keep it in your wallet or purse to hand anyone you know who complains about someone’s printer etiquette. Invite them to contact me with continued dialogue on this topic.  I’d enjoy hearing from them.

QUESTION: What other items do you have to add to this list?  Do let us hear from you by locating this article at  You may also reach us at  If you enjoyed this article and want more, subscribe to our “Etiquette Tip of the Month” newsletter—at no charge—filled with great monthly tips on all sorts of topics from international business and social etiquette and protocol to everyday life subjects.  It will be great to have you as a member of our happy family of subscribers at

Happy Practicing!

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