There is no denying it – 2020 has been a challenging year for business – but the entrepreneurial spirit has been alive and well, with many of us finding new ways to connect and work remotely. Here we explore some of the business trends we have seen in 2020 and evaluate which of these new ways of working are worth embracing and keeping in 2021, even when the business landscape starts to return to something approaching normality.
Less travel time
It has been a wake-up call for many of us who have the luxury of working remotely – take away the daily commute, and travel time to meetings, and it is amazing how many additional hours there are in a working day!
While many of us yearn for face-to-face interaction with colleagues and clients, it does not have to be all or nothing. A mixture of remote and onsite working feels like the perfect compromise for businesses who can make it work to their – and their teams’ – advantage.
When it comes to remote meetings – remember the days when it was considered acceptable to drive 2-3 hours for a two-hour meeting, followed by a similar return journey – that is most of the working day consumed by one meeting – not to mention the travel expenses incurred. And the meeting would generally continue for the designated 2 hours, whether it was needed or not, by way of justifying the travel time and cost!
The beauty of a virtual meeting is that as well as cutting out the travel time, it means that meetings are much more likely to last only as long as they need to – no guilt on either side.
The world is a smaller place to do business
Not only have businesspeople realised that their own country is a much smaller place – so is the world! It is just as easy to switch between a virtual meeting with someone in your immediate locality, to another part of the country, to another part of the world! I have benefitted from the opportunity to do business with people in four different continents since the start of the pandemic when previously my business efforts were focussed within a 50-mile radius of my home – long may that continue!
Wider networking opportunities
Networking meetings used to mean getting up at the crack of dawn, driving bleary-eyed to the destination and then discussing business over breakfast and coffee – often greatly beneficial, but a potential drain on time, and seeing the same faces every time can sometimes leave you feeling a little jaded.
With many business networking events now taking place virtually, the potential to use your time more effectively is huge – and the size of your potential network can increase accordingly. Not only does this mean a wider base of potential customers and referral partners, but it can also mean a much wider support network. It is tough out there and having a wider group of people who you can share experiences with, exchange advice, or just share a virtual coffee when you need to talk is invaluable – a definite plus point from 2020.
Fewer business trips (and travel costs), downsized offices – all benefit the business in terms of lower running costs. But for individuals, there also savings to be made from a move to a hybrid remote/onsite working pattern. Lower commuting costs, fewer coffees and lunches bought on the run, less wear and tear on business attire – it is not just the business itself that benefits. We would probably like to keep some of these benefits in 2021!
It has been said that the events of 2020 accelerated the adoption of technology by many businesses by around 3 years. Technology has quickly become much more advanced and has brought us all (virtually) closer together.
Many of us had barely heard of Microsoft Teams or Zoom before the start of the pandemic, but now they are part of the everyday lexicon. Working from home has also been the push many of us have needed to finally get a decent home working set-up – such as an ergonomic workstation, a decent-sized screen, a wireless headset, a VOIP phone number – and that is something that we’ll continue to benefit from even with a partial return to onsite working.
It has also been the year that many businesses have caught up with the times and fully embraced e-commerce – selling goods and services over the internet without the need for in-person interaction, taking remote payments, and using their website as a means of advertising the business.
Doing business on social media
Social media has been a real enabler to remote business – whether using LinkedIn to build your professional credibility or for lead generation; embracing Facebook selling; using Instagram as a means of showcasing your products and services; or sharing your views on Twitter – it has opened new possibilities and customers. That is certainly something we will want to keep in the future!
Being able to work remotely has been something that many employees have long been hoping for – and the pandemic has accelerated this. Many people enjoy having a commute that takes seconds rather than minutes or even hours, and the flexibility that goes with it – and businesses that offer this in the longer term to current or potential employees will find they have a better chance of recruiting and retaining the best people.
However, it can be hard to draw the distinction between work life and home life when both take place in the same physical space, particularly with extremely conscientious workers, or where there is a culture of presenteeism. Both employers and workers need to take responsibility for this – and many are turning to gentle exercise as a way of creating a demarcation between work life and home life. Some people create structure and routine by building a ‘fake commute’ into their routine – a short walk at the start and end of the working day, and some forward-looking businesses are monitoring their employees to ensure that they DO log-off and are not checking emails at certain times of the day, with several larger businesses insisting that their remote teams take time out to have lunch and a walk around the block to break up the working day.
The concept of working from remote locations is now increasingly part of the future state of work. Technology will continue to connect us as colleagues and businesses – we may not be physically in the same location, but work can be just as effective, if not more so, than the traditional working model. Let’s embrace the best of what we learned in 2020 as we look forward to a successful year in 2021.
Written exclusively for our company by Sally Wood
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