What the future of work looks like for small business or SMEs

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Although the world in which we work is changing, the future of work is already here, for the most part. Many businesses have been forced into survival mode and there’s no denying that the future of work has been shaped by a few powerful factors. But, it’s not all as daunting as it seems. Keeping up and implementing these changes might help your business increase productivity and create a higher return on investment. What exactly is the future of work, and which elements are you already executing in your business?  


Remote work   


Just over a year ago, the streets were deserted, office blocks lay dormant and central business districts were inhabited as we welcomed the mass adoption of remote work. Companies were forced to trade in their physical presence for virtual spaces, and the most unlikely of businesses were able to make the most of this new way of working.   


As we slowly start to find our feet, lockdown regulations begin to lift, and stock markets strengthen, most businesses have found that returning to the office won’t be part of their future plans. And there is very little resistance from staff either! 1 in 4 employees in the UK said they would resign from their jobs if they were forced to return to the office. With such a high number embracing a work from home culture, it seems to be a growing phenomenon that will be here to stay.   




What does this mean for your business?  


Before you get overwhelmed at the thought of trying to manage your staff and collaborate at a distance, it’s important to consider all the benefits that come with encouraging a remote work company culture.  


Firstly, you get to cut down on many operational and overhead costs. You are no longer responsible for hiring expensive boardrooms, making sure every employee has adequate working space, there is an endless supply of company stationery, and that the fridge is stocked with milk and milk alternatives. Less overall costs mean more investment in other areas!  


Secondly, your business becomes more sustainable. And as the trend of sustainability grows, who wouldn’t love the sound of that? Less commuting in traffic means a kinder carbon footprint on the planet. This also means less precious time is wasted which has a positive impact on reducing stress for modern workersAllowing your staff to be more flexible with their time, and have more of it when they are not commuting, increases employee satisfaction and happiness which affects their overall level of productivity.   


Although remote work requires creative management and perhaps time tracking tools, your employees will be less distracted and more focused. It could just be a win-win situation for everyone!  


Top tip: If you’re adamant that you want your employees to return to work, then try meeting them halfway to retain the valuable talent you may already have on board. Give them the flexibility to choose 2-3 days where they can work from home and give them a solid foundation of do’s and don’ts to follow.    


Outsourced teams   


Companies have been forced to relook at their budgets and with that sometimes comes being forced to let go of permanent staff. But how does one move forward and grow their business if the job still needs to be done?  


Many businesses have, and will continue, to outsource staff for some of the essential services they require. From administrative work and digital marketing to website development, outsourcing your team is the future. You can dip into a broad talent pool from all ends of the globe who aren’t confined to geographic locations, there is no need for permanent employment contracts, and you get a wide range of highly qualified employees that you pay hourly.  




How does that affect your business going forward?  


As an employer, you will need to have a different approach to HR and how you hire and recruit. With the widening skills gap even more prevalent than ever, you need to make sure that you are only outsourcing to the cream of the crop.  


Top tip: If you’re not feeling confident in outsourcing a team member make sure you do a skills test with them before you commit. This will not only give you peace of mind but it will guarantee that they are a correct fit for your business.   


E-commerce & digital customer experiences are here to stay   


Welcome to the digital era! If you’re not in it, you’re simply missing out on this dominating trend.   


E-commerce and digital customer experiences have grown twice as fast in the last year with consumers being forced to shop for everything online. Industries that have never found a need to have an online presence now do. Even though regulations are starting to ease, consumers have become so accustomed to shopping from the comfort and convenience of their own home that we don’t see this trajectory changing any time soon.  


But how does that affect the future of work for my business?  


If your business is not online, the first step would be to get there. And to get there, fast! Your business might require a strong web developer to build your website for you, depending on your needs. You could also consider building it yourself. Read this blog to find out the best option that aligns with your business goals.


Once this hurdle has been tackled, you will need some talented employees to run all e-commerce operations for your website as this sector continues to grow. E-commerce is more than just shopping on Amazon, it’s defined as “commercial transactions conducted electronically on the internet”. Operations will include all web administration, SEO optimisationdigital customer service, sales and marketing. You need to make sure your employees are up to speed, adequately trained and continuously keep abreast of any digital trends that may be lurking on the horizon.  


Top tip: There are many free online training programs and workshops that assist in training and up-skilling your staff, strengthening your team’s skillset and ultimately your business. 


Artificial Intelligence and Automation   


AI and automation are the biggest trends for 2021! Not only do we see it as a huge influence in the future of work, but we believe it will only grow from strength to strength. Automating your daily tasks drives innovation, has quicker turnaround time for your customers, optimises business operations and increases your return on investment.  


While the initial cost of investing in these tools may be high, you will be able to increase your profit margins with reduced effort and human influence.  




Where does that leave my business?  


AI and automation leave no place for human error, and it will be up to you, as the employer, to assess whether it’s worth hiring someone to get the job done or leaving it up to a machine. You will also need to consider whether an employee’s skill set may become automated before you take the time and effort to hire them.  


Top tip: While we do agree that this is an incredible value trend to consider for your business, don’t lose sight of the influence of human emotion. Depending on the nature of your business, put yourself in your customers’ shoes and ask if they would rather be dealing with a robot or a human?  


If you don’t adapt to the future of work now, it will be harder to catch up in the long run. Opening your business to new ideas and technology will help you grow your business, improve profit margins and position your brand as an industry leader. 



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