3 min read

Business Insight: Top 5 trends we’re seeing from SMEs

Since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, we have been having regular discussions with our clients to explore the issues they're facing and how we can help. Through this, we have spotted five business trends that are happening across industries. Exploring how other businesses are mitigating these challenges can help your company adapt in a fast-changing business environment.

[Read:  Why going office-less is the future for some companies]

Business insight stacking wooden blocks in a suit

1. Hybrid working - from home and the office

A lot of companies are having the ongoing debate around sending staff to work from home versus bringing them to the office. While things are clear when the nation is in lockdown (work from home wherever possible), forward-thinking companies are considering the alternatives for when returning to the office is an option.

There are significant advantages for staff and businesses for a remote working or hybrid working system: 

  • Cut down on commute time and costs for staff
  • Increased flexibility for staff
  • Opportunity to save costs by downsizing the office

Getting the balance right means companies are also preparing so they can avoid some of the potential pitfalls: 

  • People not having access to hardware/applications they need since they've left them at home/ in the office 
  • Staff could become disconnected from colleagues who they're not seeing in person 
  • People might feel forced to come into the office if their team members are keen to meet in the office

Businesses and their staff are keen to continue at least some remote working post-pandemic.  The majority anticipate that the net result will be a hybrid way of working (including ourselves) to take advantage of the benefits. Aware of the potential challenges a lot of them are already putting a long-term plan in place

2. Office space and exploring alternatives

Connected to the conversation about working from home, is a discussion around what the role of the office is for a new modern company. With more people working from home, some business have decided offices don't need to be as big as they previously were, and the opportunity to reduce costs has led to 69% of CEOs planning to downsize their office space.

Businesses are considering several options to save costs when it comes to overhauling their office space: 

  • Downsizing the floor space of their office, either by moving to a new office or taking up less space if they're renting in an office block.
  • Moving out from premium areas (like central London);
    • Talent can be recruited from farther away when you don't have to commute regularly
    • The status of having a trendy address is less important when people are visiting less
    • Doing business online means you no longer need a physical proximity to clients
  • Some companies are getting rid of the office altogether, taking advantage of flexible shared workspaces and managed IT infrastructure services to pursue a totally new working environment.

The businesses that are downsizing or getting rid of their offices completely are committing to a more flexible, hybrid way of working in the long-term.  When the pandemic is over, they either won’t have an office or they won't occupy the same space that can fit all their staff, all of the time.

Since the office is no longer the primary place where people gather to work, companies are also reviewing its other roles, like hosting the company IT. Moving servers and other hardware to a managed infrastructure solution is helping businesses create an environment well-suited to the new hybrid ways of working, and making moving or downsizing easier.

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3. Adapting sales and marketing strategies to a socially-distanced world

Lockdown saw the death of face to face networking. Without these arrows in their proverbial quivers, sales and marketing teams have needed to pivot and find new techniques of generating and nurturing prospects.

Not being able to physically meet up with someone makes it difficult to establish new contacts, and nurture relationships with existing clients. But sales and marketing teams have risen to the challenge and new tools and tactics are being used:

  • Increased communication - Marketing teams are sending communications with increased frequency to keep people informed of company updates, especially to communicate the changes made in response to ever-changing Covid regulations. 
  • Personalised outreach - Sales teams are finding ways to differentiate their outreach from the templated email sequences frequenting their inbox.  Personalised, individual outreach, such as a specially-recorded short video, has proven a successful way to stand out.
  • Online events - The loss of face to face networking hasn't meant sales teams have had to completely lose all group networking, and companies are hosting a much wider variety of online events to be a soft-touch entry point for potential clients, and to keep in touch with customers. 

But a new way of selling has generated new problems for sales teams, with “Video Fatigue” making it harder and harder to get people to engage in a buying process conducted totally remotely. A sales team’s ability to push through that fatigue and connect with leads without meeting them will be the key to making sales for the foreseeable future.

4. Keeping employees engaged and motivated

Of course, potential clients aren’t the only people sick of video conference calls, and companies are looking at ways to keep their employees engaged and connected.

Businesses are finding that working from home for an extended period of time is putting a strain on all of their staff, even those who initially took to it well. Feeling isolated from colleagues, disruptions at home interrupting work, and burn out from the blurred lines of work and home are all causes for dips in productivity.

Consistent, regular communication has been key to keeping employees engaged for a lot of companies. They've aimed to keep staff informed on wider company activities and new projects, as well as supporting a social side of things. Here’s what we’ve seen companies doing:

  • Regular socials - from Friday afternoon quizzes to online Christmas parties, teams are figuring out how to have fun without being in the same room.
  • Encouraging water cooler chat – Chit chat remains an important part of getting to know your colleagues, so casual video calls or slack channels have proved useful tools for staff to discuss shared interests.
  • Town hall meetings – Make sure everyone in the company knows the latest news by hosting regular all-staff meetings. Here at 4D, we do them twice a month and have had really positive feedback from employees.

Beyond keeping in contact, managers have also been reaching out to their teams to check in, and make sure team members’ mental health isn’t suffering as a result of the pandemic.

Companies have realised that to support their teams it’s important to treat staff with respect and compassion and make allowances when needed regarding time off and moved deadlines.

[Infographic:  How managers can support the mental health of their team remotely.]

5. Digital transformation has been prioritised and fast-tracked

With new ways of working and a lot of uncertainty in the future, flexibility has been the focus of a lot of companies. For their IT that has meant prioritising a digital-first system that moves legacy applications to the cloud.

With flexibility for the future being such a priority, businesses are being selective with their choice of platforms: 

  • Prioritising cloud platforms for building SaaS over private hardware due to the adaptability and scalability it provides
  • Pursuing a multi-cloud architecture, utilising several cloud platforms to further increase flexibility and avoid being locked into a vendor 

By making the most of an increased selection of deployment options, SMEs can ensure that they always have the right platform for increasing their workflows in any direction.

What 4D can do to help

While we can’t help with all of the issues above, we at 4D are experts in managed infrastructure solutions. Whether you’re looking to optimise your IT for remote working or need to find a new IT hosting solution to downsize your office, we’re here to help.

Check out our services or get in touch to book a free consultation to see how we can support your IT into the future.

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