Facing challenging times ahead, many organisations will be predicting the future of business. Serviceteam IT asked IT Directors, Managers/Heads and Engineers of UK businesses: When predicting the future of business, which from a list of options will impact their organisation the most?
The five most reported responses will be explored in detail below.
Maintaining staff motivation
34% of respondents reported maintaining staff motivation will affect their organisation in the future. There are questions about how to keep productivity high, ensure staff are well during the pandemic while also trying to maintain motivated.
Brian Robinson wrote an article for Forbes detailing what individuals can do to maintain motivation during the pandemic. He noted that working from home can be lonely, distracting or mean more overtime than usual. Upon reading his analysis, there is no reason why organisations should not encourage this also. Applying the suggestions Robinson put forward to an organisational approach, here are some things a business could implement:
- Robinson noted that everyone has a different personal style of working. An organisation could accommodate this in their work ethos. For example, a weekly blog about how staff have been working from home, what motivates them and what they have been doing differently. Encourage staff to work in a way that is best for them.
- Further, Robinson encourages individuals to have a designated workspace with a regular schedule and keeping work at an arm’s length after hours. Applying this to an organisation, if possible, during these unprecedented times, reduce the pressure of accessing digital media all the time. Email and IP Telephony mean individuals can be contacted any time anywhere. But it does not mean they should. An informal rule could be enforced to ensure a better work-life balance for employees.
- In addition, it was advised to have telecommuting devices ready to go during work hours. Again, applying this to business, if there is a busier work schedule, implement office hours where a person shares a Zoom link where they will be on standby for an hour or so for people to drop in with any questions.
Social distancing to ensure employees safety
33% of the research group reported social distancing to ensure employee’s safety as a future impact to their organisation. This is a completely understandable impact with benefits of working in an office including greater collaboration and creativity. However, digital transformation and the use of tech means it may be possible for employees to productively work from home for longer.
It has been reported that emerging technologies could help limit the spread of the pandemic by maintaining social distancing in the workplace. These technologies, namely from either via a mobile phone or a worn device, could warn workers when they are not two metres away from each other. However, as highlighted by Ari Trachtenberg in the Smithsonian Magazine, there are concerns over the usefulness of the technology and privacy concerns.
“The location data that is used by some contact tracing solutions can be intensely personal. It can identify, for example, with whom workers eat lunch or even what they purchased at the lunch counter. It can identify what fraction of the workday is spent by the water cooler, and even how often and for how long workers go to the bathroom. Without explicit safeguards, employees are forced to choose between keeping their jobs and maintaining their privacy.” Trachtenberg writes.
This data should be anonymous and could be deleted after 14 days. However, I am unsure whether this will take off or be applied in UK businesses. According to 4 years of Serviceteam IT’s research, companies are not widely using emerging technologies, such as AI or IoT, to overcome business challenges; therefore, it would be more suitable to presume more money will go into supporting virtual meetings and events or business strategy, for example. Yet, as mentioned in further articles and the 2020 research, the effects of the outbreak of COVID-19 will accelerate technology adoption in businesses.
The future impact of virtual meetings on the organisation was chosen by 31% of respondents. Video platforms like Zoom and Teams are not the same as a face-to-face meeting in an office. Although screen share or file sharing are useful tools in these services, many believe interaction and collaboration with others is best in an office. There are many arguments for and against employees returning to the office, with many people not wanting to return at all. This will certainly affect the ways that an organisation views operational efficiency and working remotely.
However, as mentioned earlier, office hours over Zoom, and encouraging a digital culture, could help an organisation through this challenge.
30% of respondents reported reduced budgets as a future impact to their organisation. The UK is in a recession and globally the COVID-19 pandemic has brought economic challenges. With most UK businesses (99.9% of the business population) being SMEs this future impact could harm the growth of many of these businesses.
Expanding the business
Expanding the business as a future impact to their organisation was selected by 28% of survey respondents. On top of the UK being in a recession, there is a reduced global outreach from fewer travel opportunities and virtual meetings. Therefore, the opportunity for expansion may be limited in these uncertain times.
Guidance around expanding the business during these times does not necessarily harbour large steps. For example, supporting the internal environment of the organisation. There could be damage to the reputation of a business who acted poorly to its employees during the pandemic, such as Richard Branson asking the Virgin team to take eight weeks of unpaid leave, himself a billionaire. Supporting staff will increase their loyalty.
Focusing on customer value, digital transformation, embracing behavioural shifts and e-commerce have also been mentioned to help support an organisation’s position.
The future impacts noted by IT Directors, Managers/Heads and Engineers of UK organisations are understandable business concerns. With the outbreak of COVID-19, ensuring workers are motivated, able to be productive with social distancing, virtual meetings to maintain business continuity, on top of a reduced budget and need to expand the business, institutions are facing difficult times ahead.
IT infrastructure has its benefits and could be applied to each challenge here. However, depending on budgets, staff and a digital culture, there may not be instant benefits noticed.