SMEs still embrace remote working one year on
Looking back on a roller coaster year, it is impossible not to acknowledge the important role technology and digitisation has played in keeping Kiwi businesses moving, writes Andrew Fairgray. This year, we ran the second 2degrees Shaping Business Study, which surveyed more than 1,000 business decision makers and found that despite the challenges of the […]
Looking back on a roller coaster year, it is impossible not to acknowledge the important role technology and digitisation has played in keeping Kiwi businesses moving, writes Andrew Fairgray.
This year, we ran the second 2degrees Shaping Business Study, which surveyed more than 1,000 business decision makers and found that despite the challenges of the year, business leaders continue to see silver linings from leveraging technology.
Technology has helped Kiwi businesses maintain momentum since March 2020 in a multitude of ways. Where working from home is concerned, a growing focus in online capability, improvements to work life balance and enhanced digital skills are just some of the ways that digitisation has kept businesses on track.
Better off than before
The past year has taught us how important it is for businesses to be agile, as well as how quickly they can adapt, particularly when faced with adverse circumstances. During the March 2020 lockdowns, many businesses were forced to quickly accelerate their digitisation plans in order to remain connected to their colleagues and customers. Now, one year on, 39 percent of employing business decision makers said their business could run better during another lockdown than it did during the first lockdown in March 2020.
Pat Johnson was one of the people who took part in our research. Prior to the first lockdown, Pat’s communications and conference management business, HiGate Consulting (Connecting with Dots) was entirely face-to-face. Her usual schedule involved travelling around the Otago region to deliver in-person training sessions. As the country moved to alert level 4, Pat and her team were forced to make the decision to move all training sessions to an online format.
It turned out that participants found the new online training format much more effective than the traditional sessions. This newfound online capability allowed Pat to break down the trainings into several shorter sessions spaced out across a few weeks, enabling participants to put the techniques into practice in between. Remarkably, one year on, Pat and her team are still doing training sessions almost exclusively via videoconferencing.
The 2degrees study found that strong and reliable broadband (84 percent) was identified as the most important tool for employing businesses to remain connected, and also ranked virtual communication tools such as Teams and Zoom as the most critical to drive mobility and meet the changing needs of their consumers.
A further 31 percent, like Pat, now opt for virtual meetings to improve operational efficiency and productivity.
Bridging the distance divide
While working from home is now a popular option across all forms of business, the Shaping Business Study found that SME owners connected more with this new way of working.
In findings that would have been unimaginable just a little more than a year ago, the majority of companies with less than 20 employees said that if only given one choice, they would opt to work from home full-time (51 percent) rather than their usual place of work. This is followed by larger companies (29-49 employees) at 48 percent and businesses with more than 50 employees coming in lower at 35 percent.
For Pat Johnson, the benefits of working from home are unparalleled. Not having to spend her days travelling across the region means that she is able to work much more efficiently and economically. Prior to lockdown, Pat would dedicate three working days to one session, including travel time. Now thanks to working from home practices and an investment in online business capabilities, she is able to complete one session within a spaced out four and a half hours.
Ultimately, what the 2degrees Shaping Business Study shows is that the changes we have seen across the last 12 months are here to stay. Pat, like so many Kiwi businesses, recognised that it was crucial they remain connected to their employees, clients, and customers across an unprecedented and challenging year.
New Zealand businesses have demonstrated great resilience during Covid-19, and we can clearly see how they have found strength in adaptability and technology to support digital transformation through this time.
For more information about 2degrees’ Shaping Business Study, visit: https://www.2degrees.nz/media-releases/technology-transformation-helps-businesses-run-better-than-ever/
Andrew Fairgray is Chief Business Officer at 2degrees.