What does the future of the workplace look like for SMEs?

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about some of the largest changes to the workplace most of us have seen in our lifetimes. But, with vaccinations available for the entire UK population, and social distancing measures being gradually eased by the government, the question now turns to: what next? 

For businesses, the issue of getting their employees back into the office, where it is safe and possible to do so, is the most prevalent at present. The challenge is about ensuring that businesses are ready, in every way possible, to host their staff. 

Office interior specialists Accent Office, has helped numerous customers with office transformations over the last year and a half. Head of Client Relations, Rodney Hibbert, thinks that a flexible future will be the way forward for businesses:

“The truth is that there is no one-size-fits-all that works for everyone. 

 “Some businesses require their staff to be in the workplace to do a functioning role, such as an operational job in a warehouse or shop floor. So many organisations have had to consider how to keep their staff safe since COVID struck and remote working came in, as areas such as manufacturing and logistics have had to keep running throughout the pandemic.  

“But there have been some businesses and industries where working from home has been picked up and it has been a big success. Among our customers, there now seems to be a drive towards a hybrid model, with time spent in both the office and home, with flexibility offered from employers.” 

Last March, threw lots of businesses into a position they’d never been in before. As Rodney picks up, businesses had to completely change how they operated: 

“One example was of that of an East Midlands based client who decided to switch all staff to work from home full-time amid the pandemic. 

“They have since decided to bring half of their staff back into the office full-time, with an area of the office dedicated to those employees who are working from home, to come in and use if they are in the building for meetings where they are required.

“Most businesses will find this a challenge as there are lots of individuals who are less keen to go back into the office for their health and safety. They’re thinking about not only themselves, but their families and who they interact with. Employers won’t want to lose staff, by forcing them to come into the office, as there are plenty of organisations that are offering flexible working.

“Many employers have recruited employees who haven’t met their colleagues in real life but have had entire working relationships through a screen and that adds an extra stress to things.”

Pre-pandemic, most businesses not only saw their physical offices full of staff, but their IT systems were very much based within the workplace too. Investments in flexible IT systems have risen, as companies had to ensure that their staff could continue to work productively, despite uprooting from the office and moving to home.  

Downtime, or any form of unproductive working, is the last thing businesses want to experience right now. Concerningly the cost of downtime rose by 94% year-on-year from 2019 to 2020, from £105,867 to a staggering £205,878. As a result, digital transformations have played an important role, with companies aiming to continue trading despite the adversity of the pandemic and the increase in phishing attacks orchestrated by cyber criminals. Martin Roberts, Managing Director of IT specialists Neuways, thinks that digital transformations will play an important role for many businesses moving forwards: 

“One thing we’ve learnt over the last 18 months is that digital transformations have been accelerated by necessity.

“The longer-term plans and ideas of businesses, regarding changing business processes and improving communication, have been accelerated to occur immediately as businesses realised the wealth of changes they’d have to make to continue to successfully operate.

“Credit must go to the likes of Microsoft with their Microsoft Teams application proving to be invaluable for businesses. They have aided the acceleration required by being very responsive to people’s needs and problems and recognising what can be achieved.

“Even as companies begin moving back to the office more, there will remain a reliance upon the likes of Microsoft 365. The ability to easily share documents stored in one centralised location has proven to be too convenient for businesses to give up. Most companies will look to employ a hybrid working style, flexible systems will prove to be majorly important for the near future.”

With changes to a business’ working location, will come further changes required for data back-up procedures. Many businesses will have to ensure their data is backed up securely. This will allow them to have safe files to revert to, if they experience any kind of threat to their business continuity. 

Martin adds:

 “Some companies have adapted quickly and have benefitted from the endless possibilities offered by technology. Going back to the office, though, will require these same businesses to ensure that practices are updated to reflect the change in locations. 

“This could mean a change in their data back-up procedures, to ensure that data captured from those in the office is stored on secure back-up devices and not missed. Failure to do so could result in chaos if a disaster, such as a cyber attack, were to strike a business down. 

“As we emerge back into the world, people should take a step back, look at these tools that have saved us over the last 18 months and remind themselves of what they can do.” 

Amore businesses welcome back their staff to the office as part of the the future of the workplace, it is important for them to take note and ensure that their workplace policies, including healthsafety and technology, are up-to-date and reflect the evolving situation. Businesses need to think about their staff’s wellbeing, as well as their ability to remain operational. By investing in flexible IT systems, a company is putting themselves in the best possible position to deal with not only the present, but whatever the future holds.   

If your business is updating its working practices and returning to the workplace in any capacity, it is worth making sure your IT services are prepared for the upcoming change. Contact the IT business experts at Neuways by calling 01283 753 333 or emailing hello@neuways.com