Covid-19 has helped build stronger client relationships
Home working is opening up new opportunities for UK businesses, with 70% of companies claiming that it has potentially strengthened relationships with clients, supply chains and competitors.
The Covid-19 UK business barometer, conducted by Sapio Research and B2B agency Skout, also found that 34% of companies believe that working from home is having a positive impact on employee productivity. Reduced travel times and changing routines have also contributed to employee effectiveness.
As a result, around one in six businesses also reported that they are embracing ‘the new normal’ by downsizing their businesses operations, significantly reducing expenditure in areas such as recruitment, training materials and premises space. This comes at a cost however with 35% of businesses investing more into remote working technology, compared to pre-Covid-19 levels.
Since the spread of the virus, many companies have been forced to offer work from home solutions to ensure business continuity. Some large organisations, such as Twitter, Shopify and Facebook, have implemented a ‘work from home forever’ scheme across their workforce. This change in policy is due to a variety of reasons, including an increase in employee productivity, potential cost-savings, and the reduction of carbon emissions due to less people commuting to offices.
Over the course of the pandemic, the survey revealed that nearly half of businesses have used financial support from the government, such as the furlough scheme, with a further 26% planning to use it in the near future. And, with part-time furlough now an option, companies will start exercising the different options available to them when returning employees back to work.
The research, which was conducted between mid-April and mid-May with a cross industry sample of 500 businesses from SMEs to large enterprises, shows how companies are embracing change using online alternatives. 24% of respondents have made efforts to maintain their brand presence though activities such as virtual quizzes, 19% have delivered services through online training programmes, and 18% have participated in virtual networking events.
NOVELTEA, a young UK business who produces alcoholic tea, has adapted its internal operations by ‘working at home forever’. Vincent Efferoth, managing director at NOVELTEA, says, “Covid-19 has required the business and team to adapt to the new situation, which meant working remotely. This led to the decision to not invest in office space but to become a completely remote workforce. We are now rethinking our way of working and how we collaborate to become a more productive team.”
Commenting on the findings, Adam Burtt-Jones, director at Burtt-Jones and Brewer, a workplace design consultancy that helps businesses redesign the way they work, says: “At the moment, it’s too early to make decisions on what the future workplace will look like as many businesses are still adapting operations to changing government guidelines. What is evident, is that companies that never previously considered remote working have unintentionally had their minds changed and they can now see the benefits.
“Going forward, principles regarding the value of the office will change and home working will be now part of the experience. For example, some companies may just use the office as a figurative head to symbolise the heart of the business – somewhere to collaborate, socialise and meet with clients. However, working digitally cannot always replicate habits such as building and maintaining trusted relationships.”
A full set of findings can be found here.