After two years of chaos, businesses had hoped 2022 would see a return to normality. But with Omicron, staff shortages, and the chaos of RATs, the new year hasn’t gotten off to the best start.
It’s not all bad news, however. The adjustments SMEs have had to make over the past two years, including new ways of working and communicating, have resulted in much greater resilience. Businesses are now more prepared to weather the next storm; picking up and starting again after each new setback.
This year is unlikely to see the return to business-as-normal we might have hoped – too much has changed. But many of the changes brought about by the pandemic have ultimately been for the better. These are five key ways in which 2022 will be different for SMEs.
1. Simpler times, easier technology
With such a high percentage of meetings now being held virtually, businesses will do away with complicated systems that negatively impact productivity and engagement. We’ll see complexity taken out of the meeting room; putting an end to electric blinds and fancy lighting systems that require endless tinkering to get everything right; people want to simply walk into a room, have their meeting, and get on with their day.
2. A 15-minute work-life model
Businesses have realised that workers are happier and more productive when they don’t have to spend hours commuting in rush hour traffic. It’s now widely accepted that people can work productively from anywhere, and because of this, commute avoidance will lead to the rise of the 15-minute work-life model – a new reality where people choose to work, live and play within 15 minutes of their home. This will lead to the rise of satellite offices; smaller workspaces in suburban areas that are more accessible than a central CBD location. Staff will work across a combination of co-working spaces, satellite offices and home offices, using collaborative platforms to connect with colleagues from anywhere.
3. Doing business from anywhere
Industries will continue to decentralise as they incorporate hybrid working. Gartner predicts that 40 per cent of companies will use “operations anywhere” by the end of 2023, combining virtual and physical interactions with customers and employees. Telemedicine, e-commerce, digital banking and virtual contact centres will all continue to rise, powered by the uptake of 5G and faster internet speeds.
4. Intelligent workplace management
Managing asynchronous and dynamic work environments is more complex than running traditional offices. To combat this, businesses will need to adopt new, intelligent systems which can analyse how employees engage at work – what technology they’re using, what meeting rooms are used, how engaged people are in meetings, and generate insights to enable better collaboration and higher productivity. A recent report by ResearchAndMarkets.com estimates the SME software market will grow by $52.01 billion during 2021-2025, a CAGR of 7.42 per cent.
5. Quality of experience
One of the biggest challenges for SMEs to navigate in 2022 will be equality of experience. It’s become clear that pro-quality sound, crystal clear video, and an unwavering internet connection are imperative in order to be productive while working remotely – and without this those working remotely remain at a disadvantage.
No matter where employees choose to work, they must have access to the same quality of experience as their office-based colleagues. They need to feel as though they’re in the same room as their teams, easily collaborating with one another as though they were working side by side – even if they’re working in different locations. SMEs will need to equip all staff with the highest quality tech to ensure every worker is on equal footing.