2020 was the year that everything changed. Covid-19 upended almost every facet of our personal lives, businesses were thrown into one of the most volatile economic climates on record, and for those companies who were lucky enough to survive, quick and innovative responses had to be taken to keep their wheels turning.
While it’s clear that 2020 has taught us that we can’t predict the future, it’s also revealed how important it is for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to plan ahead and to prepare for the impossible. So, as 2021 ticks on, we believe now is an optimal time for business owners to look forward and try to understand what else this year might have in store for their business.
From remote and hybrid styles of working, to increased tech use and social media marketing, the pandemic has accelerated many trends that existed long before the first COVID-19 outbreak occurred. But with the unpredictable nature of the virus, it’s also likely that 2021 will bring with it some unexpected market changes.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at these business trends, before helping you understand how your business can take advantage of them. So, without further ado – let’s have a look at our top nine business predictions for 2021.
A continuation of remote working
One of the most significant changes that took place last year was the widespread shift from working in physical office spaces to working remotely, from home. To be specific, since April 2020, 46.6% of the UK workforce has carried out at least some work from home (WFH). Due to the persistence of the Covid-19, it doesn’t look like we’re going to be returning to offices full time anytime soon.
Even after the virus eventually subsides, remote working is likely to continue in one form or another. By giving workers greater flexibility and control over their schedules, and in turn, lowering company costs and, in many cases, not to mention improving productivity levels, the WFH model has been proving very popular with employers and employees alike. So, due to the perks that remote working offers, it seems that this will continue to be a massive trend as we head further into 2021.
Additionally, as companies are increasingly harnessing technology that enables them to run a range of services online, physical workspaces are becoming less of a core component to the way that many businesses’ carry out their operations. However, offices aren’t likely to become obsolete anytime soon. According to a survey of tech professionals by the anonymous professional network Blind, 80% of respondents believe the future of work is likely to be hybrid.
What is hybrid work, you ask? Before the pandemic, many of us had never come across this expression before. Defined simply as a mixture of office-based work and working from home, hybrid work helps employers to straddle the bridge between the present and the future. It enables companies to comply with Covid-19 guidelines by encouraging large sections of the workforce to WFH. It also benefits employees because it facilitates group collaboration while giving them the autonomy to choose to work where they believe they are the most productive.
Due to the unpredictable nature of Covid-19, and a widespread shift in employee attitudes, it looks like remote or hybrid forms of work will last throughout 2021 and beyond. So, while figuring out what will work best for your enterprise, it may be worth considering giving long-term hybrid working models a go.
As I’m sure most of you will agree, the only constant throughout 2020 was unpredictability. From new strains of Covid-19 emerging, to government restrictions changing with the wind, if UK businesses have learnt anything, it’s the importance of being innovative and responding to change well. Businesses who were flexible to change were the ones who prospered most throughout the coronavirus. With the heavy emphasis that’s been placed on business’ resilience and adaptability of late, it’s very likely to continue being a valuable asset into 2021 and beyond.
This sentiment is echoed by Pamala Phillips, co-founder of the accountancy firm de Jong Phillips, who stated that flexible businesses run by open-minded owners were likely better suited to adapt than those who relied more on no-longer-applicable practices of the past. This isn’t to say that all flexible businesses could change successfully, but many of those who did had exciting and innovative ideas behind them, placing them in a strong position for the future.
While there are many ways to prepare for the unexpected in 2021, one useful way to improve your company’s ability to adapt is to form a business continuity plan (BCP). A BCP is a document that outlines how a business will continue operating during an unplaced disruption in service. It’s a useful way to help you power through obstacles that you weren’t expecting. With Google searches for ‘business continuity plan’ increasing by a whopping 600% throughout 2020, this trend will likely continue to rise throughout 2021. So, with this coming year likely to bring businesses a whole new set of challenges, continuity planning is a positive way to give business owners back their sense of control.