By Jonathan Kini, managing director, TalkTalk
The end of the latest Covid restrictions have brought about a real sense of a ‘return to normality’ in our personal and professional lives.
Events are back, face-to-face meetings are slowly returning and many of us are heading back into our workplaces, whether that is an office or elsewhere. That said, we are not the same people who went into the first Lockdown and our businesses have changed with it.
In July,we undertook research in Greater Manchester that found 93 per cent of businesses in the region had diversified their products and services – 75 per cent of them increasing their digital presence in response to the pandemic.
Whilst some have changed entirely, others have made smaller tweaks or launched a new service line. Internal practices have changed too – the same survey found that 85 per cent of businesses in the North West plan to have a flexible working policy moving forward.
Whatever sector or size of business, we’ve all had to adapt. Expectations have changed and those unable to cope with the pace of change will be left behind. Employees want more choice and flexibility in their working lives; digital enablement has become a cornerstone of modern business practice and businesses are under more pressure than ever to respond to the climate agenda.
In the age of hybrid working when people tend to be further away from each other, this helps teams to communicate as if they are sat side-by-side
With that in mind, now is a pivotal moment to take stock and ensure your business is ready to thrive post-Covid.
Getting your business digitally enabled
We are long past the dawn of the Zoom and MS Teams era, with video call capabilities now a minimum expectation. Similarly, ensuring all of your team are able to access and edit shared documents remotely is crucial as it allows teams both in and outside the office to collaborate much more efficiently and effectively.
Instant messaging is another emerging practice for internal and external communication; being able to speak with clients and colleagues without the formality of an email can help to get much more done day-to-day. In the age of hybrid working when people tend to be further away from each other, this helps teams to communicate as if they are sat side-by-side.
Equally, mitigating the risk of downtime is essential, so ensuring you have a dedicated IT support team is crucial. If people in your organisation are unable to work for hours or even days due to an IT issue, it can cause serious problems, particularly for smaller teams.
It goes without saying, but none of these core practices are possible with a slow or intermittent internet connection and will cost business opportunities.
Internet usage is much higher than it was before the pandemic – as data usage has risen 40 per cent year-on-year– and auditing the speed of your office internet should be top of the priorities list, particularly for those returning in numbers.
In today’s working world a reliable and fast internet connection is the most important tool for a modern business and acts as the foundation of digital success.
Looking after your people
People expect so much more from their employer and flexible working has been a huge part of that. Throughout the pandemic, TalkTalk saw a huge rise of data usage in UK market towns, with places such as Kingston (52%), Guildford (52%), Dudley (49%) and Chelmsford (48%) seeing some of the biggest increases over the period January 2020 – April 2021.
Our research also showed that 40 per cent of office workers have moved house or considered moving during the pandemic, with 22 per cent looking to move more than 60 minutes away from their office.
It’s important to have achievable goals in place to ensure that your organisation is making improvements on a continuous basis
It suggests that daily commutes and the traditional five-day office week could become a thing of the past, with today’s workers expecting much more flexibility and trust from their employer day-to-day.
If forced to return, many may seek an opportunity where that wish is granted, as the next generation of workers want more say on how their work-life balance looks.
Hybrid working allows far more agency on what their working hours and place of work are day-to-day. It’s been hugely popular with new and existing businesses and should be considered by all businesses that are capable of implementing it.
Responding to environmental expectations
Greenhouse gas emissions fell through the floor during the first Lockdown. The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) released figures showing that Britain’s greenhouse gas (GHG) fell at the fastest rate in nearly a century – 35 per cent. It was an eye-opening moment that has brought the debate to a head and had many people asking how we can keep up that momentum.
Whatever size or sector, your business can play a part in this, and it will pay dividends in the long term with your stakeholders – from customers and employees to investors and your wider supply chain. This doesn’t mean becoming a net zero business overnight, but small changes can go a long way.
As a first step, you can do an audit of the organisations you work with – from suppliers and distributors, to wider service providers, and assess how they’re putting in place environmentally-friendly practices.
Ask questions about sourcing, logistics and where policies aren’t in place, encourage them to establish new, more sustainable measures. When it comes to new suppliers, it can be helpful to establish a framework that ensures all of the businesses you work with have sustainable practices in place.
With all hardware that your company is using, you should embrace circular practices, or the 3 R’s you may be familiar with: reduce the amount of waste, repair devices so they can be used again, and recycle products at the end of their lifespan.
It’s important to have achievable goals in place to ensure that your organisation is making improvements on a continuous basis. This can include targets to make all information digital within a specific time-frame or reduce your organisation’s carbon emissions by a set percentage.
Having someone at board level responsible for setting and meeting these targets will help your organisation to maintain laser focus.
Looking after your people, ensuring you are digitally enabled and making your operations greener are the core building blocks to the modern business. Those who fail to innovate and challenge themselves on this front are set to be left behind, particularly in the rapidly changing business environment we now find ourselves in.
To succeed, you’ve always got to be thinking one step ahead.
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