What UK SMEs can expect in the coming year

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024

By Jenn Riek, above, Evernote’s Communications & Education Manager

Although UK SMEs face a multitude of challenges – inflation, a looming recession, increased rental costs, etc. – small business owners remain optimistic about the future. Here are some trends SMEs can expect in 2023 and how to navigate them.  

Workplace changes persist

The ability to react to change is especially important for recruitment due to the ongoing labour shortages in the UK. With the legacy of the pandemic fully in place in regard to remote and flexible working, we can expect to see a further evolution in modern day working practices – the increase in contractors and freelancers.

Similar to the working from home movement this trend is born out of necessity. With businesses facing an increase in costs as well as uncertainty with a cost-of-living crisis it makes sense to utilise the highly skilled, experienced, and motivated contractor and freelancer pool. Doing so brings a multitude of benefits to organisations.

It also minimises the risks of businesses. There is no longer the fixed salary cost each month despite quieter months. Rather, businesses can scale freelancers’ work up and down depending on demand. This allows the company to have more flexibility and even grow, as they can service one-off projects or seasonal fluctuations that wouldn’t have been possible with the existing team size.

More flexible working 

After two years of working from home many of the workforce are itching to get back to the office more, even if just for a few days a week. With this in mind companies will increase the focus on design to a flexible work environment.

Management will want to create working environments that really appeal and cultivate the positive aspects of in-person working, such as informal chats, as much as possible. This will include hot desks and more open/collaborative spaces.

Running parallel to this will be more of a focus on investing in improved video tech to enable better virtual working and aid collaboration across teams spread out geographically.  

New tools for deep work and teamwork 

As a result of the new working model, we will see a new definition of teamwork emerge. This hybrid working means there are now different demands on what jobs look like. It’s important that team members can promote both teamwork and individual productivity. To achieve this firms will need to engage with tools that aid deep work and teamwork.

However, these are typically designed for larger businesses but don’t take into account individual members of the team. SMEs should be exploring more cost-effective tools such as Evernote that understand the importance of individual work that feeds into more collaborative and productive teamwork.

Focus on wellness to increase productivity 

Over the past few years, we have seen a positive shift in the way that mental health is viewed both personally and professionally. Many of us were likely exposed to worsening mental health due to the pandemic which has created a greater understanding of the challenges it can bring and how to address them.

Due to this companies will place more emphasis on taking time to slow down, rest, and rejuvenate. Firms that embrace this will see higher productivity, improved mental health, and a more sustainable work life balance.

Also, we can expect to see a move away from the tactics of the past that looked to create a more ‘fun’ working environment with the likes of ping-pong tables and happy hours. Now the expense of those resources will be better used to invest on wellness stipends, support for caregivers and parents, and help with the likes of therapy or breaks to improve wellbeing.

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024