New research reveals that New Zealand’s small business owners and decision-makers are taking a new approach to work – this comes as Kiwis navigate their way through an unpredictable year, which has seen the country move in and out of lockdown in the fight against Covid-19.
The 2degrees Shaping Business Study, which surveyed more than 1000 small and medium-sized business owners and decision-makers, found that more than half (58%) have changed their approach to work since the Covid-19 pandemic reached our shores.
The lockdown earlier in the year thrust many small businesses into an unknown territory, but the new research shows that, second time around, businesses were much better prepared for the switch to Alert Levels 3 and 2.
Of those that have changed their approach to work, businesses with employees were more likely to do so (66%) than sole traders (56%). What’s more, younger businesses were more receptive to change than those who have been trading for longer. The research showed 71% of businesses that are less than five years old changed their ways of working compared to 46% of those that have been around for six years or more.
A MORE MOBILE WORKFORCE
This year has seen one of the biggest changes to the way we work since the Industrial Revolution. With this has come a significant shift to a more mobile workforce, which wouldn’t have been possible without advances in technology, including innovations in mobile and broadband.
Andrew Fairgray, chief business officer at 2degrees, says business owners and decision-makers have done a great job in establishing what works best for them and their people, while grappling with the challenges of the current circumstances. “For some, working from home permanently is a better option, while others are offering their employees more mobility around working hours or rotational days to work from home – either way, it gives Kiwis reassurance and greater confidence in knowing they can work from home when necessary,” he says.
“Part of that comes down to having the right tools to do so, like reliable mobile and broadband connections. I think if lockdown showed us anything, it was that businesses are better equipped for mobile working than they may have thought,” says Mr Fairgray.
“Before Level 3 hit us again, the 2degrees team had been working from home much more frequently than before the pandemic arrived. We know it works, we know our employees are getting the job done, and most enjoy the flexibility. It not only makes sense to encourage and support them, but it’s the fair thing to do. We know that many of our business customers are doing the same.”
THE RIGHT TOOLS AND EQUIPMENT
It’s not just the way we work that’s changed. The study found a shift in attitude, with a rise in the number of small business owners who were more comfortable with their employees working from home post-lockdown, jumping 9% to 67%.
Zahn Trotter, owner of NZ Venues, was one of the small business decision-makers who agreed their level of confidence with staff working from home had increased since the April lockdown. “Prior to lockdown, working remotely wasn’t the norm and so it took some time to see whether the team could all work from home effectively.
“The first question was: does my team feel supported when working remotely? Which was followed by: do we have tools in place to successfully communicate and collaborate? With these questions answered favourably, I’m now really comfortable moving forward with a predominantly remote team.”
Having the right tools and equipment in place are essential to ensuring businesses can function as they would in the office. The study found that home broadband (34%) and mobile phones (27%) were the two forms of technology that SME decision-makers couldn’t live without during lockdown – this compared to the need for a laptop/desktop, television, and headphones.
PREPAREDNESS IS KEY
During the week that Level 4 lockdown was announced in March, 2degrees recorded a dramatic shift in the use of mobile data and broadband from business districts to the suburbs.
“Many people wondered how the network would cope with this change in usage. Given the investment we’ve made to our network, we were confident about the service from 2degrees, but it’s gratifying to see from the survey that many of our customers felt the same (68%), as well as 70% who said it performed well, all or most of the time,” Mr Fairgray says.
“We now know that the majority of businesses – large or small – have the capability to work from home. Understanding what tools are needed to do so successfully is often the first piece of the puzzle. Once that’s been determined, it makes the change a much smoother process. Globally, we’re seeing a monumental shift in the way we work, and so preparedness is key to ensure businesses don’t fall short or get left behind.”
2degrees hopes the findings from the Shaping Business Study will provide helpful insights into how Kiwi businesses are adapting to the new working environment and inform others about how they can prepare their businesses for the future.